Although e-commerce has been slow to take off in Africa, the past six months have seen a sharp boom of online shopping across the continent after many businesses were left with no option but to move their operations online. With more than 400 million internet users, Africa has one of the most digitally connected populations in the world, making it ripe for an e-commerce takeover. As more entrepreneurs in Africa are starting to realize the many benefits that online shopping has to offer, the opportunity to make the most of this market is now. If you want to start an e-commerce business in Africa, here’s how you can position your business to take advantage of the new normal.
Find a suitable niche
Before setting up your business, do some research to identify a suitable niche. Think along the lines of what products are you looking to sell and where you’ll source them. Do some research on your competitors and find a niche where you think you can establish a successful brand. You also want to think of the type of business model you’re going to employ — will you be offering single products, subscriptions, packages, or something else? Once you have found a niche, you can think of a business name and write a business plan to outline how you will turn your idea into an actual business.
Choose an e-commerce platform and build your website
Creating a website that’s accessible on multiple platforms is one of the most important steps of starting an e-commerce business. Like a physical storefront, your website is the face of your business — it’s what customers will see first and use to browse and purchase products. When developing your website, the first thing to think about is the domain name. You want it to match your business name and look professional to gain the trust of your customers. Along these lines, another key decision will be choosing a reliable e-commerce platform. A good e-commerce platform will allow you to create your online store, customize your design, add a domain, manage inventory, take orders, and receive payments. Although there are hundreds of e-commerce platforms available, some of the most popular ones include Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace, and Magento.
Marketing your business
Marketing is key for your business especially in the early stages when you’re trying to establish yourself. If you have a big marketing budget to work with, your best bet is to use more traditional forms of marketing such as television, radio, and newspapers as most Africans still rely on them for information. If you’re working with a lower budget, you can go the social media marketing route with its use growing rapidly across the continent. For your adverts to capture the broadest audience possible, diversity is key as it allows more consumers to see themselves in your ads. You want your ads to appeal to all kinds of people regardless of their racial, ethnic, geographic, socioeconomic, religious, political, academic, professional, and sexual backgrounds.
Lastly, you must build trust with your customers to turn them from one-time experimental buyers to lifetime customers that you can always count on. You can do this by delivering high-quality products on time and ensuring that you have an efficient system in place to deal with customers’ queries, feedback, and other issues.