When faced with an uncertain, risky situation over which we have no control, man-kind tends to try whatever they can to regain control or at least feel like they are in control. COVID-19 is one such crisis which caught Governments unaware, and Governments world over have enforced lockdowns of different magnitudes to regain control. This has had negative implications on economies and brick and mortar businesses have suffered the most. According to Mike Simpson in the UK, the decline of the once-ubiquitous high-street store seems to be continuing unabated, following the shift from brick and mortar shopping to online shopping which has been sped up by COVID-19.
In 2019, the Waitrose supermarket chain, in the UK, shut 12 of its outlets. John Lewis, a high-end department store chain described by The Guardian newspaper as the favourite retailer of Britain’s middle class, is currently hinting at closing some of its 36 stores. Traditional retail in the US is also suffering. According to the industry publication, Retail Dive, more than 9 000 stores closed in the US in 2019 and a further 700-plus have already closed in 2020. Macy’s, the upscale American department store chain founded in 1858, also said that it would be closing 125 stores over the next three years.
Whilst all this is happening, most African retailers are taking a narrow approach to building E-Commerce businesses. This will leave African retailers feeling the pressures that retailers have felt in other parts of the world. The COVID-19 lockdowns have shaken buyer behaviour, including the African consumer resulting in a lot of households shifting from buying luxurious products online to buying essentials, healthcare products and products with long shelf life online. This forced shift is going to leave a lasting impression on consumers, some of whom will never go back to brick and mortar stores post COVID-19.
E-commerce technology has been present in western continents for decades and is now taking over Africa resulting in the re-shaping of the business landscape despite the difference in pace. The growth of e-commerce brings with it many advantages for small and large businesses on the continent. E-commerce businesses are cutting setup costs by plugging into the already existing infrastructure and tend to start making money quicker than companies that have to set up physical infrastructure from scratch.
African e-commerce giants like Jumia, Takealot, Zando and Mall of Africa that happen to be putting heavy investment in their E-commerce websites and online stores are going to have a huge head start. They will enjoy the benefits of being the trusted, reliable sites with systems that work. With over 65 million African online buyers and an expected rise of 20 million by 2021, it’s a no brainer. Its either you set up shop online today or stay small. We can help you, give us a shout on this link.