In May last year, Pascal Twizerimana co-founded Iduka Online, an online store designed to facilitate transactions between vendors and consumers by leveraging the power of the internet. The Kigali-based startup hasn’t commemorated its first anniversary yet but strides have been made. Initially, Iduka Online attracted sellers of electronic items, apparel and a variety of made in Rwanda products.
One would expect a surge in orders after the outbreak of the coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown but that is not the case. "The number of orders has gone down. Consumers are now spending their money on essential goods, particularly foodstuff." Says Pascal. As the fancy gadgets and fashion items are gathering dust in the stores, groceries are flying off the shelves.
The slump in sales of products deemed non-essential like luxury goods and apparel will be the norm in a foreseeable future. The aftermath of the current global pandemic will see reduced unnecessary spending as the economy embarks on an uphill recovery process.
This is the harshest epidemic experienced over the past one hundred years and its scale is unprecedented. Adjusting to drastic changes in consumer priorities, Iduka online has created a link through which buyers can order products that are not listed on the site. Plans to create a subdomain for food and beverages is underway.
Traditional shopping practices can’t be abandoned overnight. Quite often, new users of the platform have been requesting operators to allow them to pay cash upon delivery, contrary to the way e-commerce works. Getting rid of cash and adopting to online shopping is a gradual process but there are indications that circumstances are fast tracking the transformation.
The emergence of online stores, coupled with the trajectory of consumer behavior, is sucking air out of the analogy of buying products and services from physical establishments. Conventional retail is on the verge of drowning.
Online shops enable customers to browse listed products and services. By doing so, they access images, features and prices. Search features are used to find specific brands and models. Online shoppers must have access to the internet and valid payment methods. Once the transaction is effected, the e-retailer ships purchased items to the consumer. Digital products like software, e-books and online marketing tools are transfered electronically.
There is a dark cloud of uncertainty right now. Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel but no one knows the timeline of this historic battle. One thing is clear though, the future of shopping is digital.