"Mobile is the next big thing in online shopping" has become a buzz phrase in the global eCommerce landscape. Researchers and experts predict that the industry will be dominated by mobile-based transactions by 2026, with M-Commerce projected to hold a 50% slice of the ecommerce pie by 2018. Africa's IT infrastructure is yet to catch up with global standards, therefore Nigerian eCommerce websites will need to capitalise on the bright prospects of mobile platforms.
While Nigeria frequently ranks as Africa's largest economy and population, the country's eCommerce sector is just beginning to mature. Limited access to digital communication technology as well as concerns over cyber security have, in the past, held this promising sector back. Public awareness of advancements in secure methods for online payment in Nigeria has also been one of the challenges that delayed the performance of the country's eCommerce market.
Although it is now worth $1 billion per year, a relatively undersized retail segment, compared to the likes of the United States and Europe, this figure nonetheless places Nigeria ahead of its African counterparts South Africa and Kenya. Online retail in Nigeria is currently experiencing an annual growth rate of 25%, with its revenue forecasted to reach $75 billion in revenues per annum by 2025. Improvements to existing communication technology and innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT) will significantly boost Africa's network connectivity. This has the potential to create a stronger digital ecosystem that could drive ecommerce growth in African countries like Nigeria.
The rise of mobile and improved internet connectivity
Earlier this year, the GSMA published a study on the state of mobile in Africa (The Mobile Economy: Africa 2016). The report revealed that more than half a billion people across Africa were subscribed to a mobile network, representing 46% of the continent's population. Africa's leading economies, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, collectively accounted for a third of the continent's subscriber base. In Nigeria alone, active mobile connections reached 148.74 million at the end of the first quarter of 2016, reports the National Bureau of Statistics.
There has also been a surge in the uptake of mobile broadband, with 300 million mobile internet subscribers at the first quarter of 2016. At the end of the previous year, mobile internet amounted to 25% of all connections in Africa. This also means that the number of internet users has increased threefold over the last five years. GSMA attributes this to network rollouts and better device and data strategies by mobile carriers, which, undoubtedly, will bring more people closer to online services and products. McKinsey estimates that Africa will have increased its internet penetration threefold to 50% or 600 million users by 2025.
Even though Africa's traditional internet infrastructure is lagging behind the global standard, several studies have confirmed the flurry of growth in Nigeria's mobile eCommerce sphere. According to a report by Nielsen's, the number of Nigerians who shop online on devices surpasses the average global m-commerce rate. A study earlier this year by performance marketing firm Criteo also showed that smartphones are emerging as the leading platform for mobile shopping, with 73% of eCommerce sales in Nigeria taking place on smartphones in the first quarter of 2016.
The mobile user market is expanding faster than ever and as more e-tailers adjust to the mobile environment, improved customer experience will be become a barometer of the eCommerce explosion in Nigeria. From responsive designs to faster loading speeds to mobile-dedicated sites – mobile or cross platform capabilities will be the norm as consumers and merchants expect that online products and services should be accessible anytime, anywhere. With nearly 60% of global searches now originating from smartphones and tablets, having your ecommerce website optimised for mobile first and foremost will improve your mobile SEO ranking, drive more traffic to your online store, lead to better brand engagement, and ultimately increase your conversion rates.
eCommerce is much more than building a website to sell goods; it's a disposition to reinvent the meaning of value for traditional consumers and using innovative methods to elevate their expectations beyond the scope of traditional retail. This can only be achieved through a seamless integration of organisational activities, long-term business planning and technological assimilation such as mobile to improve online shopping experience for your customer.