Interoperability …another reason to take your business online (Pt.1)

The Ghanaian is no longer a stranger to online commerce. Our market is gradually warming to the concept of finding goods and services online and making actual payments. A lot of effort – especially on the part of GhIPSS (Ghana Interbank Payment & Settlement Systems), as has been witnessed with launch of Mobile Money Interoperability – is directed toward making it easier for people to make electronic payments.

With more features promised to be added in the next two months, electronic payment for goods and services is going to be common for a lot more Ghanaians. This is sure to open avenues for Ghanaian entrepreneurs who want to venture into the online retail space.      Now we have the likes of Africakart.com, Jumia, Melcom, Tonaton, Electroland, Electromart, Market Express etc. which are currently in the e-market space.

It is good to know that what the above are currently doing does not exhaust all the opportunities existing in the online commerce space.

It is also essential to note that technology needed for all day living and activities is no longer a conundrum. In our world today, there are several tools that can help every business grow no matter where the business is located.

The idea of e-commerce, or for that matter having one’s business online, is not just a cliché which everyone necessarily has to adopt. Doing business online cannot be compared to having a simple online profile on, say, Facebook or Twitter. We can all testify to the fact that simply managing an online account on LinkedIn or Facebook does not come easy for millions of us.

To have an online store or presence is certainly a great addition to your business channels, and when well-managed has the potential for better ROI. There are serious considerations necessary when you decide to do e-commerce here in Ghana. A few years ago, our bane here in Ghana was access to the right technology for preparing the target market to be ready for ecommerce.  Internet access was not cheap, and devices were so expensive to acquire. You will agree with me that this has changed drastically over the years.

It is good to note that some of the hurdles we consider as hampering everyday living are the very drivers for ecommerce success here in Ghana.  It all depends on how you see it. Let us delve a little more into them without being too technical.

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Drivers for E-commerce Here in Ghana

  • Overwhelming Time Constraints

The typical Ghanaian is overwhelmed with many things to do in a single day but has a lot of time constraints to doing them all. He or she may have a lot to do at home and also have to keep up with the ever-growing corporate hustle.

For a target market characterised like this, a service that is well-situated to take the burden off shopping around for services and products is a great relief.  A single outing today from the office to go shopping for the family at Makola or Kejetia can be hell. There is traffic on the roads in our cities as early as 6:00am. We are always in traffic to work and back. I see people leaving home as early as 5:30am with their wards as young as 6-years just to avoid the heavy traffic on our roads. Businesses are increasingly taking away our weekend breaks. We now work six days and have only one day for worship, rest, leisure and family time.  This certainly is a big lure for e-commerce adoption here in Ghana.

  • Growth of the Middle-class and their Unique Taste

In Ghana today, there is a growing middle-class who have developed a high taste for quality and classy services and goods. They no longer want to use shea butter but rather exotic skin-toning creams coming from the west. They see it classy to have a bite of pizza every now and then.  They also wish to know where to get what just when they need it.  This class of people has grown to appreciate real-time information for whatever service or product they want. Their taste for the best also leads them to an infinite variety of choices and recommendations.

Positioning a platform online to offer services or goods to make life easier for this growing middle-class of Ghanaians has a lot of potential for growth.

  • Affordable Devices

I stand to be corrected, but the influx of ‘Chinese labelled’ phones have made it possible for all of us to have access to the needed device and be part of the new ecosystem of today’s business.  The days when owning a mobile phone was the preserve of the rich is no more. Today, people use simple phones just as back-ups for their smartphones.  It’s even commonplace to see most ladies having a smartphone in both hands. One can easily own a laptop, tablet and a number of smartphones. It’s no longer difficult to afford a tech device so as to digitally engage.

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If your business today can be easily accessible because people can now afford tools to help them do so, then what could be stopping you from launching online?

  • Access to Internet

You look around and see how many Internet Cafes still exist today.  In the late 90s, this was the hottest business around – when we all queued for our turn to simply check our emails. I don’t believe dongles (modems) are even doing well these days. The initial purchasing was not easy for all. People kept borrowing from others to be able to connect to the Internet on their laptops. I don’t remember the last time I used my modem. With my phone’s hotspot capability, I can easily share its data with my laptop.

Competition is also pushing the buying price of data down and packages from providers make it even more affordable. This enablement should no doubt spearhead the growth of ecommerce here in Ghana – don’t forget that we are well-positioned in mobile broadband penetration in Africa. This is no mean feat and is also a good indicator of ecommerce readiness.

  • Social Community

The Ghanaian population, just like in other parts of the world, has every aspect of life today socialised. The rising trend of every business to socialise in order to remain relevant is a great potential for ecommerce growth.  With the online environment enhancing our social nature by helping to easily connect with one another, word-of-mouth has become easy.  It has become easier to get your products and service in front of many people within a short time. They in turn can easily share with their friends, followers or fans.

  • Massive Access to Information

Our world today is inundated with lots of information on every single subject. The opportunity to give the best information about your product or service to your target market and make them buy is best done online.

The growing middle-class wants to be well-informed before making buying decisions. E-commerce offers every buyer today in Ghana an opportunity to better understand what they are buying or patronising.  The Ghanaian today prefers a 4G LTE phone over 3G-enabled ones, because they are getting informed of the added advantages.

To be continued…

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