….an opportunity for local innovations.
Over the past few years, there has been a growing number of e-commerce platforms in Ghana including “Tonaton.com”, ”Jumia.com.gh”, “shopbeta.com.gh” and host of others. The period has seen a significant and encouraging growth in patronage of these platforms. Often, these e-commerce websites use local names and phrases, making them easy to remember and pronounce. The platforms are offering trading and advertising opportunities for individuals and businesses in the country; they are the “eBay’s” and “Amazons” of Ghana.
To make these platforms become what we envisage them to be in the coming years, they will have to develop adequate strategies to effectively handle the expected increase in patronage and to appeal to different segments of the market.
The expected increase in patronage is particularly critical in the delivery sector. Owing to weak structures in the post and transportation systems, delivery of goods in the e-commerce business in Ghana is one of the most challenging features to deal with. The entrepreneur must adopt appropriate and innovative delivery channels to effectively serve the customer. In the advanced world, the demand for online purchasing is massive because it is virtually the most convenient way to shop.
PLATFORMS FOR E-COMMERCE DELIVERY CHANNELS
To create platforms that are sustainable, entrepreneurs in e-commerce businesses need to adopt innovative approaches which will retain customers by making the buying process as simple as possible. The stages in the process should be few and not difficult to navigate. They should also not forget that most customers access the Internet using their mobile phones, hence it is critical to make the pages simple and accessible on mobile platforms. E-commerce platforms or Apps could also integrate existing Apps that are already widely used to make the purchasing process as stress-free as possible.
The compulsory registration before purchase is becoming a thing of the past and they also have to take note of that. Data that entrepreneurs intend to gather through registration could also be acquired during the process of purchase or signing up with an existing account which has all the necessary information needed to close the transaction – such as signing in with Google account, Facebook account and others.
Payment for goods must be made simple and secured for customers. Payment details of the customers must be kept secure, and when a transaction fails, monies must be returned immediately. This will build trust in customers and thus facilitate further purchases.
There should be a provision that allows customers to specify a time for products or goods to be delivered no matter the location. Since people are not always home, this would cut down on undelivered purchases. There could be varied charges for different times in the day when a good is delivered.
House numbering continues to be a problem in Ghana despite government initiatives over the years to name streets and number houses. Until this issue is properly addressed, it will remain difficult to identify where people live. Ghana Post has offices spread across the country which could be used to efficiently deliver goods to customers. The Ghana Post (App) addressing system could also be used to locate people for efficient delivery. Besides the Ghana Post App, young Ghanaian entrepreneurs have also developed the snooCODE App, an addressing system which is already being used by the Ghana Ambulance Service. These Apps are very real-time and could also be implemented to support reliable delivery. Google Maps is also simple to use; users could share their location for goods to be delivered.
Finally, alternative approaches could be implemented such as using post offices as pickup points. Customers who agree to pick up their products at a designated post office could be given some form of rebate.
Customers who are not satisfied with products should be able to return them and be easily refunded or given vouchers for the next purchase. As competition surges, customers will demand such offers and our entrepreneurs should start early in putting in place structures to serve these expectations. Some possibilities include designating drop off points in the city such as post offices or well-known shops. The returned goods could be collected when deliveries are made at these points, and since the car would have already needed to drive back to the facility, this will not pose additional costs on the entrepreneur.
In conclusion, delivery is one of the key areas to take seriously if our local e-commerce platform owners want to be relevant and stay in operation for long. Entrepreneurs have to adopt improved and innovative approaches that make buying on the Internet attractive to the ordinary Ghanaian, thereby establishing themselves before multinationals enter the market. They should not forget that just as Taxi business was disrupted by the international company Uber which is now a competitor to the local Taxi drivers, the same could happen in the e-commerce business in Ghana, which is a potential attractive market for multinational e-commerce companies. Ghanaian startups should utilize their local knowledge to make platforms that are better suited to the Ghanaian customer and find a way to dominate the market before multinationals arrive.
Author: Kwabena Obiri Yeboah – (Member: Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)