African ecommerce set to boom this Christmas as landscape improves

Konga Christmas

As we’ve seen before with Africa’s ecommerce landscape, the Christmas season holds the test of time for many startups. With both Africa’s consumer base and the number of local online stores growing, customers are increasingly choosing to purchase goods online. While the figures are on the increase, one of the biggest obstacles remains educating potential customers.

The popularity of online shopping continues to grow in emerging markets and startups such as Konga, Jumia and Zando are indicative of this. During the Nigerian-based ecommerce startup’s fall Yakata sale last month, the site “experienced a traffic surge unprecedented in Nigerian online shopping history,” which lead to its crash after which Konga managed to restore it. As Konga’s blog describes:

“The website experienced a traffic surge unprecedented in Nigerian online shopping history and our website crashed, but our team did not give up, we promised Nigerians the baddest sale ever liveth and we kept pushing till we delivered it.”

With the increased availability of broadband access, more affordable data costs offered by mobile operators and the consistent development of mobile devices, online shopping is gaining great traction in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Head of retail at DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa logistics company Fatima Sullivan notes that with the improved infrastructure in ICT and logistics, geography and time are seen as less of an issue. She does note however that many online customers are still reluctant because they do not fully understand or trust the services.

Referring to local ecommerce start-ups including Zando in South Africa and Jumia in Nigeria, Sullivan says that their success could be attributed to better infrastructure as more potential customers have power of purchase:

“With improved infrastructure, in terms of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and online safety and security, more people are choosing to make use of online shopping over traditional brick and mortar outlets due to the variety of products available to them at just a click of a button.”

Jeremy Hodara, Co-CEO of the Africa Internet Holding and Sascha Breuss, Managing Director of Zando note the following:

“This is the biggest test, since there are many fears of frauds and we have to educate consumers about shopping online securely. For example, we have to be transparent on prices, taxes, or shipment costs. That’s why Jumia and Zando accept payments on delivery and offer free returns to deliver a safe, stress-free and convenient shopping experience.”

While the lack of trust remains detrimental, companies such as Jumia aims to tackle this with on-the-ground methods. As mentioned by Business Insider, “To combat fears of online fraud and to educate Nigerians about shopping online securely, the company has a direct sales team of about 200 in cities such as Lagos and Port Harcourt.” These officials hold impromptu shopping sessions in businesses, churches, and homes, answering questions and using tablet computers to demonstrate how to order.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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