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#BizTrends2018: Mobile means more e-commerce opportunity than ever before

The proliferation of mobile phone networks in Asia-Pacific and Africa has transformed how people connect, communicate and shop. Africa's e-commerce market is rapidly gaining traction, with e-commerce expected to account for 10% of retail sales by 2025, while Asia-Pacific's e-commerce market will have an estimated value of $1.4 trillion by 2020. I believe 2018 will continue the surge in emerging markets' mobile and e-commerce growth, catalysing big opportunity for businesses.
Mark Mahoney
Mark Mahoney
For many, mobile is a communication lifeline and an opportunity to access the internet in places where connection is limited or non-existent. This is one of numerous factors fuelling the growth of emerging markets. I’d also credit fast-paced technological change, online banking and the increased globalisation of customers and retailers in highly populous countries. The world’s more connected than ever before – however, this connectivity comes at a cost.

To accelerate access, savvy data solutions need to pair with well-designed e-commerce platforms. For example, leading Nigeria e-tailer Jumia has partnered with MTN, so MTN sim card holders can browse the online shopping site and app for free, with zero data usage. I believe we’ll see more of these kinds of partnerships emerging.

In Africa, cell phones are now just as widespread in South Africa and Nigeria as they are in the US, where 90% of adults own one or more phones. This is vastly different from a decade ago when roughly only one in ten adults owned a mobile phone in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana. This reliance on mobile means developing countries have a much faster e-commerce-via-mobile adoption rate than developed countries. It’s therefore likely these markets will exert the greatest influence on e-commerce in the year to come.

Top trends for the e-commerce industry in 2018:

1. Unparalleled opportunity: It’s estimated that some countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, for example, have a relatively modest collective mobile penetration rate of only 35%, yet have a combined population of close to two billion, so the e-commerce market growth potential is enormous. I predict more businesses will expand into these areas in the coming year.

2. The battle of the big players in import-ance: Our inbound shipments reflect that the USA still accounts for 70% of all e-commerce orders to South Africa, with the UK following at 13% and China at 10%. Imports from online stores in China are the fastest growing, with Alibaba going head to head with Amazon.

3. More people are shopping the world: From Amazon to Asos and Alibaba, South African online consumers are embracing ordering from overseas websites, with over 43% choosing to make purchases from the USA, UK and China. There are a few reasons behind this:

- Online consumers are now more comfortable with payment security. Additionally, the buying process is better, with improved shipping options and site design.

- Access to newly launched or unobtainable products, new fashion styles, and cheaper prices and deep discount sales are the main reasons people look overseas when shopping online.

- Faster and more cost-effective global logistics services are providing international shoppers with door-to-door delivery options that are meeting their delivery time expectations.

- Many small businesses and entrepreneurs are importing products that are not available in their own countries from global online stores and then selling these products locally. Orders can be taken locally and “drop shipped” to the end consumer without the need for high capital outlay or expensive business resources. I’ve noted a few customers who invest in Lego and other kids’ toys, for example, and set up small side ventures to sell to their family and friends.

About Mark Mahoney

Mark Mahoney is Manager eCommerce Services at Aramex South Africa.

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