The internet has been bringing everything closer to us in Zambia but that ‘internet market’ runs as eCommerce, which is great for all the reasons in the graph below, until you have to consider the cons as well.
1. Pro: No queues or staying on hold – many customers have the convenience of shopping for goods/services or making bookings from the comfort of their own home. It saves time, fuel and other bills you would incur going to a physical store.
Con: Increasing lack of a personal touch – You get to talk to a device, unless the trader has active social messenger/media platforms that you can interact on on a one-to-one basis.
2. Pro: Easier to compare prices – All you may be required to do is enter a price range for a product you want and that’s it, you get what you pay for in a few minutes, then start waiting on delivery.
Con: Some traders get left out – because search engines will make your preferred price range available, other traders may never be in your line of sight. There is a lesser risk of impulse buying regardless of price because customers never really get to see their products as options. Traders have to now think of smart ways to get themselves noticed on the eCommerce scene.
3. Pro: you can buy from stores in remote locations – You don’t always find what you’re looking for in your location so eCommerce helps you find them and pay for them via online transactions or mobile money so you don’t have to physically travel there to get the product.
Con: There is no trial run with product and returning/replacing goods may be a trip! – You may get the product but because the location of the seller is far, you don’t have time to test the product. In an instance that it doesn’t work properly or is in very bad condition, you may have to return it for either your cash back or to be replaced. This may all take a while, compared to a walk-in store where it may just take hours after you buy it because the store is in your proximity.
4. Pro: Traders may not need a shop – a physical store may not even be needed anymore by traders which cuts down their costs of running a business. All they may have to worry about is delivery costs to the customer after they have bought a product. The most a trader would pay for is a warehouse if the goods are many.
Con: Cuts out local market share on walk-in customers – If there was a shop, there would be extra sales from customers who walk in and hopefully buy something on impulse. There would also be a more personal platform for feedback, apart from the ‘comments’ section on your website.
5. Pro: Online stores stay open all the time – so you can shop for what you need at your own convenience. Add goods to an online cart, pay online and you’re good to go, or not…
Con: Waiting period for delivery – There may be a delay in receiving your order as the trader has to first confirm transaction went through before dispatching goods. In Zambia, some eCommerce sites may deliver on the same day but that’s unlikely.
6. Customers need a credit card and internet connectivity – To hell with carrying large sums of money around! All you need to have is a credit card for most sites that don’t have mobile money payment plans. You simply enter your card number and the payment is cleared. Sounds swift right? Exactly. Plus, all you need is to be able to stay online for the entire buying process to track your product as well as get other updates.
Con: Credit card fraud is a risk and internet bundles are generally expensive– Even though Zambia itself does not seem to have that many a bunch of hackers, these guys can access your information from anywhere in the world. It’s an internet thing. Customers have to be extra cautious with the information they give out when making payments. It has to be with a trusted seller. The internet bundle plans in Zambia are also not the cheapest. Most online store sites have media-rich images that may chew up bundles faster than you can click ‘Buy’. So online shopping kind of still stays limited to a certain crowd that has smartphones and internet connectivity. However, there are a few sites that need mobile money so they can make payments from their phone offline, and still get the product.
7. Reduced work force – Traders will not have to hire a lot of people to do jobs that would be done in a normal store. All he/she would need is a handful of people who can process orders and deliver goods/services to the customer. Cuts costs in terms of wages.
Con: Lesser jobs are available – As bad as the employment situation is in the country, the transition of shops online is making it worse for the public. It may be convenient, but more jobs are being taken away e.g there is a reduced need for cashiers. All payments may be made directly to trader , rather than through a cashier. The only jobs most likely to be found are warehouse maintenance staff and transporter who make deliveries.
Got more to add? Feel free to do so in the comments below…
Image Credit: Inventas, Tom Eccles College Blog, Perception System, Allalla