Why Online Marketplaces are not helping eCommerce grow in Nigeria — A case for Zoafia.

Recently, Oyihoma Saleh of Kosavadeals wrote a great piece explaining why online marketplaces are not helping eCommerce grow in Nigeria. It was a truly impressive piece as he drove home some of the core issues concerning eCommerce as we have come to understand it in Nigeria. We agreed, this was exactly why my team and I started building Zoafia.

What is Zoafia anyway? It’s an eCommerce platform focused on shops who plan to grow into big online brands.

How do we do this? By providing a storefront (mini-website) for every store brand on the platform. There is a dashboard where brands can control everything that happens on their website, from managing inventory and handling orders to updating their brand policies. Even including heartfelt welcome messages for their customers. All these results in a beautiful web store that could be set-up in less than 5 mins.

But Nigerians still love marketplaces!? Yes they do. This is why additionally, Zoafia has made a marketplace — but this time with the brands in mind. We have a #shopOverProducts policy.

What does this mean? It means that for us it’s not just important that a customer buys a product. It is more important the customer knows which brand sells that product and is referred to the brand’s website on Zoafia to complete the transaction.

So if you want to turn your unique self-designed gowns into the Prada of Nigeria, why and how is Zoafia any better?

These are the problems Oyihoma stated and this is how Zoafia uniquely tackles them.

1. “The sale is yours, the customer is theirs”

At Zoafia, the entire purpose is for every brand to acquire a growing online customer base. Every customer that has bought from a brand is available for that brand. They can up-sell them, send them gift packages, offer them special discounts etc., and turn the customer into a repeat customer. We have already written on why repeat customers are absolutely important for any brand. The trade-off is that the brand itself also owns the responsibility of customer acquisition which is fair considering that they essentially run websites even though the Zoafia marketplace may trickle in customers in the long haul.

2. “It is not just about revenue- the market will scale and fast!”

The problem of marketplace competition affecting merchants is greatly minimized. At the Zoafia market, a brand can place a price protected by its brand. For e.g. If I exist in a market with Louis Vuitton, and we both sell a brown shoe that looks similar, they can fix a high price which is protected by their brand (Louis Vuitton!) but I won’t be able to sell mine for the same amount because I have no brand protection. However, because every brand takes control of their own web-store and does not have to depend on the market… everyone’s destiny is really in their hands.

Selling online is interpreted differently by merchants in Nigeria because the first people who first told them (all of us really) about eCommerce are the big marketplaces! “Give us your products, we’ll list them and when you have an order, we’ll contact you”. This brought merchants to the concept of online commerce -which in itself is a tremendous achievement, but also wrote a single story.

Growing brands in the West or Europe are used to online customer acquisition efforts, checking their web store and fulfilling customer orders, packaging customer orders and delivering them with their logos printed on the package. On the other hand, merchants in Nigeria are used to listing at several marketplaces and waiting for a call, this perhaps is the mentality change necessary to produce successful online stores and subsequently, strong online brands.

Selling online and having an online store does not have to be mutually exclusive though. Truth is brands or not, people want to make sales.

However it is wise to keep long term growth in mind and invest in an online store as it will ensure a brand’s future is secure with loyal customers as they grow into a household name.

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