Managing an E-commerce Venture in Africa

Many Africans have embraced the e-commerce revolution and along with entrepreneurs worldwide, are living the online dream. Low start-up costs, no need for rented shop space, instant global exposure to customers and the chance to be your own boss are an irresistible combination for people ambitious to be a success.

Before entering the e-commerce world, it is wise to investigate the negatives of online trading as well as the positives. The challenges of running an e-business can be huge. In the tips below, we explore how you can survive some of the arising issues involved in running an online venture in Africa.

Cost of Maintenance

An expensive business platform doesn’t guarantee immediate returns and high sales of your product or service. After all, your initial sales may be slow and you will need to pay internet bills such as server and maintenance costs. Start small, and increase your maintenance budget as your business grows. Start off with a good site offering quality but affordable products and services that targets a clearly defined customer base.

Marketing Hurdles

Africa’s cyberspace is crowded with thousands of websites, blogs and e-commerce ventures. Thousands of businesses are competing to get the attention of their target customers. To get noticed, harness the power of social media. Create a Facebook fan page, a Twitter handle and an Instagram account to promote your product. Showcase your products, designs or services on these platforms to increase the awareness of your product or service. Word of mouth advertising is also necessary in promoting your business.

Payment Fraud

Trust is a major issue  and, unfortunately, online fraudsters send out email messages worldwide. This is bad news for legitimate African businesses who need customers to share their credit card information online. However, one solution is to offer a pay-on-delivery service,  just as giant e-commerce businesses Jumia and Konga are doing.

Shipping Challenges

Presently, the postal service is limited due to poor infrastructure and a broken transportation system. Implying that same-day delivery, or even next-day delivery is difficult to achieve. Express shipping is one of the key factors that customers are looking for, and they will choose a seller on the basis of his delivery service as much as the product price.

Brad Stronger, co-founder and chief technology officer, notes that a small retailer with a lower priced product will lose out if they can’t offer an accurate shipping estimate to customers. Stronger adds: ‘If they buy through Amazon they know they will get it in two days.’

You must be proactive and upfront in communicating the shipping, tracking and delivery times to your customers through e-mails or text messages. The key is to let your customer knows what they will get and when. Once you have earned their trust, they will keep patronizing your business.