By Obinna Chima
E-commerce which is a big business globally, especially in developed economies, is gradually gaining ground in Nigeria.
Presently, a higher percentage of consumers, especially those residing in urban centres make online purchases.
This form of business was even strengthened with the aggressive drive for a cashless economy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the increasing growth shopping malls in the country.
Thus, in line with its commitment to further encourage the growth of e-commerce in the country, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc recently went into partnership with Netplus Advisory Limited to deploy a robust web payment solution for U-Mall, a new e-commerce platform for small and medium scale enterprises.
U-Mall is a revolutionary product in the e-commerce space and is designed to help SMEs set up own online stores in a bid to extend reach and ultimately drive growth of their businesses.
The platform was designed to host several stores across various retail categories. Merchants will be able to open virtual stores to display an inventory of their products to potential Shoppers on the internet. UBA Plc, known for its e-banking proficiency is supporting U-Mall with an integrated payment gateway.
According to UBA, U-Mall is a revolutionary product in the retail and e-commerce space in the country. The bank explained that the platform leverages the power of the web and mobile to provide an e-commerce platform that affords the convenience of shopping to consumer and the ease of selling and reconciliation to merchants.
“The platform is expected to host several stores in several retail categories. Merchants open virtual stores to display an inventory of their products to potential shoppers on the internet.
“Consumers in turn are able to browse from one store to another looking for products and bargains. A consumer can add items to their cart across multiple stores and once submitted the product requests are sent to the merchants and logistics partners via email notifications who will be able to coordinate with the consumer for payments and exchanges,” the bank explained.
Throwing more light on the product, the Divisional Head, e-Banking, UBA, Mr. Yinka Adedeji said a core proposition of U-Mall is the removal of entry barriers to SMEs owning online platforms.
He emphasised that U-Mall leverages the power of the web and mobile to provide an e-commerce platform that affords the convenience of shopping to customers and the ease of selling and reconciliation to merchants. Adedeji described the platform as a self-service solution which allows merchants to register their businesses online.
He also noted U-Mall has a robust logistics system for all purchases completed on the site, managed by the Logistics Partner, FedEx (RedStar Express Plc).
Also commenting on the product, the Managing Director Netplus Advisory and Technical Partners, Mr. Wole Faroun said: “U-Mall is set to revolutionise e-commerce and it is an honour to have UBA, a bank that has led many innovations in electronic Banking as our Payment Partner.”
Proposition to Merchants
The product has four unique propositions to merchants. These include the Webstore, payment, logistics and marketing.
For instance, the bank explained that each store on the platform has a micro-site also known as a Webstore. This it said is a unique set of pages for the store with urls that could be shared with customers for marketing purposes.
According to Adedeji, the product’s payment platform is integrated with UBA payment gateways. This, he said means that payment made by customers to purchase items throughout the platform, are made through cards and collected through a holding account from which settlement and reconciliation happens.
“The platform provides an integrated logistics solution for all purchases completed on the site. The logistics partner FedEx (RedStar Express Plc) picks up products from merchants and delivers to the customer usually within 24 hours for purchases in the Lagos metropolis and between 2-3days in most locations in Nigeria,” he added.
Continuing, he said: “One of the core value propositions of the platform is the exposure and brand promotion for the merchants. Through an integrated marketing strategy, the platform will use various marketing programs to promote the platform as a whole and individual categories and stores.
“Marketing tactics include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), e-mail Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and offline programs including print, radio and television.”
According to him, the website is an open self-service platform that allows merchants to register their businesses by completing store registration and mobile money forms online. However, Adedeji said as part of the registration process; a platform admin will be required to activate the account in the backend.
“Merchants who have paid the subscription charges will be able to get assistance from the WebMallNG support team to setup/customize its store.
“Customers visit the site and can navigate to different stores to add items to cart and checkout. They are able to make payments using their bank cards or mobile money wallet. A completed transaction triggers email notifications to the merchants and the delivery/logistics partner and with those alerts, the merchants prepares the product(s) for pickup by the delivery agent,” he added.