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COVID-19: e-Commerce offers opportunities for businesses to thrive and explore new territories

Since the announcement of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 has no doubt impacted a combination of health, economic, financial, supply and logistics, human resource and operational challenges on virtually all aspects of our life, especially businesses.

Businesses in Nigeria, however, must begin to rise and tap into the new opportunities and potentials that COVID-19 presents, especially amidst the resolve by the government to allow more sectors to return to business by easing the lockdown.

As the world settles down into the new normal that the pandemic has foisted on humanity, implementing a recovery and business continuity plan/strategy is most paramount for businesses to stay afloat.

Therefore, as government continues to reel out measures on easing the lockdown; the need to encourage personal responsibility and enforce compliance of citizens with physical and social distancing protocol that has become part of the new world order, is therefore, an imperative for businesses to begin to think and act smart.

In China and elsewhere, businesses have started adjusting to the new reality by rethinking and repositioning their operations and catering to the new needs of consumers.

By taking time to understand the new market realities, smart businesses are now making COVID-19 the main propeller for new growth and activating dormant potentials especially by moving from the traditional brick and mortal ecosystem to the online space, powered by the e-Commerce ecosystem.

Nigeria cannot be an exception as COVID-19 has come with lots of opportunities and potentials for businesses – micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and large corporations, to rebound into profitability.

Much more, for those that can transition from brick and mortar businesses to online by leveraging e-Commerce backbone provided by viable platforms like Jumia, the sky would be the starting point of rebound and returning to profitability.

Examples of the sectors that businesses can tap into include agriculture of which food is a major segment; healthcare, education and services such as hygiene and sanitation, fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs), sports and gaming, entertainment, IT/technology and electronics/electrical appliances. For government business continuity, e-governance is a new opportunity to leverage.

Food is man’s number one existential need and agriculture is the domain of food production and food security. During lockdown, Jumia logistics bridged the supply and logistics challenges that hampered people from accessing agricultural produce especially groceries due to the poor enforcement of inter-state and inter-boundary movement bans.

In spite of the fact that coronavirus has disrupted farming activities this year, surge in demand for food such as fresh groceries, meat and poultry products remains a major trend. In order for consumers to get constant supply of these essentials, it means more storage facilities are needed.

Due to poor power supply in Nigeria, many families, for example, are unable to stock perishable groceries for a longer period. MSMEs can therefore take advantage of this need and invest with e-Commerce operator like Jumia marketplace and logistics serving as the pivot for them.

As more people work remotely from home, demand for essentials including food, water, cooking ingredients, toiletries and appliances will continue to increase. Hence, there is opportunity for FMCGs manufacturers on the Jumia marketplace to push their inventories and put their products in the hands of millions of consumers.

Demand for healthcare and technology-driven products and services will continue to rise, and this also opens a new vista for businesses. Pharmaceuticals, supplements, medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), telemedicine, smart hospitals, online consultations, digital medical assistants, apps and mini-apps and self-diagnosing medical devices are all opportunities to extend business frontiers.

“Small businesses can also key-in to Jumia Contactless Delivery to provide contact-less systems and enhance delivery of services to their customers. For non-essential goods; as more people are encouraged to work from home, they are likely to do more home chores such as washing of dishes and laundry, make orders and pay online on JumiaPay for electrical appliances such as dishwashers, washing and sterilisation machines,” said Juliet Anammah, chairwoman, Jumia Nigeria and group head, Institutional Affairs at Jumia Africa.

According to her, Jumia agents in protective kits can deliver the appliances to them at home under strict no-physical contact protocol.

Similarly, as businesses reduce the number of employees that can converge in line with social distancing rules, there are cost reduction opportunities that organisations can benefit from. They can cut down on office rent or redesign office space and let out a part, build remote work systems, leverage software platforms like Zoom and cloud-based solutions for internal and client meetings.

Businesses can also reduce cost of operations with apps for accounting and HR as well as digital solutions that can minimise paperwork, physical contact and promote the growth of an infinite number of contactless environments.

In reducing operational cost, businesses can go into partnership leveraging the comparative advantage of partners in the alliance. One of such partnership is the recent agreement between International Breweries, Coca-Cola, IrokoTV and Jumia, which will see both companies offer free deliveries on select products on the Jumia platform across the country.

According to the CEO of Jumia Nigeria,   Massimiliano  Spalazzi, the partnership is a reflection of Jumia’s commitment to soften the unpleasant economic effects of the lockdown to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.

Certainly, transitioning to online businesses will increase demand for mobile devices such as handsets, tabs, laptop computers and data while adoption of e-Commerce will provide the needed impetus for the growth of the digital economy, which the Nigerian government is promoting as one of the major drivers of economic diversification.



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