South African Internet Behaviour by the Numbers

The Digital Media & Marketing Association (DMMA), an independent organisation for the digital industry in South Africa, recently released a study measuring the internet usage and behaviour statistics for people surfing the web in this country. It looked at various internet industries relating to marketing and commerce, tallying survey responses from over 2 200 internet users.

The results were somewhat interesting, particularly because South African consumers traditionally have a reputation of still largely being physical shoppers, with e-commerce websites here often complaining about the limited market size.

However, the numbers tell us that not only is our country on the rise with e-commerce and online marketing, but that we as South Africans are becoming more aware of online adverts. Let’s examine some of the highlights.


Internet activity is still largely directed at e-mailing with over 95% of respondents saying they use if for that reason. This was closely followed by general browsing and social networking at 84% and 78%, respectively.

Even though Google Chrome is the current global leader in browsers, it still plays second fiddle to Internet Explorer in SA who has 63% of the market, as opposed to Chrome’s 40%.

An interesting development was the degree to which media on the internet has been displacing other media channels. The reduction in attention included a drop in interest of:

* 62% in Newspaper
* 59% in Magazines
* 45% in Television
* 28% in Radio

Online Advertising

Advertising on websites is still seen as the most relevant to people’s needs, according to 59% of those surveyed. Social networks came in quite far behind with 36%, with mobile application and websites grabbing up a paltry 3% and 2% respectively.

Advertising that caused users to search for further information on the topic or product were somewhat similar.

* Website – 69%
* Social Networks – 57%
* Search engine sponsored links – 51%
* Embedded in mobile applications – 47%

Social Networking

South African membership statistics were:

* Facebook – 88%
* Twitter – 50%
* LinkedIn – 36%

With 72% of respondents saying they have followed brands on these networks, and 60% of those followers commenting positively towards the brand on these pages as opposed to the 25% who use it to lodge complaints, it gives some hope to companies running ardent social media campaigns.

Results also showed that consumers were more swayed by positive feedback towards a company than negative.

An interesting (or perhaps disturbing) statistic showed that 20% of those surveyed spend more than 5 hours a day on Facebook. This is in stark contrast to LinkedIn and YouTube, which users typically only visit a couple of times per week.

Online Shopping

The study showed that people with more than 5 years of experience using the internet were 50% more likely to shop online, with security being the primary deterrent against those who choose not to.

Factors which affected the credibly of an e-commerce website for respondents were:

* Online review sites (for example, Hello Peter) – 62%
* References from other people – 53%
* Reviews and testimonials on the website – 50%

Two thirds of them preferred local e-commerce sites over international ones (6%), with 26% saying they didn’t really care.

45% of those surveyed said they spent more online than the previous year, with 19% saying they spent less and 27% remaining unchanged.