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  • Staff Writer

10 Tips To Stay Safe While Shopping Online In South Africa

South Africa is currently undergoing its e-commerce equivalent of the industrial revolution, boasting rapid growth. With online sales having increased by 66% from 2019 to 2020 to more than $1.8 billion (ZAR30 billion) according to the International Trade Administration.


Growth has been accelerated both locally and internationally due to the Covid19 Pandemic this in result has created more willing buyers as many have been forced into their first onboarding experiences with online stores. Many having gone through grocery stores or marketplaces such as TakeAlot.



With the explosive growth locally has come both new online stores as well as big brands now making product lines available on their own online stores. There are many reasons to shop online locally. Sometimes there are products that one would think are not sold locally in fact are by niche-focused stores struggling to rank high on Google.


On MiBRAND.co.za we offer a directory of over 250 online stores based in South Africa, all stores undergo an in-depth vetting process before being listed on our site. In this article, we share 10 tips from our vetting process to help you stay safe while online shopping in South Africa and when testing new online stores.



1) Look At The Websites Domain Extension.

A great place to start when landing on a website for the first time is to check the domain, look out for .uk, .co.uk, .eu, or any other foreign extensions. Sometimes websites will use .com however mostly when based locally tend to use more .co.za.

You also want to make sure you are on the actual website and not on a phishing site. Use the following two points to ensure you are shopping locally as imported products are subject to import taxes which you avoid when shopping with websites based in South Africa.

On MiBRAND all products listed are already in South Africa and have no import taxes associated with them. We also only list websites that own their stock meaning we do not list any drop shipping businesses.



2) Read The About Page.

The about page should tell you the story behind the website, its origin, founders or owners, tell you about the products it sells, and most importantly how long it has been in business.

Although it is great to support new businesses you need to be extra cautious when dealing with new websites that have no history you can look at. Look for the About in either the header menu or in most cases the footer menu.


On MiBRAND.co.za we currently only list websites that have been functioning longer than 24 months excluding special circumstances where the online store is owned and operated by a big brand or a brick and mortar store that has been in existence the same amount of time.




3) Check For A Physical Store Or Office Location.

When looking for stores to list on MiBRAND.co.za businesses that have an existing brick and mortar store or office with physically visible branding are great as they provide a lot of security and peace of mind when taking into consideration whether they are a store you can trust or not, you can use Google Maps Street View to verify this in some cases.

Sometimes if there is a number listed for the store or office we give them a ring just to confirm the details given on the website are correct. Any store owner or operator should be happy to engage with prospect customers!



4) Doing Price Comparisons.

If something looks too good to be true most of the time it is! Unless a store is having some kind of sale or promotion most products have their market prices, when looking at stores we always take a look at if the store is selling in the same general range as others selling the same products.

When dealing with more niche products it is easier to track pricing using international websites. Ensure the products you are buying are genuine and not just using the incorrect product images.


On MiBRAND.co.za we take great care to ensure the stores we feature have products that are in an acceptable price range as well as authentic (if a branded product). We do not accept or list any counterfeit products or stores that sell counterfeit goods.



5) Check The Stores Payment Provider.

One of the most telling signs of a good online store that we look for when vetting stores for MiBRAND.co.za is a good local payment platform provider like YOCO, PayFast, PayFlex, Zapper, SnapScan, Peach Payments, MasterPass, & PayGate among others.


In order to be able to accept payments with companies like the ones mentioned, the website needs to provide proof of identification, address, and provide the necessary business documents during their signup process.


When the website only offers an EFT or PayPal option it can be more difficult to follow up on. Note it is especially difficult to track back when the payment is done to an individual and not a business via websites like PayPal. Although it is not a sure-fire way, local payment providers provide more peace of mind.




6) Take A Look At Their Social Media Accounts.

A good next step to take from here would be to navigate to the bottom of the website or under the contact us tab and look for links to the site’s social media accounts. You want to see how active and responsive they are on social media and how their past interactions have been. Some pages will also have reviews.



7) Check For Third Party Listings.

Another nice way to check the website's legitimacy is to look it up on another directory, comparison, or marketplace websites like MiBRAND.co.za, PriceCheck, BidOrBuy, TakeAlot, or the Yellow Pages.



8) Do A Google Search.

Google aggregates content from all over the internet and is your best tool in searching for any posts about the store across multiple different blogs, social media platforms, and forums.





9) Check Review Websites.

Always be cautious when checking for feedback on review websites such as TrustPilot. There are services that exist where one is able to buy bulk reviews on sites like these. A nice way to check is to look at how many reviews have been posted by each account, this is a nice way to check for “paid” reviews. HelloPeter is also a great platform for getting reviews on online stores in South Africa.



10) Join A Community.

If you still don’t feel secure and are maybe looking at making a purchase from a niche online store that you aren’t sure about. A great source of information is from online communities and you can find these communities centered around just about anything! There are dedicated groups for products such as sneakers, toys, furniture, and more. Find a local online community through forums or Facebook Groups where you can get feedback on the website.