Ecommerce in Africa needs a shake-up: Here’s why

In light of the recent World Economic Forum on Africa, we thought we’d take a look at the Africa E-Commerce Agenda. ShoppingFeeder began in sunny South Africa and we love to hear about the exciting transformation of the ecommerce game that’s looking to create jobs and make a sustainable impact on the continent. We’ve read the WEF and ITC’s agenda (so you don’t have to) and touch on a few key players who embody the same vision. 

CALLS TO ACTION 

The agenda report is extensive, covering ecommerce’s potential in Africa, as well as aspirations and challenges in eight different areas which we’ve outlined below.  You can read the complete report here

1. Refresh policies

Policies shape the business environment, that much is inarguable. Without conversations between stakeholders, policies necessary for industry growth will be impossible. Associations of these stakeholders need to be put in place to spearhead policy creation and standardize industry practices. Without regulation, there’s far too much uncertainty on issues such as payments, privacy and consumer protection for ecommerce to thrive.

2. Expand connectivity

Despite Africa being the second largest population of internet users after China, internet penetration is significantly lower in African regions than in the rest of the world. There is a need for widely available, affordable internet access to create an inclusive digital economy. The agenda points out that markets aimed at the unconnected, in particular, should be encouraged.

“Only a quarter of Africa’s population regularly uses the internet. Costs are high. On average, 1GB of data is 9% of monthly income” 

3. Upgrade logistics

Logistics and delivery services are crucial if we are to access the global market, and both are especially important for cross-border selling within Africa. Creating sustainable logistics models will help e-retailers’ effort to manage returns, handle payments and reduce trace-ability problems. 

4. Enable e-payments

The agenda calls for a dialogue among policy-makers to identify challenges and solutions in the payment ecosystem in order to increase security, reduce risk and support global access and transactions in international currencies. 

5. Manage data

Merchants need information and support in order to comply with privacy regulations overseas. Again, legislation is key with regards to the protection of personal data. 

6. Grow the tech industry

Foreign investment has a huge role to play here. Supporting and financing of start-ups can increase the availability of risk capital and infrastructure gaps can be addressed more efficiently. 

7. Coach small business

If Africa wants to compete globally, its industry players will require skills, coaching and market access using all of the calls to action listed above. With the help of incubators, small businesses can attract foreign investment and drive innovation. 

8. Join forces

To make all of the above possible, dialogue between African countries to develop best practices is essential. Contributions need to come from every direction- researchers, policy-makers, retailers, logistics services, government officials, industry experts and so on. The WEF report calls for cooperation among all stakeholders. 

Here are a few useful infographics on the global digital landscape in 2019:

COMPANIES TO WATCH 

Jumia

The largest ecommerce company in Africa, Jumia operates across 14 different African countries, its largest market being in Nigeria. One of the major challenges Jumia faced with regards to logistics was delivering to areas with incredibly informal addressing systems. This hasn’t put them off, however, as the company is determined to grow the industry sector and make their services widely accessible. Jumia co-founder and CEO Sacha Poignonnec discussed the company’s approach to such challenges in an interview with McKinsey&Company.

 “In Africa, there’s no address system in most of the cities. For someone to find a consumer, you need to have a local partner who knows where the consumer is, based on very subjective information. And, for example, if you say in a city in Africa, ‘I live in the third street by the church with the blue door,’ that’s the address. You and I, we would not find this consumer. But if you partner with the right local player, who has the right local knowledge, then they can find those consumers because they understand that. Now the challenge, of course, is that to have a lot of fragmented logistics players is a risk, unless you have what we created, which is a very good set of standard technology tools and processes that we give to the local players so that they can operate their last-mile, cash-on-delivery, door-to-door-delivery businesses according to international standards.” 

                                                   -Poignonnec, CEO Jumia

Now that’s the kind of long-term thinking the African ecommerce industry needs, and Jumia isn’t just concerned about access. Part of the company’s slogan is “We build a digital Africa” and they certainly seem to be living up to that. JumiaPay is the company’s own payment gateway that provides secure online payments, the first of its kind released in Nigeria in 2016. In March, the company announced a strategic partnership with MasterCard to explore innovations in payment platforms and enhance Africa’s digital infrastructure. 

M-PESA

M-Pesa is a banking service that allows users to transfer money via mobile. The service launched under Safaricom, the country’s biggest network provider, in 2007. In 2018, Safaricom teamed up with PayPal and TransferTo (now thunes.com) creating a service that allows funds to be transferred from M-PESA to Paypal accounts, allowing online shoppers in Kenya to purchase goods and services globally. This gives e-retailers the opportunity to expand their reach and participate in the global marketplace. The collaborative effort by these companies has made it cheaper and faster to transfer funds, focusing on alternative payment methods like mobile wallets for the majority of Africa’s population who remain unbanked. 

Check out this list of South African incubators for start-up. 

Google Merchant Center Got a Brand New Look

In August 2016, the Google Merchant Center got a brand new look, and we like it. The forgotten kid finally had a new responsive interface built with Google’s Material Design to align with most of Google’s other products. Here’s what’s new…

The hot new interface

The new homepage features a full overview of your products (expired, pending and disapproved), new announcements, and highlighted information about your active product feeds and campaigns.

Google Merchant Center Dashboard

Nestled under the Products Tab on the left navigation is the Diagnostics Tab, which allows you to download a report on all feed errors. It is now updated far more frequently (previously twice a day) – in fact, updates are close to real-time. The Shopping Ads tab at the bottom of the Products Tab now features a Currency Conversion feature too. Handy for international sellers, it allows you to show products in the local currency without making changes to the original product page.

Google Merchant Center Diagnostics

Feed rules updates

Probably the greatest update of the Merchant Center, you are now able to make changes to the feed without editing it directly – you can edit specific values, combine values and pull data from one attribute to populate another. For example, pulling the product colour from a product description to populate the colour attribute of the product in the feed made easy.

Merchant Center Programs

By clicking on “Merchant Center Programs” in the “Shopping ads” section of the left navigation, you’re now able to access and use Dynamic remarketing reporting, Product ratings in Shopping campaigns and Merchant promotion. Once you’ve enabled Dynamic remarketing reporting, a products overview chart will be featured on the Merchant center home page.

Google Merchant Center Programs

Great user interface and a few new handy features. What’s next, Google?

Why GTINs are important

Hold on, for starters, what is a GTIN? GTIN stands for “Global Trade Item Number”, which is a broad term used to describe the various product identifier systems used internationally e.g. UPC (Universal Product Code) and ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

A GTIN is a ‘thumbprint’ assigned to Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) and, traditionally, these numbers have allowed businesses to optimize processes and create a streamlined supply chain for a product. Google’s primary products are, in reality, clicks – and they are always looking for ways to improve the quality of these clicks. Requiring advertisers on Google Shopping to submit GTIN numbers is a strategy to ensure that products are accurately listed, improving the consumer’s user experience and ultimately the quality of the clicks to your online shop.

The GTIN journey

Google started requiring its retailers to use GTINs in mid-2015, but only across 50 specific brands. If the GTIN was not included in the product feed, the ad would not be served. In February 2016, Google then expanded this requirement to all products that have a GTIN from their manufacturers. Retailers had by May 2016 to ensure that their product feeds reflected the required GTIN.

Why the change?

Remember, Google sells clicks. So, how will these tedious requirements for retailers improve the quality of the clicks? For starters, it allowed Google access to richer accurate information about products which it trusts. This then opened the door for Shopping to be able to displays ads in more places, including on other Google partners.

Reason number 1: More product data, better user experience, more engagement

The more quality product information available to Google, the more likely they will serve your ads to the right customers. When Google can precisely identify the product via a GTIN number, it has more confidence that is matches a consumer’s search terms. GTIN numbers also allow advertisers a level of control on the targeting (who are often left floundering without the control of keyword use). And it works… feeds containing GTINs realize more engagement and higher conversions.

Reason number 2: Increase the number of impressions and conversions

Adding GTINs results in significantly more impressions. In the initial case study by Google, it quotes up to 40% more impressions after adding GTIN numbers (also validated by results for a group of Search Engine Land’s clients). But, better yet, Google claims that adding GTIN numbers resulted in up to 20% higher conversion rates.

While sourcing GTINs can be time-consuming, they are readily available online and directly from manufacturers, and it is well worth ensuring that your feed is up to date with all of these numbers to fully leverage Google Shopping – arguably the most effective sales tool for online retailers.

Comparison channels: Pricecheck

Whether you’re starting out or have been in the game for a while, you have probably heard that price or product comparison platforms (or “comparison channels” as we refer to them) can help you increase sales when used strategically. These sites receive large volumes of visitors who are searching for specific products, so they’re a good place to get your products in front of a large and engaged audience. Pricecheck is one of these channels and was started by ShoppingFeeder’s own Kevin Tucker, CEO.

What is it?

Pricecheck is able to compare the features, specifications and price of multiple products, and is a useful tool for online shoppers to differentiate between the sometimes overwhelming choice of products available online. Google Shopping and Shopping.com are two other examples of these services. These websites are also extremely useful for small to medium-sized online retailers facing increasing competition, who struggle to optimize for search and allocate large budgets for paid advertising. When used correctly, these channels can be well worth the spend, driving good conversions for your online shop, with little hassle.

How does it work?

Before you start engaging with these sites, you need to ensure your website is up-to-date with product images, descriptions and item numbers. To get your products listed on these sites, you’ll need to provide a feed (typically in XML format) of all your products. Each platform may have slightly different data requirements, so it is highly recommended that you use a feed management tool such as ShoppingFeeder to streamline the process. Data feed management plugins connect to your e-commerce platform, and enable you to generate the required feed in a single click. Your product and pricing information will also automatically be kept up-to-date.

Once the required data has been processed by the site, Pricecheck will then display your product information to  visitors, alongside competitor’s products. Most comparison channels operate on a Cost Per Click (CPC) model, so you pay a fee every time someone clicks on one of your products and is directed to your website. However, unlike other CPC marketing tools, people who click through to your site have been actively looking for this product and you can therefore expect a higher conversion rate than some of your other lead generation activities. There are a few free product comparison sites out there, so it is worth testing your top-selling products on both. Some sites also have a paid “featured product” service which may be worth testing too.

Why and who should use them

Product comparison websites are highly targeted advertising tools, and can reach a wide and engaged audience. They are relatively easy to manage and measure (compared to Google AdWords), and are great for brand visibility for retailers of all sizes, as products from smaller retailers are featured alongside products from large retailers. But, these sites don’t work well for all retailers. If you’re not keen to continuously compete on price, then perhaps stay away from these platforms. However, comparison channels are a great option if your strategy is to lead on the lowest price; if your products are completely unique; or if you are happy to play around with your product prices on a monthly basis.

Optimizing product comparison channels

Some comparison websites will yield a better ROI for your business than others so it is a good idea to try many, but you will not see results overnight so best to try a few at a time to ensure you have the time to optimize. Limiting the list of products that you upload to your top-sellers and lowering the price of certain products for a period are two common optimization strategies. Also, the more data you can give on each product, the better. It is important to measure the performance of channels closely initially, to figure out which channels are converting.

Getting started

In short, product or price comparison channels are fantastic marketing tools for your online shop. They put your products in front of a large audience, generate strong leads and high conversions, and are far simpler to manage than other lead generation channels such as Google AdWords. They do, however, require some time invested to ensure that your listings are optimized to compete, and that you’re featured on a site that works for your product range. Channel feeder tools such as Shopping Feeder make getting started on these channels very easy, and allow you to monitor performance. And, once you’ve hit the sweet spot, comparison channels can become your primary marketing strategy, significantly increasing website traffic, sales and brand recognition in a highly competitive global marketplace.

If you would like some help optimizing your site and selecting the right price or product comparison channels, register on ShoppingFeeder and our team will help you to leverage comparison channels strategically.

Why you need to optimize your data feed now

Your product feed can be daunting, and is therefore often ignored by retailers. Is optimizing the product feed sitting at the bottom of one of your retail manager or marketer’s to-do lists? Yet, optimizing your feed is a crucial step for successfully advertising your products online. Whatever your approach to date, it’s time to make it a priority.

Why it’s a big deal

Your product feed is your direct communication channel with product advertising and comparison channels. These channels use the data you’ve submitted to match an engaged online shopper to your product. If there is missing, irrelevant or outdated data, you’re losing out on the opportunity to be linked with someone who is actively looking for a product you’re selling: a hot lead.

As a retailer, you want to provide comparison channels with as much information as possible via your product feed because – the more information in your feed, the higher you’ll rank. And, the more accurate and comprehensive the information that a consumer receives about your product via online advertising or a comparison search, the higher the likelihood that they will convert when they do click through to your website. And therefore, a lower CPC and a higher ROI.

In essence, high quantity and quality data in your product feed = greater connection with high quality searches = greater conversions. Therefore, investing in optimizing your product feed can yield an immediate impact on your sales. Here’s how we suggest you approach it…

Decision: Use a tool or DIY

To start using online advertising or comparison channels, such as Google Shopping or PriceCheck, you’ll need to upload your product feed. At this stage, you have 2 options. You can directly upload your product feed onto the Google Merchant Centre, for example. This might be a good option if you have a very small range of products and have the time to monitor performance and play around a bit. Alternatively, you can choose to use a product feed tool, such as ShoppingFeeder.

The benefits of using a tool are huge, especially if you’re strapped for time and resources:

  • A feed management tool will extract product information straight from your website, and format it to create a feed for the multiple channels you’re using (different channels have different requirements). Price and stock changes will be automatically updated every few hours.
  • A tool allows you to make quick data edits on your different feeds, without affecting your site data.
  • Tools also continuously monitor each of your channels for feed errors, picking them up quickly and reducing the time your account is suspended for when they do arise.

Optimizing for Google Shopping

Optimizing your feed is especially important when you first start using a new advertising or comparison channel, but it is important to keep your eye out for areas to optimize on an ongoing basis too, taking into account channel performance and search trends. Before you start tweaking your feed for Google Shopping, do an audit of all the keywords that have worked well in your search campaigns and look to incorporate in your feed.

Spend time on product titles. Arguably the most important information in your whole feed, you should ensure that your titles include the relevant details, including brand name; size, color, or material product specifics; and any related promotions or discounts. Also, add in any successful keywords from search campaigns. Search Engine Land found that including a successful keyword “party dress” in the title for a specific dress increased interest by 3600 clicks, in comparison to the original title. There are 2 goals with the product title: for Google to rank your product, and for customers to click. So, all the relevant information should be there, but it must be attractive to read.
Ensure you have attractive images. Google is fussy about images – white background, no logos, and only the product in the photo. Alongside price and titles, images are the most influential factor on clicks.
Product descriptions are not so important. They need to be there, but the product title is far more important and should be where all relevant information is featured.
Don’t keyword stuff. Google doesn’t take kindly old school SEO tactics.
Check your Google Product categories. There are many product categories, so ensure each of yours is in one that is the most relevant.

Ensuring information in your feed is accurate and comprehensive is essential for maximizing your ranking, click-through-rates and conversions from product comparison channels. Yet, the process need not be daunting.

Find out more about Shopping Feeder now.

Why you should be remarketing

If you haven’t already dabbled in remarketing, now is the time to do so. Remember the pair of shoes you browsed online, that you then saw an ad for later on another site or Facebook? That was no coincidence, that was some great remarketing.

Using a mix of general remarketing and dynamic retargeting, you’ll be able to significantly increase your online advertising ROI. Here’s why:

What is remarketing

Remarketing is a strategy for addressing a retailer’s big question, “how do we bring them back?” Remarketing tools allow you to reach out to people who have visited your website as they browse on other websites, and prompt them back to your site for another look – to convert to buyers. With general remarketing, you’re able to reach out to broad lists of people – site visitors, previous buyers or people in your email database. With dynamic remarketing, you can take it a step further and leverage your product feed to create ads for a specific product or range, to people who have already shown direct interest, and serve them different messages based on the action they took. It is personal, targeted and highly effective.

3 quick benefits of remarketing

1. Bring them back and convert

Remarketing allows you to directly reach out to engaged potential customers (prospects) once they’ve left your site, prompting them back to your site. The calls to actions on dynamic remarketing ads can be related to the action they’ve already taken on your site – leading them back into your sales funnel right where they left off, leading to significantly higher conversions.

2. Strengthen your brand

Remarketing allows you to place your brand in front of prospects on an ongoing basis, strengthening brand recognition. Whether using dynamic retargeting for specific products, or more general targeting for a range of products or your site in general, a good remarketing strategy keeps your shop top of mind for online browsers.

3. Targeted and relevant

People are bombarded with so many marketing messages these days. Remarketing enables you to talk to a specific audience with a specific message, making your ads more personal and noticeable. With dynamic retargeting, you can serve a different message and call to action to a potential customer, based on their previous action i.e. those who had put a product in their cart, versus someone who just visited the product page. Your ads can appeal to the specific interests and actions of a visitor. Powerful!

Dynamic Remarketing – Facebook and Google

Pulling from your product feed (most feed management tools integrate with Facebook and Google), dynamic remarketing allows you to target even more specifically. Google and Facebook are the two most powerful platforms for dynamic retargeting and most retailers will choose to run general, as well as dynamic, remarketing campaigns on both, as they have equally massive daily user bases. The Google Display Network reaches 90% of global internet users, and 65% on a daily basis. Google serves more than one trillion impressions to 1 billion internet users on a daily basis. Facebook has around 1.4 billion users, with around 900 million visiting daily.

Facebook remarketing works especially well for lifestyle or fashion products that align with the browsing intentions of someone on social media. Facebook’s dynamic templates save you time in configuring the design for each ad, and allow you to scale your remarketing. These templates are well optimized for Newsfeed and Sidebar ads, as well as mobile.

Google dynamic retargeting is of course the perfect complement to Google Shopping. You will be able to remarket to people as they browse all kinds of other sites online, and works well for a wider scope of products than Facebook. With Google remarketing, you’ll have complete control over your budget and can easily measure performance. You’ll also be able to see which sites in the Display Network are top performers, therefore optimizing your ads and spend to fit.

The results say it all

Research by PPC Strategies on a selection of their client’s Google remarketing results over time showed that dynamic remarketing converts more effectively and at a lower cost, run alongside general remarketing for best results.

PPC Hero quotes a 400% increase in click-through-rates, a 10-20% increase in conversion rates and a 30-40% decrease in average cost per acquisition when incorporating dynamic Facebook dynamic retargeting into a selection of a Perfect Audience client’s Facebook remarketing strategies.

A recent case study by Fialkov Digital on Isreal’s largest online pharmacy, Medilink, showed a 70% lower cost per lead, 12% higher click through rate and 12X higher ROI from executing a dynamic remarketing campaign on Facebook, targeting customers who had shown interest in products on the site but hadn’t completed purchases.

Online Ad Agency, Wordstream, has found that adopting a remarketing strategy (over 18 months) increased their repeat visitors by 50%, boosted conversion by 51%, and increased the time spent on their website by 300%. Interestingly, they also found that while click-through-rates decreased over time, conversion rates actually increased, due to a higher quality, engaged click-through.

Remarketing is a highly effective strategy for increasing brand recognition, optimizing your ad spend, and supplying potential customers with a personal shopping experience. And of course, using a feed management tool such as Shopping Feeder makes leveraging remarketing tools much simpler and quicker. What are you waiting for? It’s time to start bringing those potential customers back.