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The Right Technology And Strategy Will Drive Cross-Border eCommerce In Africa

Infobip, a global cloud communications company and a leader in omnichannel engagement, recently hosted a webinar on how digital transformation drives cross-border ecommerce in Africa. Entitled “Driving Cross-border eCommerce Through Digital Transformation”, the session included presentations by several speakers from Infobip, as well as other organisations, including a presentation by Konga, one of Africa’s top 5 ecommerce start-ups.

Infobip Key Accounts Executive Loren Lubanga set the scene by outlining Africa’s thriving ecommerce markets – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, with 22 million, 76.7 million and 13 million shoppers respectively, with ecommerce penetration of 37% in both South Africa and Nigeria and 25% in Kenya. These figures are based on the reports The Next Frontier, PaYu 2021 and Statista 2020.

Lubanga noted that the key developments driving cross-border ecommerce activity across the continent include the development and diversification of online commerce; the rise of mobile commerce (mcommerce) and the shift towards payments diversification. Others include improved access to the internet and to financial services for the unbanked and underbanked, as well as an increase in foreign investments and partnerships between local and international players.

Tech infrastructure

During his presentation, Anthony Nwabuisi, Group Head of Marketing at Konga, stated that any retailer considering taking their business beyond borders via an ecommerce platform needs to ensure that their entire technology infrastructure environment is set up for their business to succeed. This starts with ensuring that internet penetration and quality in that particular market are sufficient to enable ecommerce players to deliver on their promises to customers.

“The next very important aspect is the human capital component, with enterprises needing to look at the human capital within their own organisation and consider whether they have the right competences to succeed when they start moving their business across borders. Lastly, companies need to check the banked vs unbanked demographics within their intended target market and what opportunities these present,” said Nwabuisi.

He added that, digital technology tools are easily accessible and play a key role in helping companies succeed when they decide to go global. These digital tools are designed to provide crucial data that companies can harness to grow beyond borders.

Accelerating the customer journey

Adele De Villiers, Account Executive at Infobip South Africa, pointed out that retailers who are utilising and tapping into digital technology are increasingly engaging with their customers in multiple ways, including through the interaction with products, services, channels and platforms. An example of this is Kenya-based Twiga Foods, which managed to increase customer retention and improve cost optimisation by leveraging WhatsApp for Business API to boost customer engagement. These touchpoints serve as channels that accelerate a shopper’s journey by leveraging an engaged information flow through and out of customer data platforms.

“As a result, most traditional retailers and online stores are now able to engage with shoppers at various levels along a vast value chain that crosses multiple touchpoints, from content creation to payments, logistics and customer support, among others,” she said.

“By bringing digital platforms into their environment, ecommerce companies can provide an omnichannel presence that ensures a personalised experience for each shopper, from seamless order fulfilment to a swift and secure payment experience.”

She added that cross-border e-tailers, who are utilising the right cloud communication technology, can achieve significant business outcomes, such as growth in their customer base and an increase in brand loyalty. They can also expect to boost sales, as well as achieve cost optimisation through the automation of repetitive tasks, which can also result in greater customer satisfaction throughout the entire customer value chain.

Cross-border expansion

Nwabuisi explained that Konga – a truly omnichannel retail ecommerce business in Nigeria – has a five-year plan to expand into the African continent, with South Africa and Ghana having been identified as key markets due to the maturity of the ecommerce sectors in both countries.

“Aside from being a retail ecommerce platform, we will also expand across other verticals by taking the strong brands that we have across our group and launching them into new markets,” he said.

“Infobip is well positioned to support retailers that play in the African domestic and cross-border ecommerce space. It can enable businesses to scale seamlessly through the use of chat apps, as well as its cloud-based Conversations and Moments omnichannel suite of solutions.”