September 27, 2018 / 4:56 PM / 19 days ago

South Africa's Woolworths makes e-commerce push with upgraded app

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 27 (Reuters) - South African department store chain Woolworths Holdings is looking to grab a larger share of the rapidly growing online shopping market by allowing customers to order directly from its mobile app.

Traditional retailers in South Africa are increasing their investments in technology and logistics to meet the growing demand for online shopping.

Woolworths, citing a PayPal and Ipsos cross-border e-commerce report, said online shopping in South Africa is expected to grow by 19 percent this year, with an estimated 18 billion rand ($1.28 billion) worth of sales projected to take place on local websites.

“Mobile is a crucial part of our digital strategy,” Woolworths Head of online, Liz Hillock said in a statement.

She added that more than 60 percent of traffic to Woolworths’ South African website comes from customers browsing on their mobile phones, while there has been a 64 percent increase in mobile transactions over the last year.

The online shopping sector in South Africa is dominated by clothing, homeware and ticket retailers. Earlier in May, furniture chain Lewis Group entered the home shopping market with the launch of an online shopping website called Inspire.

However, online shopping for groceries is still in its early stages in the country, with only Woolworths and grocery retailer Pick n Pay offering the service.

Customers will be able to use Woolworth’s upgraded app to shop, view reward points, manage financial services products, and see live stock levels, making it the only “fully integrated retail app” in the country, the company said.

Customers can also scan the barcode of products in their fridge or cupboard and add them to their online shopping cart.

Woolworths, which also has operations in Australia and New Zealand, saw a 34 percent increase in overall online sales in the year to the end of June, with fashion, beauty and home online sales rising 77 percent.

$1 = 14.0276 rand Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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