The digital transformation of food and grocery retailing under the covid-19 pandemic: a case of major South African retailers

Dr EAN Dakora, Prof P Rambe

Vol 18 | Issue 1 pp. 59-75


This article explores the adoption of digital technologies and innovation by South African food and grocery retailers during the Covid-19 pandemic to engage their customers and how this unprecedented level of innovation could lead to a paradigm shift in the sector. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, South Africa experienced one of the harshest national lockdowns, with only businesses that sell food and essential services allowed to operate. Food and grocery retailers were among those allowed to trade. These organisations had to introduce new ways of operating by adopting technology and innovation to increase sales while keeping their customers and employees safe. Their initiatives contributed to a record increase in online sales of more than 50% in the country for 2020. This study reviews the 2020 annual reports of the major South food and grocery retailers to determine the kind of digital technologies adopted and their general innovative approaches in response to the pandemic to determine the future trajectory of the sector post-Covid-19. The findings show that South Africa has a pandemic-led disruption of the food and grocery retail sector. The findings further demonstrate an impressive adoption and implementation of digital technologies including mobile applications, click, and collect by retailers, pointing towards a digital transformation of the sector. The investment in digital technologies and innovation will enable them to transition and compete effectively in the new world of post-Covid-19 retailing while providing better shopping options for their customers.

Keywords: Food and grocery retailing, Covid-19, digital technology, Innovation, Online Shopping

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