[UPDATED] How the internet changed buyer behaviour

Buyers are becoming more sophisticated, and understanding consumer behaviour is the key to a successful marketing and sales strategy. Here’s some key insights into internet, mobile and social media usage in Southern Africa.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 7 seconds.

The rise of the internet has turned the traditional path to purchase on its head, as buyers are becoming increasingly well-informed. The modern consumer sees straight through traditional push-marketing tactics, and has much higher expectations when it comes to your brand’s value proposition.  

Global internet usage

According to SEO Tribunal, Google receives over 63 000 searches per second on any given day and has 90.46% of the search engine market share worldwide  - this shows the sheer volume of information available at the click of a button.

Here’s a look at the state of digital globally in 2019

Statistics on Buyers behavior 1


Statistics on Buyers behavior 2

What sets the modern buyer apart from other consumers throughout history, is the amount of research that they can - and do -  now perform before making a purchase. The internet has provided the means to perform thorough product research, in the form of content such as customer testimonials, online product demonstrations and reviews. Here are some interesting stats you’ll find in this report:

  • There are 3.48 billion social media users in 2019, with the worldwide total up by 288 million (9%) since this time last year.
  • On average, the world’s internet users spend 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day. That’s down slightly from last year’s figure of 6 hours and 49 minutes.
  • Social media use is still far from evenly distributed across the globe, and penetration rates in parts of Africa are still in the single digits.

Five ways the internet has influenced buying behaviour and the buyer’s journey:

Sign.com did a study with consumers and discovered what motivates consumers to buy in-store and what motivates them to buy online. Here’s what they found:

Reasons for making purchases in-store:

  • To physically see and touch items before purchase (73%)
  • To have the product immediately (72%)
  • To avoid shipping costs (52%)
  • To try on an item first (50%)
  • Just enjoy going out to a store (26%)

Reasons for making purchases online:

  • Convenience (85%)
  • Price comparisons (72%)
  • To save time (71%)
  • To avoid crowds/other people (54%)
  • To read product reviews before making a purchase (54%)

What we buy online vs in-store stats

87% of e-commerce shoppers believe social media helps them make  shopping decisions (source: Absolunet).

35% of consumers carry their phones with them while shopping in-store to compare prices. (source: Google).

67% of consumers admit that reviews influence their decision to leave or buy a product. (source Moz.com)


Source: Business2Community

WeAreSocial says, “The number of people using the internet has surged over the past year, with more than one million people coming online for the first time each day since January 2018.”

Generation Y are digital natives, and grew up with the internet and social media. As a result, they’re more likely to turn to their peers for advice (using forums like Quora) when it comes to making a purchase decision. Inbound Marketing Agents write, “Millennial consumers trust their peers over ads”.

You might also like our article, The story of a Gen-Xer in a sea of Millennials, by our strategic director, Alison Leishman.

  • Social media has amplified the power of word of mouth. In March 2019, Instagram launched a new e-commerce checkout feature which allows Instagram users to complete purchases without ever having to leave their app, and in the process save purchasing information for future payments.
  • If done right, social media opens up a world of new opportunities for brands to encourage customer loyalty, however, social media can also give unhappy or dissatisfied customers a platform to publically voice their concerns.

  • 96% of in-market consumers became aware of a product/service from advertising on media, with 85% stating that media influenced their purchase decision,” GfK.

Here’s a look at the state of internet usage and e-commerce in South Africa, in 2019.

The following images are taken from the State of Digital Report (2019). You’ll notice that South African internet usage (especially in the mobile sector) is growing rapidly.

If you look at where South Africa sits in relation to international internet usage (pictured above), you’ll also notice that we’re not too far behind the global average. This means that local businesses can’t afford to ignore the move to digital marketing - it’s not just a first-world trend.

Statistics on buyers behavior 3

Statistics on buyers behavior 4

statistics on Device usage

Statistics on frequency of internet use

Internet use: Device perspective

Content streaming activities

Social media overview

Most active social media platforms

E-commerce activities.

E-commerce spend by category

E-commerce growth by category

Top google shopping queries

These changes in buyer behaviour have created the necessity for brands to give the traditional marketing model a major overhaul in order to remain relevant in today’s marketplace.

Inbound marketing is a response to the need for marketing and sales to connect with a new generation of sophisticated buyers. The inbound methodology helps brands to adapt to a new marketplace (where consumers are in control of their buyer’s journey), and successfully build lasting relationships with their ideal customers.

If you’d like to find out more about inbound marketing, and how it will help your business overcome the challenges of the digital marketing landscape, you can read MD, Darren Leishman’s article, How to do better inbound marketing in a tough economy.

You can access the full Digital in 2019 Global Overview Report online if you’d like to see how South Africa compares to other countries from around the globe.

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