A large percentage of our economy is involved in commerce. The average African is selling products rather than services, and it’s evident in the numerous social media ads we come across. I am afraid that without the right skills most businesses will not be able to scale their business.

With e-commerce having the potential to create 3 million new jobs in Africa by 2025, the World Economic Forum has outlined an action plan to build this new form of commerce.

“E-commerce is the future,” said Albert Muchanga, the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, “and Africa will fully leverage it to secure hers”.

started my ecommerce business on social media selling directly to consumers in Ghana at the time. Even though, social media gave me a good start, it was not enough to handle the type of clients I interacted with or the volumes that I will serve and so I had to keep looking for other alternatives to serve my customers.

When I first started @muqafrik, an Afrocentric and sustainable products business, I received order requests from countries like the United States and other European countries. Based on these insights, I started looking for ways to build a system that will help me reach a wider audience.

Ecommerce is the exchange of goods and services online. When I first started @muqafrik, I realized quickly that my kind of customers will not only be in Ghana.

An ecommerce website has an automation feature which allows your clients to place their orders while you handle processing and packaging of orders. That was the freedom I had. I didn’t have to answer every FAQ since I had it documented. E-commerce is for growth-minded business owners who leverage technology and automation to process orders.

Surprisingly, when I started @muqafrik, there was no one to show me how to do it, so I learnt how to do it on my own. Though I made mistakes, I learnt several lessons.  

I see most people making the same mistakes I made some time back and I cringe because I know the repercussions. Building a website is just the first step in the journey; the biggest part is to set up systems I call marketing systems to successfully engage a client.

These are some of the errors I have realized business owners make when building a website:

  • Little or no idea of target market
  • Not enough data or information on online buying patterns
  • Inadequate financial resources
  • Inadequate skill set to build and maintain a website
  • Not enough product description
  • Not having a clear vision for the product line

Not having enough skills set to build and maintain a website: this would be one of the biggest mistakes I made when I started my first business. I ended up building a website that had a zero conversion rate because I did not have the relevant skills to build one. My biggest challenges were creating store policies, SKUs, integrating shipping and payment systems.

Inadequate financial resources: Unemployment and underemployment is one of the biggest problems in Africa. Most young people are unable to find suitable jobs after university and will resort to starting a business to “survive”. Just like starting a business, you need enough funds to build an optimized website. In most cases, people don’t have enough funds and would end up building digital experiences that would lead to zero conversion.

Not providing enough product information: When you build an ecommerce store, it means you are sending your products beyond locations other than your current location. Visitors or clients will not have direct access to ask questions about the product. Your job is to create enough product information adding features like size, color, care instructions, how products can be used etc. 

Little knowledge about target market: Business owners starting their first ventures are normally clueless about who they are serving. Without an idea of your target market, it becomes difficult to know how to craft the product (s) they will love, appreciate and buy. This could be partly blamed on the lack or access to appropriate data to learn more.

Not enough data or information on online buying patterns: In reference to my earlier point, when startup founders do not have enough information about their ideal customers, it is very difficult to understand the buying patterns of their target market  and what channels these customers prefer. Once that link is missing, it becomes very difficult to craft a suitable digital buying experience.

Not having a clear vision for product line: I have seen some businesses who sell a wide range of products; home décor, fashion, cosmetics, food, furniture all in one shop without having a business description that indicates exactly what they do. This makes it difficult for visitors to know where to go and buy products. It is ideal to have a brand description that will explain to the customer that you intend to sell everything (this is definitely not a good idea) or you can start with one product or product line like home décor and then diversify to other areas when you become known in the market.

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