A large percentage of our economy is involved in commerce. The average African is selling a physical good than service, this is very evident in all the social media ads that hit us. I am afraid that without the right skills most businesses will not be able to scale online.
With e-commerce having the potential to create 3 million new jobs in Africa by 2025, the World Economic Forum has outlined an action plan to build this new form of commerce.
“E-commerce is the future,” said Albert Muchanga, the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, “and Africa will fully leverage it to secure hers”.
I started my ecommerce business on social media selling directly to consumers in Ghana at the time. Even though, social media gave me a good start, it was not enough to handle the type of clients I interacted with or the volumes that I will serve and so I had to keep looking for other alternatives to serve my customers.
From the order requests I got, I knew countries like the US and some European countries are interested in my Afrocentric and sustainable products and so I started looking for ways to build a system that will reach people other than my home country, Ghana.
Ecommerce is the exchange of goods and services online. When I first started @muqafrik, I realized quickly that my kind of customers will not only be in Ghana.
An ecommerce website comes with the automation which can walk a client through your website leaving you only with the responsibility of processing and packaging your clients orders. That was the freedom I had. I didn’t have to answer every FAQ since I had it documented. Ecommerce is for growth minded businesses owners who want to take the burden of attending to every single client, automating the whole process.
When I started @muqafrik surprisingly, there was no one to show me how to do it. I had to singlehandedly build a website, set all the marketing systems. Good thing about this, I learnt through my mistakes.
I see most people making the same mistakes I made some time back and I cringe because I know the repercussions. I tell people that building a website is just the first step in the journey, the biggest part is to set up systems I call marketing system to successfully engage a client.
So what are the errors I have identified that will make a business person build a website that no one will visit or buy from?
- Little or no idea of ideal customer
- Not enough data or information on online buying patterns
- Inadequate financial resources
- Inadequate skill set to build and maintain a website
- Not enough product description
- Not having a clear vision for the product line
Not having enough skill set to build and maintain a website: this would be one of the biggest mistakes I made when I started my first business. I ended up building a website that had a zero conversion rate because I did not have the skills to build one. My biggest challenges were creating store policies, SKUs, integrating shipping and payment systems.
Inadequate financial resources: unemployment and underemployment is one of the biggest problem in Africa. Most young people are not able to find suitable jobs after college and will resort to starting a business to “survive”. Building a website just like building a business is not a good idea when you do not have money to fund it because you need to invest some capital into it. Young people have little to no money and would end up building digital experiences that would lead to zero conversion.
Not enough product information: when you build an ecommerce store, it means you are sending your products beyond locations other than your home country. Visitors will not have physical contact with you; to ask you questions about the product. Your job is to create enough product information adding features like size, color, care instructions, what each product on your shop can be used for, how the product (s) are used etc.
Not enough idea of your ideal customer: business owners starting their first ventures are normally clueless about who they are serving. This becomes difficult to know how to crafts the product (s) they they will love, appreciate and buy. This could be partly blamed on the lack or access to appropriate data to learn more.
Not enough data or information on online buying patterns: linked to my earlier point, when early founders do not have enough information about their ideal customers, it is very difficult to understand how their buying patterns look like and what channels these customers prefer. Once that link is missing, it becomes very difficult to craft a suitable digital buying experience.
Not having a clear vision for product line: I have seen some businesses who sell everything on their website right from the beginning. They sell home décor, fashion, cosmetics, food, furniture all in one shop without having a business description that indicate that is what they do. This makes it difficult for visitors to know where to go and buy products. The ideal is to have brand description that will explain to the customer that you intend to sell everything (this is definitely not a good idea) or you start with one product or product line like fashion or home décor and then increase to other areas when you become known in the market.