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Special Report: Online Shopping: Taking The Good With The Bad

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E-commerce

By Lukmon Akintola

 

 

e-Commerce is simply an electronic form of trading. It is, using the internet for marketing, identification, payment, and delivery of goods and services. It may still be a developing medium in this part of the world, but in American, Asian and European countries, they are the currently most used source of trade.

 

Though e-commerce is still crawling in Nigeria, it is fast growing. Like every innovation. It was initially rejected and those who accepted it did so with reluctance, this is due to the general lack of trust, the rate of cybercrime in the country, poor computer literacy level, and other risks related to online transactions. Also, there are really no laws protecting cyber purchasers.

 

However, in recent times, despite the fact that legislation has not improved, its acceptance has begun to grow tremendously. This, a lot of people have ascribed to its convenience the medium offers. Who wants to go to a rowdy Balogun Market in Lagos to buy a school bag, when you can order for same online and it gets delivered to your house.

 

But with growth comes more challenges, and many online shoppers have had there have nightmarish experiences.

 

Pioneer e-Commerce platforms in Nigeria include Jumia, founded by the duo of Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afaedor in 2012, with focus on general merchandise, and Konga Shopping Company, founded by Simdul Shagaya.  Asides these platforms, there are others with less impressive profiles as the initially mentioned.

 

While the likes of Jumia and Konga focuses on general merchandise such as groceries, clothing, electronic and other household items, there are other platforms like Carmudi, Hellofood, OLX, Taxify and Uber which focused on specific or niche markets including sales of cars and transportation, used goods, food and so on.

 

The truth is that e-Commerce in Nigeria is expanding like very quickly into all sectors and as with every emerging innovation; there are always those who will pay the consequences.

 

The interesting thing about e-commerce in Nigeria is that it has greatly changed the traditional methods of shopping. Unlike in the past when individuals have to physically go to the mall, market or super market to pick whatever they want, today they can sit in the comfort of their homes with a laptop and order whatever they want. It’s like a dream come true.

 

Delivery which is often done by courier is simple and effortless, as it is done by either an in-house dispatch person or a partner courier service provider at a cheap and competitive rate.

 

Although the innovation is still unfolding in Nigeria, its ups and down has created varying opinions about it.

 

Though most people have had palatable experiences, hence the growth of the industry, many others relay the opposite. Today, the pioneer owners of e-Commerce platforms are rapidly evolving having experienced some of the shortcomings related to newbie businesses.

 

A cross-section of the experiences of e-Commerce platform users reflect what individuals have encountered in their bid to get their needs online.

 

On his part, Seun Atobatele revealed that the experiences he has gotten from e-Commerce platforms have been every bad. Speaking, he explained how he was given a voucher by Jumia, but couldn’t get what he eventually used it to buy.

 

His words “I once attended an event at Jumia in company of a friend. At the event, I was given a voucher to use on the Jumia platform. I wanted to buy a selfie tripod and was happy to find exactly what I wanted on Jumia. Having bought it, I realised that I had been overcharged because the same item had a cheaper price on the same platform. So, I called the agent who asked me to cancel the transaction and order again, as the new price of the item would reflect before I made my new order. When I could not cancel the order being a novice with such platforms he opted to cancel the transaction for me. After his cancellation, all efforts to place the order again failed, as the voucher was said to have been used. Efforts to get my voucher back failed, neither was I able to get my tripod.

 

Assistance from the Jumia customer care was futile, as they kept making up one excuse after the other. For someone who just got acquainted to e-Commerce that was a very sad experience.” This is not the only tripod story that is abound, as our Reporter was told how a man ordered a camera tripod which was quite big on the e-Commerce platform only to get a miniature one on delivery. Hear him, “in all fairness, the platform wrote the size of the tripod in the advert. However, how many people were conversant with such measurements?,” he asked.

 

On many occasions, individuals have reportedly paid for items online using their Automated Teller Machine (ATM), cards only to be debited and the e-Commerce platform maintaining that no payment was received and as such they can’t deliver the item bought.

 

Other experiences about e-Commerce platforms have been intriguing. There are those who have narrated how they ordered for a red footwear and got a wine coloured shoe instead. What about the story of how a phone which was supposed to be brand new was bought and delivered only for it to stop working the same day.

 

If these amaze you, you will realise that this case is not an isolated one. Tonye, a housewife talks about how she bought a blender that never worked on an e-Commerce website. Asked if she collected her money back she answered thus “I got it back, but it took a very long time.” She wondered how she would have fared had she wanted to travel the day she purchased the blender.  You will be shocked to realise that the handbag you order for on the internet might be delivered to you looking old or even used. The reason for this is yet to be known. However, storage facilities in the warehouse of the e-Commerce platforms have been pinpointed as one of the reasons. Such are the unpleasant experiences of many people who have shopped online.

 

There have also been allegations of Konga advertising a five litre gallon of groundnut oil in the Konga Daily promotion only to deliver four litres.

 

The individual, who narrated his experience concerning the promotion, revealed that when he complained to the Konga customer care all they did was change the promotion on their website to reflect that the gallon of oil for the promotion had changed to four litres.

 

Speaking with INDEPENDENT under anonymity, he said such was not good for an emerging business.

 

Other reactions that have been published on e-Commerce review platforms include the following.

 

The experience of Bisola Hammed who resides in Magodo, Lagos State is however in contrast to that of Ajanaku. Having used the Konga platform and being unimpressed, she advised people to stop buying items from a particular merchant named LandG.

 

Narrating her ordeal, Bisola said “I bought a product from a company called LandG, I ordered for a mist fan which cost over 30,000 Naira. Everything was just fine, and then barely a month using it started malfunctioning. I called the merchant LandG, the representative on the phone promised to send someone to come fix it. I didn’t hear from them again, they also stopped picking my calls. LandG merchants sell fake products and have no after sales service skills. They should be boycotted,” she said.

 

Hear Kumuyi Olatayo’s experience “I Ordered a product, and I cant track it, and I couldn’t get through to customer care, its taking forever to deliver the product, these guys are the worst e-Commerce service ever.”

 

This negative review is not exclusive to Konga, as its industry competitors Jumia have had their own fair share of criticisms too. A shopper who identified himself as Bida shared his experience thus, “Bought a phone and the battery was just decreasing as I watched. It can be at 78% then off within seconds. I requested them to check it, they apparently ‘fixed’ it but the problem is still the same. Adding salt to injury they don’t reply to emails anymore.”

 

On the part of Ogunlana Omojire, he says, “I ordered a power pack of about 80000Mac and yet it doesn’t charge my 2600mah battery fully. In short, they sold a fake product for me.”

 

Ochuole Ann also shared her similar experience, “I bought an item that wasn’t my shade and called for the item to be retrieved and replaced only to be called by a disrespectful staff who said a dispatcher who never came will come and pick it up. Moreover, thier products are substandard and I will ensure nobody that I know will patronise Jumia again.”

 

Review has been in mediation

 

The issues with e-commerce are however not limited to the seller. Many of them also have harrowing experiences with customers.

 

Just March this year, a Jumia dispatcher paid the ultimate price when he went to deliver a iPhone worth over N200,000 to customers. They however turned out to be cultists who killed the dispatcher and attempted to sell the phone.

 

These treatments are not restricted to users of the e-Commerce platforms alone, as merchants also have their own stories to tell.

 

Mary Oduwole narrated her problem with one of the platforms. According to her, being a merchant has been a terrible experience and to make matters worse her bank account was placed on hold and she can’t access her own money.

 

Further, she explained that at least 50 Emails have been written between herself and the e-Commerce platform over the issue. She revealed that the platform said that they will make refunds for her lost items and eight months later nothing has been done about it, as they keep saying that they will look into it.

 

There is no doubt that the reactions of online shoppers are mixed. However, the negative experiences seem to overshadow the positive ones, even as the owners of the platforms try to be more interactive by advising customers on how to manage situations.

 

One aspect which every respondent to this story agreed on, is poor customer service. Everyone said they have had at least one nasty experience with the Customer Call Centre operators. “It is either, they lack the knowledge of your query, badly trained, or just plain rude,” said Afolabi.

 

Owners of e-Commerce platforms have however identified challenges such as customer base, a lack of proper infrastructure, logistics problems, issues surrounding shipment delivery and patience, as some of the things that will drive the industry which though is striving can still do better.

 

Confirming this in one of his many articles, Jason Njoku of IROKOTV said thus in line with e-Commerce in Nigeria “You need customers. Not capital. If you spend your time trying to build awesome consumer Internet companies absent of customers then you will fail.”

 

Adding his voice in highlighting the challenges of e-Commerce and how it has evolved better, Shola Adekoya Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Konga revealed that patience is key in e-Commerce, as you can’t make positive EBITDA from day one. He goes on to explain that things are looking up, as currently, it takes five to seven days to deliver across Nigeria, while in the past it took an average of 60 days. According to him, at Konga, they are trying to build a business that’s as efficient as what you get anywhere in the world.

 

“On a more serious note, I did not appreciate the importance of constantly building your team and getting the very best partners possible to help you deliver on your mission and vision. I believe every entrepreneur should spend as much time as possible getting the very best people into and involved with your business, and then staying out of their way. Your role should then focus on getting the resources and capital needed for them to thrive,” says Tunde Kehinde co-founder of Nigerian SME-financing company Lidya and Jumia Nigeria when asked if there was anything he wished he knew about entrepreneurship before starting.

 

While the position of these men might be forward thinking, one fact which stares all in the face is that most of the experiences of those who use e-Commerce platforms have not been too palatable. For some, if it is not a fraud, it is something close to it.

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