The experience of consumers and entrepreneurs have been transformed with the presence of e-commerce and e-payment platforms in the country. Nigerians have not been left behind in increasing technological invention that has redefined the business space.
In fact, e-businesses have made tremendous success in the recent past while physical stores have been forced to hop on this trend. It is a known fact that operators of the digital marketplaces have changed the purchasing dynamics. We discovered some of the threats and the opportunities within this space from various consumers and entrepreneurs whose businesses began within the last three years.
At the moment, there are many digital marketplaces where all these entrepreneurs attract their customers, some use existing e-commerce platform such as Konga, dealdey, Jiji, while other use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Whats app and their company website too.
The channels through which potential consumers are reached have become limitless because the same product can be displayed across all these various platforms and customers are treated on the basis of first come, first serve. This has displaced the era of stocking same product in many physical stores.
Equally, the various goods and services on the various platforms are enormous, some entrepreneurs that our team interacted with sell products ranging from electronics; fabrics of all sorts; shoes; bags; accessories; hair; gift boxes; beddings amongst others. This has equally broken the barrier of segmented physical where specific goods and products are renowned to be sold in selected locations like Idumota; Oyingbo; Mushin; Oshodi within the Lagos metropolis.
We engaged some consumers and they shared their various experiences in the faceless digital marketplace where the interaction between the consumer and the entrepreneur is bridged by a delivery company.
A Lagos-based PR Practitioner, Mr. Jerry Adeyeri, mentioned that he had once bought a product online and the delivered item was not the specification he requested. After logging a complaint, he was given coupons worth the value of his money for him to purchase another product from the same platform. However, he would still prefer to visit a physical store for items that are size-inclined. Also, he thinks that three days is such a long time for delivery by well-established platforms.
Another consumer, a Port Harcourt based OAP, Mr Seyi Oyeniyi also known as IYES, said that he desires that the buyers should have some form of warranty against scam. According to him, “businesses in the digital marketplace should be registered and verified so that the buyer can be rest assured that he would not be scammed and if the business goes awry and his hard-earned money can be refunded.”
Similarly, an Ibadan based consumer, Mrs. Mifiekne Akinwale expressed her skepticism about the quality of products seen online and the one that is eventually delivered to the consumer. In her words, “one cannot be guaranteed of the product to be delivered because photoshop usually aids the beauty of the product which cause a lot of dissatisfaction.”
Based on all these queries, we approached various entrepreneurs to know what they are doing in ensuring that the rights of the consumers are protected. As regards how customer service and customer queries are resolved, Mr. Francis E. Osatohanmwen of Fashion by Africa said, “Customer Service is important to him as such all customer enquiries/complaints are directed to our WhatsApp number where they interface with the customers to the best of our ability and to the satisfaction of our clients. His company has limited complaints because they deal on the best products only. In his summation, customers who get swindled are usually in search of quality products at the cheapest prices.”
Another entrepreneur, Adebusayo Olayode of Mccubedcrafts mentioned that her business has not recorded any customer complaint because she provides personalized service and this equally aids her creativity as various customers have different specifications.
As earlier mentioned the go-between the consumer and the entrepreneur is largely the delivery which is usually outsourced. It was discovered that many companies providing this service has not got it right and it is impacting negatively on the business as a whole. As such, different entrepreneurs have sourced for various ways to tackle this issue to ensure that the digital marketplace becomes more profitable and sustainable.
One of the entrepreneurs, Olamitayo Irantiola of Ayanfeoluwa fabrics said, “Delivery companies need to improve on standard to meet up with international delivery companies operating in the country. We understand that many of these delivery companies are startups learning on the job but they need to evolve quickly so that they can favorably compete with these established companies.”
However in the thoughts of Abiola Akinyemi of Vogue by Biola, there are ways of working round this challenge. In her words, “ordering for the item ahead of the day when the cloth is needed and pre-informing her will douse delivery tension. All entrepreneurs seller should also keep the consumer posted when there are issues with deliveries.”
Which giving her counsel to other entrepreneurs, Mrs. Jumoke Ojo of Jojo Collectionz advised other operators in the digital marketplace to work towards retaining their consumers because if they can vouch for the quality of products that will be got from your online store; then they would always order from your store.
Truthfully, both consumers and the entrepreneurs agreed that the digital marketplace has come to stay and it has complemented the physical store till date. However, they noted that the possibilities available within the digital marketplace is limitless and they would continue to look forward to new developments that will make their daily sales be as massive as the annual Black Friday. It is pertinent to note that all those involved in the digital marketplace ecosystem should ensure that the consumer’s rights are protected at every touch point.