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Analysis & Opinions

Time Is Nigh For E-Commerce: Supermarkets Ought To Lead Way In Digitalizing Their Services

By Emma Onyango

In the past decade, the internet has created new opportunities for the tech-savvy to explore the possibilities that the digital space offers.

With new competitive pressures, technological advances, and evolving consumer attitudes and behaviors, retailers are recognizing threats early, seizing opportunities, and catching a wave of profitable growth. In fact, economic analysts have predicted that those who do not adapt, will continue to struggle with some even disappearing.

The emergence of e-Money has accelerated the adoption of e-Commerce, making it one of the fastest growing segments. Experts will attest that there has never been a better time for businesses to transfer their offerings from the traditional brick and mortar, to the ‘net.’

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a set of unique challenges around keeping customers safe and feeling secure in the aisles. This has thus led to the faster adoption e-trading has become even more important.

Supermarkets that have traditionally tended to be cautious when it comes to rolling out in-store technology because of the risk of confusing and alienating customers are now among those adopting e-Commerce to connect with customers.

In April 2020, Carrefour, operated by Majid Al Futtaim in Uganda, joined forces with Africa’s leading e-commerce platform Jumia, through its subsidiary Jumia Food, to provide customers with a secure and convenient way to have their orders delivered to their homes. This partnership came at a time the country was witnessing a sharp increase in demand for delivery services, following increased movement restrictions.

Franck Moreau, the Country Manager at Carrefour Uganda and Kenya while announcing the partnership said: “Our partnership with Jumia is a testament to our agility and adaptability as a business, which allow us to overcome disruption, and quickly cater to our customers’ needs during these challenging times. This is an important step in our digital transformation journey and Omni-channel offering, and we look forward to bringing our great value products closer to our customers by offering them a safe and contactless delivery experience to their homes.”

He said that more shoppers would access a variety of Carrefour products, providing them the same great value prices and quality of products that they enjoy at Carrefour store located at the Oasis Mall in Kampala. 

The e-commerce segment in Uganda is rapidly growing, and it is expected to shortly become the second largest online market in the East Africa region, after Kenya. This is mainly due to the rapid growth in telecommunications users and the widespread use of mobile money payments: commercial banks have integrated Mobile Money services to their offerings, which allows mobile phone users to electronically transfer funds to retailers or individuals. More banks are now offering VISA debit cards which allow for online payments, hence minimizing the need for physical cash.

With the Coronavirus pandemic threat still looming large in the country, more Ugandans will continue to look to the online platform for e-trading and delivery services.

However, there still exists an opportunity for specific retailers to continue trading assomeshoppers still prefer to choose their own food (especially meat, produce, and other perishable goods), and with the old adage that seeing is believing, they may continue to operate. But for how long? Your guess is as good as mine.

The author works with Hill+Knowlton Strategies Uganda, a Public Relations firm

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