E-commerce is definitely the future of retail in Nigeria. Gone are the days when you absolutely had to rent a shop or office space to do business properly. Nowadays, more and more entrepreneurs are embracing the internet as their main platform for business. Being able to reach thousands of potential customers at the same time sounds great, but is it all sunshine and roses?
Not at all!
First off, it’s not as cheap as aspiring entrepreneurs think it is. Your competitors are out there pushing their various products, so you need to spend a little, or a lot, on marketing and advertising, to let potential customers know you’re in the game too and get them to see why they should choose you instead.
Being able to define and reach your target audience online is another challenge. If you build a Twitter following of 3000 followers (or engage the services of a social media marketer who has 10, 000 followers) and they’re mostly students/unemployed youth, whereas your target audience is employed people, where does that leave you?
Logistics is yet another issue; getting your products to customers at the right time. One of the reasons many find e-commerce appealing is the “fast shopping” it provides. Customers can swiftly place orders for what they want online, sometimes even from their phones. However, with this comes the need for fast responses by online retailers. Unless you have the capacity to respond to your online customers efficiently, you will lose them quickly. “Same day delivery” sounds great to customers and is sure to set you apart from your competitors, but order fulfilment can be stressful. The logistics of delivering products to customers same day, especially for perishables, is a challenge many entrepreneurs struggle to overcome.
Then there’s the issue of perception about online payment. I once participated in a poll on Twitter which revealed that trust issues are behind the preference for Pay-On-Delivery (POD). Acceptance of online shopping has grown a great deal, and continues to, but Nigerians still don’t feel safe paying for stuff online without having it in their hands first. Are you ready to invest time and effort building trust?
Doing everything you can to make your online business work may be very well worth it; the advantages of doing business online are many.
As the world more and more becomes a global village, many consider the opportunity to reach a really wide audience, the greatest advantage of doing business online. Whether you’re offering a service or selling products, the internet provides incredible leverage. With an online business you have access to a huge customer base, and you’re able to reach people all over the country who may not know about your brand or the products and services you offer otherwise. You also are able to run your business from wherever you are or want to be. As long as you keep customer satisfaction a priority and you keep being creative and innovative with your products and services, the sky is your limit.
Many entrepreneurs have surmised that at the end of the day, the challenges of doing business online are not worse than the challenges of doing business offline. It’s all about where each entrepreneur can thrive and give customers and clients the best possible service. In every business, online or offline, there is a steep learning curve, and there are often substantial infrastructure expenditures.
Do the pros of doing business online outweigh the cons? That’s a question all entrepreneurs must answer for themselves.