SERVICE DELIVERY

WhatsApp is becoming the customer service tool of choice for Nigerian e-commerce

Obsession
Africa Innovators
Quartz africa
Obsession
Africa Innovators
Quartz africa

As e-commerce continues grows in Nigeria, a new challenge has emerged in how to efficiently execute returns and manage failed deliveries.

It’s the latest challenge for e-commerce platforms of all sizes in Nigeria that have free return policies similar to major players like Amazon in more advanced markets. But many struggle with taking steps to handle the process.

Jumia, one of the biggest e-commerce players in Nigeria, phones up individual customers that want to return products and offers them the option of keeping the ordered products and receiving shopping voucher of the amount spent.

 WhatsApp is helping businesses overcome the trust barrier that hampers e-commerce growth in Nigeria. But rival online store, Konga recently introduced a feature that allows merchants to contact potential buyers via WhatsApp. While the company is yet to issue an official statement on the new feature, founder, Sim Shagaya, has suggested on social media the move part of bigger strategic move. Konga has already informed its merchants about the new WhatsApp feature via the Konga Community.

In a post on how sellers can use WhatsApp, Konga Community moderator, Teju Fola-Alade told merchants the new feature will assist in the handling after-sales issues.

“With WhatsApp as an additional touch point for you, you can constantly create a positive experience for your customers,” she said.

Though Nigeria’s consumer retail sector is still relatively underdeveloped, investors have helped build an e-commerce sector which is Africa’s biggest valued at $13 billion by some estimates and growing by 25% annually. E-commerce startups in the country have raised tens of millions of dollars to expand and overcome infrastructure problems and logistical challenges in their attempt to convince more Nigerians to shop online.

Not just e-commerce

Konga’s experiment is not the only one in Nigeria as WhatsApp has become popular among SMEs—particularly those without online presence. Chinedu Uzodinma’s Ibadan-based HurryCane Fashion Store is one of them; he said he is using WhatsApp to push sales.

“If you look around this Ekotedo market very well, you will see that there are tens of people selling the same thing that I’m selling. We often fight over whose shop a customer enters but this is no longer as prominent as before because we all have streams of customers via WhatsApp,” he said.

Uzodinma says all he does now is to chat with interested customers over WhatsApp about his latest products, send pictures and discuss price and delivery.

KCreations, a budding branding startup, says WhatsApp has made it possible for business owners to overcome the trust barrier that had slowed the growth of the e-commerce sector in Nigeria as alluded to by some of the e-commerce major players. KCreation’s CEO, Kayla Ruth said her customers are much less reluctant to pay before service after chatting with them.

“I think this is probably because we are not asking for their card details. We don’t need to do that since it is very easy to transfer money digitally these days, says Ruth. “I’ve also noticed customers will be rest assured when they know they can reach me after they’ve made payment and until they’ve received the products they ordered. This is something that appears to be missing on the big e-commerce platforms.”

For local developers, the fact business owners can do business online (via WhatsApp) without conventionally going online via the open internet has created an array of new challenges. Their pitches often included web chat features for e-commerce websites. But with real time conversations made possible and easier via WhatsApp, it is difficult to promise a service that will be better than what the client is already used to.

“We know that mobile is the future, we just didn’t see WhatsApp as a potent threat to web development,” said Chris Ayoade, a Nigerian web developer.

While Nigeria’s communications regulator and the mobile operators have to date not revealed the details of the most popular mobile apps in the country, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest WhatsApp is easily one of the widely used apps in Nigeria. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has been a thorn in the side of local mobile operators who have privately complained it is eating into their voice and SMS revenue. In Zimbabwe, WhatsApp alone accounts for nearly half of all internet traffic in the country.

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