With the spread of the internet and telecommunication technologies, the e-commerce industry in Africa has grown exponentially. Aided by a young demographic with high mobile phone penetration and increased use of digital payments, online shopping on the continent has seen consistent growth since 2015.
According to Statista, e-commerce businesses in Africa have a market base of 281 million online shoppers, with Nigeria, Kenya, Libya and Mauritius with the highest shares of internet users. E-commerce now outpaces retail shopping for growth in Africa, and projections have it that by 2023 the amount of money spent via e-commerce will double.
The projections bode well for the e-commerce businesses and entrepreneurs in this industry looking for ways to capitalise. To achieve that, they have to pay attention to technological trends.
Technology has always been the bedrock of e-commerce. The internet, one of the most technological inventions in civilisation, is the primary reason there is an industry called e-commerce. But it hasn't stopped there. Over the years, e-commerce giants have continually used technology for growth.
Today, we are in the middle of a technological revolution, more disruptive than any other in human history. Today's digital technologies are emerging at far greater speed and with more significant year-to-year impact than other developments of recent decades, such as the personal computer, the internet, and the mobile phone.
No industry, company or individual can escape the influence of these developments.
For the e-commerce industry, new technological advancements are essential for growth.
We look at five of them.
1. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the most important emerging digital technology today. Google CEO Sundar Pichai termed it as more profound than electricity and fire.
One of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than electricity or fire.
The use of AI in online shopping has already had a transformative impact on the e-commerce industry, and it's time businesses in Africa take advantage of it.
Amazon has had massive success with it, both in product recommendation, which is done by predicting shopping behaviour based on consumer shopping history; chatbots and virtual assistants provide 24X7 support for online shoppers and improve user experience.
AI in e-commerce is impacting customers' choices and helping with customer services.
People often inter-use AI and Machine Learning, but the latter is a subset of the former. Machine Learning uses data for actions like predicting shopping behaviour based on data (which is the customer's shopping history).
CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos had this to say about Machine Learning;
A lot of the value we're actually getting from machine learning is actually happening beneath the surface, and it is things like improved search results, improved product recommendations for customers, improved forecasting for inventory management, and literally hundreds of other things beneath the surface.
2. Voice recognition
Another driver of digital disruption in the e-commerce industry is voice recognition. This technology allows customers to search for information using only their voice, without typing anything. Voice recognition is one of the most exciting advances in technology to become mainstream.
Already, more than 20% of Google searches on mobile devices are voice searches, and e-commerce businesses worldwide are already capitalising on this technology.
It shouldn't have to become a popular trend in Africa before businesses can start using them. E-commerce businesses can jump on them quickly and gain headstarts on the continent. E-commerce businesses in Africa can start optimising their website pages to be found in voice searches and enable voice search searches on their websites and apps.
Customer service is a critical component of any business, and chatbot has become a trending technology tool that helps companies. For e-commerce businesses, there is a need for constant interaction with customers. With the increasing demand, leaders in the industry have automated responses using chatbots.
Chatbots are AI-powered tools that e-commerce businesses deploy to engage customers throughout their journeys to purchase. Online sellers use chatbots to answer frequently asked questions about products, the companies, pricing, and payment issues, either on websites or other messaging platforms.
4. Cloud computing
With cloud computing, e-commerce companies can scale up or down depending on demand. Instead of investing in costly servers that may not have the capacity when there is high demand, cloud computing can expand or contract based on the needs. Cloud computing can help during seasonal spikes-like during Black Friday sales etc.
Without cloud computing, spikes in traffic can slow down a website, which can frustrate customers. Cloud computing expands your bandwidth, computational power and storage.
5. Payment systems
E-commerce businesses need to keep up with the latest technology in payment systems that are rapidly evolving.
When the e-commerce industry first got started in Africa, there was a lot of cash-on-delivery, but payment methods have advanced rapidly. Now, nothing beats having an efficient and secure wallet and checkout process.
Inefficient checkout processes increase the likelihood of cart abandonment, which is a huge bother for e-commerce businesses.
If you want your e-commerce business to increase sales, you must embrace the latest technology in payment.
E-commerce businesses can successfully collect payments using debit/credit cards or bank transfers.
You can create payment links directly from the Fincra Dashboard and as usual please let us know if you need anything at fincra.com/contact-us.