In a TechCabal newsletter, the curator wrote something very insightful: there is a possibility that the way we create ecommerce websites may not necessarily capture how Africans shop. In other words, in the open African market, we are not used to fixed prices as they have in American malls and stores. Here, you have to negotiate price with the seller before arriving at an equilibrium number.
Yes, when Amazon digitized American malls and stores, it made that listed price digital. But in Nigeria and across Africa, we never have listed prices in our four-day markets, open markets and traffic-light markets. So, why do we have ecommerce portals with listed prices?
Hold on: something is going here. The African shopping is social and conversational. It is not a mechanical process of “here is the price, pay or leave”.
You know what? That could be the reason why informal Facebook Group is growing, becoming the second ecommerce ecosystem in Africa, as I noted few days ago. Facebook groups mimic the African physical way of shopping with unconstrained haggling and bargaining.
According to Geopoll, a polling company, Facebook group is growing massively, threatening companies like Jumia and Konga on ecommerce. The informal groups in Facebook are now ecosystems of digital commerce as users use them to shop without going to the traditional ecommerce companies.
Now, would you design an ecommerce template that would replicate how Africans shop? That is what Facebook did in these informal groups since the sellers and buyers haggle over prices before money and products exchange hands. And they are growing. Just as the zip codes on our digital shopping carts, managing effectively how prices are determined may be an eureka moment in the Africa ecommerce sector. The American copycat-template may be totally irrelevant here.
We asked the client to remove the zip code field. Immediately, the conversion rate went up. Yes, zip code could destroy your online store capacity to get customers to buy. Our finding was that it frustrates shoppers by asking them to provide something they cannot technically provide. No one knows his or her zip code in Nigeria unless you are working in the Post Office. Yet, asking for that, even optional, is common in online stores in Nigeria.
Of course, there is nothing that says that a number may be in the price field. You can just ask the price to quote a price while you counter-propose. It is Africa, people.