If you throw a rock today, you’re going to hit someone or something that’s working on a “platform that will help small businesses sell their goods”.  Shoppi.ng, Shopistry, 500Shops, Traclist…

In the battle for Nigeria’s e-commerce, the latest weapon seems to be the eponymous packaged webshop.  Like I suggested a year ago, the real GNBO would be helping Nigeria’s small businesses sell their goods online.  The ecosystem seems to have risen to the challenge.

If you throw a rock today, you’re going to hit someone or something that’s working on a “platform that will help small businesses sell their goods”.  Shoppi.ng, Shopistry, 500Shops, Traclist and Konga Mall just to mention a few.  Even Mastercard wants in on the action.

Unfortunately, many of these are focusing on sorting out e-shops and payments but ignoring the biggest issue in e-commerce – logistics. The assumption seems to be that they’ll outsource logistics to some other player and charge customers for delivery to cover those costs.

I can’t even explain how wooly-headed this concept is.  Logistics is the heart and soul of e-commerce and Nigeria doesn’t have the requisite infrastructure to make outsourcing a sensible proposition.  I suspect that the costs associated with outsourcing logistics will eventually sink players facing vertically-integrated e-commerce players.

Furthermore, small businesses don’t avoid e-commerce simply because they can’t make websites or the costs of integrating payments.  Those problems have been solved some time ago.  They avoid e-commerce because delivering goods across Lagos (let’s not even talk of across the country) can be a pain in the bum (Ask anyone who’s ever tried to receive goods that they bought from a small online shop).  Furthermore, I’m not sure there’s any courier company who will handle cash on delivery on your behalf; and COD is a major driver of e-commerce in Nigeria.

In the end, if you’re going to help small businesses do e-commerce, you have to help them do ALL of e-commerce; not just the parts that are comfortable for you.

So allow me to make another prediction in the vein of our Lord’s at the last supper.

The e-commerce player that integrates logistics into their offering will win this battle.

And the people said “amen”.

This article was first published on Seyi’s blog.

Seyi Taylor has worked in medicine. Now he works in design, and technology (and sometimes medicine). Follow him on Twitter here.

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