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Online shopping: The new trend in Uganda

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Added 26th July 2017 10:38 AM

On average, Ugandans only shop online 11 times a year, according to KPMG, an international auditing firm

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On average, Ugandans only shop online 11 times a year, according to KPMG, an international auditing firm

By Kalungi Kabuye

Gloria (not real name) was faced with a huge problem; her wedding was just weeks away, and the person she had entrusted with bringing in her gown from the UK was playing games.

She turned to two guys she knew to be good at solving such problems. “I had a VISA card, so paid for the gown online, and had it delivered to a friend’s address in London,’ says Bonny Madrawi.

“We then got DHL to bring it in as fast as they could. Gloria was so happy to get her gown in good time that she paid us a lot of money.”

That singular event was the beginning of one of the several companies that deal in online trading and shipping in Uganda.

Their clients either buy goods online and have them delivered to their workshop in either UK or USA; or determine what they want to buy online and the company buys the goods and ships them to Uganda.

From buying and delivering a bridal gown worth about £100 (sh4.5m), the company now does business worth over sh50m every month and it is growing fast.

Of course that is a drop in the ocean compared to online giants, such as Amazon, which earned a ‘disappointing’ $44b in the last quarter of 2016 (estimates have it that Chinese people spent over $700b shopping online in 2016).

But generally, more and more Ugandans are turning to online shopping as a matter of routine. 

Onset of online shopping

Like in any other part of the world, the ease of online shopping is what is driving the trend in Uganda.

Going to shopping malls, or venturing into downtown Kampala, can be a very stressful endeavour to many people.

While shopping in the latest malls such as Acacia or Village Mall can be a pleasant experience, they are generally seen as excessively expensive (somebody has to pay for the rent).

Going to Luwum Street or Wilson Road to buy a pair of shoe or trousers is not for the faint-hearted. With online shopping, on the other hand, you can spend a whole day (or even weeks) browsing through what is available; nobody is pushing you to buy anything, only your bank account, maybe.

“I hate shopping in those streets, first of all the shops are crowded, there are several different people selling the same things in the same shopping space, they all want your attention so they are all over you. It can be extremely stressful. Then there are hang-abouts outside trying to convince you they can get you a better deal; and the streets are crowded with all kinds of people and con men just waiting to rob you. I’m not going back, ever,” says one Jonathan, an online shopper.

The almost unlimited choices available online, compared to the relative lack of variety in what shops in Uganda offer, also plays a big part. Online shoppers have an almost unlimited choice between goods. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS STORY

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Afew years ago, online shopping was presumed to be a preserve for the rich who had relatives abroad and could send for items when their relatives were travelling back. People sought to find quality and authentic items, but would pay a high price.

However, nowadays, anyone can shop online and get their items shipped to Uganda affordably in less than a week. This has been made possible with the advancement in technological developments, growth of financial technologies, faster logistics, wider penetration, affordability and access to the Internet and Internet-enabled devices, among others.

Internet penetration

About 20 years ago, not even 1% of the world population could afford an Internet connection. Today, according to Internet World Statistics of 2017, about 40% of the world population is connected to the Internet.

The 2017 Africa Population Internet Users’ statistics indicate that about 31% of Uganda’s population has access to the Internet.

Figures from the telecommunication sector regulator indicate that the number of mobile Internet users increased by more than one million to 19.5 million in 2015, from 18.5 million in 2014.

This, according to the Uganda Communications Commission, has facilitated the quick growth of e -commerce in the country, and also deepened financial and digital inclusion.

GoodsExpress taps opportunity

GoodsExpress is an online retail marketplace launched in the country about three years ago. The company enables Ugandan customers shop online from around the world and ship to Uganda.

According to Moses Ihoza, the company’s regional business head for East Africa, the website provides an Amazon-like experience, removing geographical and other barriers, so that people can have the benefits of shopping around the world and getting their items to Uganda affordably and on time.

It provides total solution by pooling products from over 4,000 websites around the world into one platform, saving clients from browsing multiple stores to find what they want. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS STORY 




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