By Ugwoke Peace Udoka
Stagnancy, well, describes the activities of some shop owners. Moving around in circles and not responsive to the advancement of technology and application of these reforms to their business activities would only mean doom. Hawkers, in this context, virtual are prone to limitless success.
Gone are the days when people scramble to site their shops in the best locations or save up a lot of cash to acquire capital to buy land space and erect structures or even pay a lot of rental fee for shops. People no longer want to go through the stress of paying transportation fares to visit shops, neither do they want to waste too much time walking from department to department in a mall, when a couple of clicks from the comfort of their homes could give them the same desired result and even more. Obviously, rising technology brings a rise in customer’s taste.
Apart from fierce competition coming from mall, honestly, statistics do not favour bricks and mortars shop owners. A report by BigCommerce.com on ‘Customer location at time of purchase’, shows a quarter of online shoppers (25%) have made an online purchase from a brick-and-mortar store; 43% of online shoppers have made a purchase while in bed; Millennials and Gen Xers are nearly 3x as likely as Baby Boomers and Seniors to have made an online purchase from bed (59% v 21%); 23% of online shoppers have made an online purchase at the office and nearly 3 in 10 (29%) of Millennials and Gen Xers have made a purchase from the office.
The report continued: more than 15% of Baby Boomers and Seniors have made a purchase from the office; 20% of American online shoppers have purchased from the bathroom or while in the car (a +1 for mobile commerce); millennials and Gen Xers are 5x more likely to have made an online purchase from the bathroom (31% v. 6%) than Baby Boomers and Seniors; one in ten customers admitted to buying something online after drinking alcohol; men are more than twice as likely as women to have made a purchase after consuming alcohol (14% to 6%); younger generations are 5x more likely to drink and shop than their older counterparts (15% to 3%) and parents are twice as likely as non-parents to have made an online purchase after drinking (15% v 7%).
As e-commerce platforms in Nigeria move towards maturity, shop owners found in their numerous numbers in Onitsha Main Market, Anambra; Alaba International Market, Lagos state; Ogbette Main Market, Enugu State; Ariaria Market, Abia State; Kurmi Market, Kano State and so many others across Nigeria, should start rethinking.
These e-commerce platforms or the ‘virtual hawkers’ including Jumia, Konga, JiJi, Uber and every other who without shop spaces, uses the digital marketing techniques (technology) to capture the attention of their target audience and deliver quality products and services to them, will eventually send them (shop owners) parking.
Trust me, every business is out to make profit. As an accountant, I know that profits are made when you reduce the cost of production or increase price. The latter is usually the better option as the former scares the customers to the ever wide-open hands of the competitors.
An article published on THISDAY Newspapers on the 28th August, 2017 by Eromosele Abiodun stated that Nigeria’s E-commerce Market Value would hit #15.5 trillion in ten years, though its current worth is #4.01 trillion. Apparently, the current worth of virtual hawking would triple in the next ten years. Tell me, where would all the shops get their own profit from? Where would all the wealth go?
Who would you think stands a better chance of amassing more customers? A shop owner who spends a lot on land space, electricity bills, adverts and other promotion strategies or a virtual hawker who almost incurs none of these costs? Have you wondered why a lot of shops and malls including Shoprite and SPAR are adopting the technology mode of attracting and retaining customers? They are beginning to take a cue from virtual hawkers and promoting programmes and packages that would not require their malls to be visited by the customer. Looking at the transportation industry, clients no longer have to wait at car parks to get to their destination.
With technology, they get the virtual hawker come pick them at wherever location and take them to their destination at almost the same or a lesser amount than the car owners parks. Transport companies like Peace Mass Transit and God is Good Motors have packages like the online booking system which allows travelers to peruse dates and book tickets with a couple of clicks. Potentially, this will replace the conventional means of going to the counter to buy tickets and having to struggle with your luggage past the flood of travelers.
Shop owners will continually pay cut-throat taxes to government officials. This has a lot of negative effect on the profitability of the business. Whereas, virtual hawkers do not actually pay as much taxes! Instead they re-invest their profit devoid of tax and continue building their riches while shop owners are muddled up in their mediocrity. Tell me, which would you prefer?
Salvaging this ugly situation lies with the development of applications tailored towards assisting shop owners go online. ICT Editor, Peter Oluka, advises that banks and other financial institutions have key roles to play; especially to encourage more financial inclusion, because it will enhance trust. “If you trust to buy online, potentially you are an online merchant”, Peter adds.
Unfortunately, ignorance is the greatest problem of majority of these bricks and mortars shop owners, and of course it’s not an excuse. There is need for continuous education and sensitization.
In my previous article on ‘the need to ignite technology consciousness in women and girls in the South East’ , I pointed that many females in the stated region are ignorant and continuous education is key; likewise, many shop owners need digital literacy to embrace e-commerce.
Ugwoke Peace Udoka, ACA, MNIMN, BSc (Marketing) University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, 2016. She can be reached via: [email protected]