The eCommerce economy in Nigeria (and Africa) is poised for significant growth.
McKinsey estimates that the African e-commerce market is on track to reach $75bn in revenues per annum by 2025. Investors have also demonstrated a sustained interest in e-commerce platforms in Nigeria -they are still the most funded businesses in Nigeria.
With the country being the continent’s largest economy, you should in cash in some of that potential, here are some critical tricks you should know:
1. Don’t rush the launch
You only get one shot at launching your website and you must not mess it up.
One of the biggest mistakes eCommerce entrepreneurs make is forcing or rushing the launch of a website.
While it’s okay to purchase your domain name and throw up some sort of “Coming Soon” page, you should avoid the big reveal until you’ve laid some substantial ground work (SEO, content marketing, social media, paid advertising, etc.).
2. Give your users the best experience ever
When customers walk into a brick and mortar store, they want to spend their money but they have to be sure they can get what they want. They also have to be sure the goods they’re getting will be in good condition.
Just because eCommerce takes place online doesn’t change this dynamic. It’s no secret that the biggest shortcoming of eCommerce businesses is the inability to let their customers touch, feel, smell, and see (firsthand) products before making a decision.
It’s easier to make an impulse purchase when you can touch a product than just looking at it through a screen. While there’s currently no solution for solving this problem, you can compensate for this deficiency by doing many other things – offer appropriate pricing, free shipping and make the checkout process easy with simplified shopping carts.
3. Test absolutely everything
Before during and after you launch any eCommerce business, you should invest in testing and analytics. Think like the customer and figure out what’s working, what’s not, and the why behind those answers.
4. Engage social media intensively
As an eCommerce store owner, you can’t afford to ignore social media. That’s because social media is like the cab driver who brings lots of customers to your store.
Social media is the heartbeat of your business as it benefits you at all levels: exposure and attracting visitors, retaining the visitors and turning them into your customers, allowing your customers to talk about you and make your brand more personal to other consumers.
Organic word of mouth marketing that occurs on social media sites can be incredibly beneficial to the growth and success of your eCommerce business.
Depending on your strategy and type of product, you can also take advantage of advertising opportunities available on Facebook, showcase your product in Instagram, present your articles on LinkedIn, keep your current and potential customers updated via Twitter, and increase your exposure via Pinterest.
5. Incorporate social elements
Going along with the previous tip, it’s a great idea to include social elements on your eCommerce sites. Things like product reviews and testimonials buttons and even social login options all help the conversion funnel.
Reviews and ratings of your products can boost your trustworthiness immensely. Some customers like to gather all the information they can about a certain product before shelling out money. An example is this scathing review from PaperBlog
This information gathering can be cumbersome. Product ratings save them time and help them find out what other customers like them think about the product. Ratings also create user-generated content that can bring extra value to your website, including SEO value.
6. Make your site responsive
Given that 63% of Internet traffic in Africa comes from mobile devices and that for a majority of the 344 million Africans that subscribe to the mobile internet, mobile is their only means of accessing the internet, Africa is a mobile-first market. Users now spending on average, 3 hours per day on their phone and 50% of all YouTube views in West Africa come from mobile.
If your eCommerce store isn’t well adapted for mobile devices, then you’ll be missing out on valuable traffic, possibly losing rank, frustrating your users, and maybe even losing revenue. Responsiveness allows your website to be displayed well on ANY device, whether it’s a huge desktop or a smartphone. Why is it that important? Because
Responsiveness allows your website to be displayed well on ANY device, whether it’s a huge desktop or a smartphone. Why is it that important? Because Google ranks mobile-friendly websites higher.
If you aren’t building eCommerce businesses with mobile in mind, you will struggle to be relevant. Ignore mobile at your own peril.
7. Stay on top of SEO
As more players enter the eCommerce space, it will be more important than ever to stay on top of SEO in order to stand out from the competition.
SEO is incredibly important for your website. Your website needs to be SEO-friendly, the URLs need to contain keywords, and keywords need to be present in your blog posts themselves.
There is a great article on Kissmetrics on SEO optimization of eCommerce websites. According to the same resource, 78% of mobile searches for local business information result in a purchase. Don’t lose your audience, make sure they can reach your store no matter which device they have.
8. Collect information
Unless you plan on launching a single site and stepping away (most entrepreneurs are tempted to keep trying), it’s critical that you collect customer information and build databases to aid future launches.
9. Make it Beautiful
Even though eCommerce is not a beauty contest, a crappy looking site won’t do you any favours or win you any fans.
Good web design is more about visual presentation than the information it actually conveys. Visitors have learned diagonal reading and, to make things worse for web designers, they have also been conditioned to form an opinion of a website in the first milliseconds after arriving there.
In the unforgiving jungle of business competitiveness, these first milliseconds are all you have to create a good impression, otherwise, visitors will quickly leave and seek out your competitor’s more impressive website.
10. Do your “About Us Page & Contact Info” right
It’s sure as rain that you’ve been to a website and you couldn’t understand what it does. After spending what must have felt like an eternity, you closed the page and never returned. Don’t let that happen to your store.
Especially if your store has a unique or uncommon business model. No one needs you to write long sheets of text, people will diagonal-read (remember?) it anyway.
What you need to do is clearly spell out what you are, what you do, and, most importantly, what you offer to the clients. If a visitor goes to your “About Us” page, that means he or she is already interested in you and is giving you a chance to prove to him or her that your product is the best. Make sure you don’t waste this opportunity as it may lead to gaining a customer.
Your contact information should be clear and easy to find on your about page and throughout your website as well. Mention your contact email, your address, and your social media channels.
11. Partners Area
No one wants to trust an unseen, unheard of, and unknown company, especially when it comes to parting with their money. If you don’t have an established reputation yet, show them how many other companies are working with you.
They don’t necessarily need to be on the scale of a Unilever or Dangote, but even small companies can add a degree of trustworthiness to your enterprise. Show your future customer the relationships you have already established.
The more partners you have, the better.
12. Online Support
Online Support is really, really important. Live chat helps when it comes to walking people through the conversion funnel. Ideally, it will be available 24/7.
If you don’t have the resources to offer it (or, maybe, you have a small business that doesn’t need it), you still need to have a support service that helps people during working hours.
13. Excellent Customer Service
Repeat this three times to yourself before proceeding with the rest of this post – there is no such thing as too much focus on customer service.
If you’re going to build a kickass online brand, your customer service has got to be kickass. Especially in a market like Africa where there’s general distrust of online payment channels, your customers need to know they have your ears and you have their back.
Nothing frustrates a customer more than poor customer service. If you make returning items difficult, customers are likely to buy from a competitor the next time around.
If possible, have customer service agents available around-the-clock to field and resolve customer inquiries. Great customer support can significantly shorten the sales cycle and keep your customers coming back for more.
If you guarantee troubleshooting after the purchase and consulting before the purchase, you are very likely to convert them into devoted returning customers.
It’s good that your phone lines, emails and social media channels are manned by a competent team of customer service reps. Timely, relevant and empathic answers will win you the loyalty of visitors.
14. Payment Methods & Money-Back Guarantee
No online store can exist without payments. Choose the right payment processor for your business preferably ones that can process credit and debit cards.
A money-back guarantee is very important. You need to give your customers a way to respond in case they do not like the product. It doesn’t mean they will necessarily ask for a refund. Of course, some of them will, but most people just need to know there is a backup option.
People, by nature, are not risk takers, so this flexible payment policy will be attractive to them. As a result, you’ll get more customers than you would if you didn’t have a money-back guarantee.
15. A Frequently Updated Blog
Content marketing is a good driver of traffic to e-stores. A competently run blog can do wonders for your SEO ranking. Offer high-quality content. Know your audience and make sure the content responds to their needs. Keep in mind that using the right keywords will help you improve search rankings, and the fresher your content is, the better it is for Google.
Blogs also have the advantage of letting you target different potential customers. You can also try different strategies – run giveaways, provide your customers with tips or fun content, suggest sets of tools or tutorials related to your business and so on. This is also a great way of collaborating with other businesses by exchanging links, mentioning each other on the blog, and getting some benefits in return.
16. Get Pricing Right
After everything you’ve done to get potential customers to purchase a product, the last thing you want to do is lose them because a competitor has a slightly lower price. Perform meticulous research on pricing, and always offer a bonus coupon or future promotion opportunity to give them the confidence to keep typing in those credit/debit card numbers.
Hopefully, these few tricks will help you build a successful eCommerce brand. May the odds ever be in your favour.