The buying and selling of goods and services electronically started with the opening of the internet to the public back in the 1990s. Amazon.com was one of the first ecommerce sites to start online selling. Today, there are thousands of sites where people can buy and sell goods and services around the world.
Ecommerce is not as widespread in Africa as it is in the other developed parts of the world. Many people in Africa do not have access to the internet. According to Emergent Payment, only 34% of the 1.25 billion people in Africa have access to the internet. This is a major barrier to the growth of ecommerce on the continent.
Research from Statista shows that the ecommerce sector in Africa created $16.5 billion in 2017 and it is estimated that this amount will increase to $29 billion by 2022. Today, it is very easy to sell and buy online; through social media and other online shopping platforms. Some of the most popular online shops in Africa include; Jumia, Konga, Bidorbuy, Kilimall, and Mall for Africa among others.
How safe is buying of products online?
Though online shopping makes life relatively easier and offers a wider reach, many people are still sceptical about buying from online sellers because they consider online shopping unsafe.
One of the primary reasons why most people are sceptical about buying online is being delivered something completely different from what they ordered. This is very common with shopping for clothes. Pictures of models displayed online are usually very captivating and pushes you to click on the buy button. Unfortunately the product delivered is way different from the product ordered.
There are a good number of scammers online and also many fake ecommerce sites. As a result many people fear some of the products advertised online are just a scam. It is said that a satisfied customers brings one new customer to the business while an unsatisfied one goes away with ten. Since word of mouth is very powerful and Africans are very suspicious, many tend to be wary of buying products from online shops especially after hearing of a bad experience.
Many people also find it hard to trust online sellers because of the inability to physically examine the products they buy. This is easier done at a local store. Also, in case of a problem, it is usually very difficult for online sellers to refund money for bad products sold.
Some online stores do not respect delivery deadlines and this is a major issue. Many sites promise to deliver products within a week or two after payment, but many do not respect these given deadlines, as customers end up receiving their products two weeks pass deadline.
Some online sellers advertise what they do not sell. They advertise good quality products but end up selling fake or expired things, as is the case with consumer goods.
How to ensure safety while buying online
- The first thing to do is to use familiar and popular websites. In this light, it will be difficult to get scammed, buy bad products or receive deliveries after deadline.
- It is very important to buy only from sites that have the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption installed. The most basic way to know a site is safe is when the site’s URL starts with HTTPS.
- Avoid giving too much personal information to online sellers; such as bank details, credit card details and other information not relevant for shopping online, especially when you are not familiar with the site.
- Always check the amount as you click along so you do not buy more than you can pay for.
- Avoid doing transaction in public areas. You never know who is watching while you key in your credit card details, especially your password.
- It is advisable to use your mobile phone to shop online. Some online retailers have apps that permit shoppers buy directly without having to go through third parties like stores or websites.
Despite the many challenges linked to buying from online sellers, there are many reasons why you should consider shopping online.
- What is better than staying at home, clicking a few buttons and a few hours later your purchase is delivered right at your doorstep? All it takes is a mobile phone or computer, and an internet connection.
- Buying from online sellers is more comfortable because you avoid long queues and annoying customers that are always in the market, shop or supermarkets.
- When shopping online, there is no pressure or an insistent sales representative trying to convince you to buy something you do not want. You have all the time you need to decide on exactly what you want.
- You have the opportunity to compare offers and prices and get the best offer from different sellers without having to move about, thus saving time and, energy and money.
Buying from online shoppers is very convenient, especially when buyers are vigilant. Unfortunately, many Africans are unable to enjoy these services (buying or selling online) because of the low access level to internet and electronic banking systems. If measures are put in place to develop electronic banking systems and increase access to internet and mobile technology, then, we can be sure that ecommerce will be a booster to the African economy.
Article from AFRIC editorial.
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