As Uganda’s economy continues to go into free-fall in this COVID19 era, the market share for the brick-and-mortar businesses could tremendously decline as the country’s e-commerce engagement continues to grow, becoming the second largest in the East African region after Kenya.
In 2018, Forbes ranked Uganda as the 7th country on the African continent with the highest internet penetration in Africa. Now, more than ever shoppers are glued onto the screens of their computers and smart phones to purchase goods online because of the COVID19 anxieties. Today, e-commerce is continuously diversifying with remarkable inclusivity from almost all sectors of the economy, enabling easy accessibility of goods and services to consumers regardless of their geographical location.
Much as brick-and-mortar is still the largest dominator of retail business with over 19,000 new businesses that sprung up in 2019, the appreciation of the internet by Ugandans has changed the retail industry completely. New paradigms of sales and marketing are becoming the new normal. You see what you like online; you tap, add to cart, pay and then the products are delivered to your doorstep, an experience that is very time conscious other than making queues in physical stores. The outbreak of the pandemic has however heightened this experience creating a huge profit gap between the brick-and-mortar stores and those that have an online presence.
The drastic change in consumer behaviour can’t now allow brick-and-mortar retailers to be in the wait-and-see-mode. They, therefore, have to elevate their in-person consumer experience, give competitive value for money and establish an online presence that is consumer-friendly by delivering reliable digital experience across all accessible channels. The picture of elevating customer experience is clearer in supermarkets such as Carrefour Uganda that provides hand gloves to every customer that walks in to avail a sense of comfort that; we are trying to be COVID19 sensitive. This alone is competitive enough.
Why digitalize your brick-and-mortar store?
The cost-effectiveness of running an online store cannot be matched by anything physical. Less operational costs such as rent and lesser wages to pay to allow you to have extra disposable income that can instead be used to add value and quality to the products delivered to your customers. In thisCOVID19 era when every business is barely surviving, an extra income from whichever source is welcome. Companies with a huge online presence are realizing huge profit margins because of this approach to business.
Companies like Jumia, Kikuu, and Dondolo have set the e-commerce bar so high, that it has now become very intimidating for other market players to join the wagon. But the good news is; one doesn’t have to first put up a fully functional website or application, but start as small as using different social media tools and channels such as Instagram business and WhatsApp business to reach a wider consumer audience.
What does it take to digitalize your store?
Digitalizing your business is a driver to growth and allows your business to stay relevant and competitive especially now when the profitability of many businesses is questionable. Identifying your objective as a business and as to why you want to go online is a key area because you have to be in a position to strike a balance during the digitalization process and business continuity. Your objectives could range from increasing the profitability of your business by reducing costs to a change in operations that focus on full customer satisfaction.
Once you have laid down your objectives, it is important to transform, strategize your implementations and then evaluate the long term effects of digitalization. As a business owner, you have to be in a position to be spontaneous in reskilling your staff to match the current e-business trends to satisfy the ever-changing customer needs.
Now more than ever, it is important for store owners to prepare their businesses for a technological evolution for future uncertainties like the COVID19 pandemic if they want to remain long term market players.
Maclean Atuhaire is a Ugandan writer whose work has been published by the Nile Post. Her work focuses on socio-economic issues that she hopes is impactful and enlightening to the readers. Get in touch with her at [email protected] and follow her on twitter at @AtuhaireMaclea.