Otike-Odibi: Online Shopping Has Bright Prospects in Nigeria

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Park ‘N’ Pay is wholesale e-commerce marketplace where retailers, business owners and corporations can buy their desired fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and get them delivered to their desired locations, all from their phones or any other electronic device. The company has a mission to be Nigeria’s number one wholesale marketplace. The of the company’s Head of Ecommerce, Mr. Ifuneye Otike-Odibi speaks on the experience so far, challenges and future prospects in online shopping

As an e-Commerce company, what are the available channels through which Pack ‘N’ Pay reaches out to its customers across the country?

We reach our customers both online and offline channels. We communicate and engage with a lot of our online customers through social media handles such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This is supported by a lot of physical engagements in order to understand better the buying pattern and challenges for the customers. The result from the dual approach has been very rewarding.

Considering the period of lockdown as a result of COVID-19, where movement was restricted, how were you able to service your customers and got them satisfied with your service offerings?

Actually Pack‘N’Pay came about from seeing the effects of that lockdown. A lot of retail stores were closed because they couldn’t be restocked as a result of the lockdown. That led to us asking questions like, how can we make it easier for shop owners and bulk buyers to get the products through more convenient buying experience? The website (www.packnpay.com.ng) is our first answer to that question. This is essentially a digital wholesale market place where the products of a lot of local and foreign products are displayed for sale. We also provide delivery option for the customers.

Who are your major target audience and how have you been able to break even, considering the harsh business environment in the country?

Our target audience are anyone interested in buying bulk quantities and resellers. We have a wide range of customers and leads across different categories e.g. stores, schools, office, hospitals, cooperative societies and medium sized homes. Our largest market segment Pack’N’Pay are resellers. The business is in its infant stage so it will be too ambitious to expect a breakeven position now. However, we believe the business will be profitable in the near future.

How will you describe the mission of Pack ‘N’ Pay and what is your business proposition and projection in the next five years?

Pack’N’Pay’s mission I would say is quite simple. We want to create a digital market place for wholesale goods and give our customers a convenient shopping experience. I have met customers who close their stores and go to nearby states to get products that are available in their location but unknown to them. This costs the traders loss of time and higher transport charge when compared to buying within the location. Pack’N’Pay is a one stop online store to provide varied product options with a choice to deliver at your office/store. In the next five years we aim to make it common knowledge for anyone in Nigeria that wants to buy wholesale goods at the best price and with the certainty of the required quality of the products being ordered, that Pack’N’Pay is the place to look. We also hope to be the go-to online marketing and distribution company for manufacturers trying to get their products to the wholesale market.

How do you handle delivery to ensure that customers’ goods are delivered safely and on time, considering bad roads in Nigeria?

We have a two-day delivery period after the order is made. This allows us to receive the order, get the required products from our inventory and fulfil the order in good time, sometimes as early as the next morning. We started up in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State and the conditions of the roads here are not bad, so I wouldn’t say that has been a great challenge to delivering to our customers safely.

What is your view about the disposition of Nigerians towards online shopping, where most people still shop physically in the open market space?

I think a new crop of informed buyers are being developed. I see a lot more people interested in doing their shopping online these days, probably because they tried it and it worked during the lockdown. Don’t get me wrong most people are still sceptical but more people are now seeing it as an option, and with more companies like Pack’N’Pay I can only see that number increasing.

Online fraud is threatening the growth of e-Commerce in Nigeria and the global market. How best can this be addressed?

Every drug has its side effect, at Pack’N’Pay we see ecommerce as a means to make someone’s life a little bit easier. Someone else sees it as a means to make quick money. I think everyone needs to be cautious and thorough, and this goes for both buyer and seller using e-commerce. We get a lot of first time customers who want to visit our warehouse or our office before purchase, we fully understand this, so we share our locations freely. We also offer payment at the point of delivery to protect both our customers and ourselves from fraud

Given the increasing rate of online fraud in the financial sector, what are the security measures that you have put in place to protect customers’ goods during online transactions? ‘

Most of our customers opt to use our pay on delivery payment option, this allows them to verify that the goods they received are exactly what they ordered before payment. For those who use the payment before delivery option we partner with secure payment gateways like Paystack and Flutterwave to receive their payments.

Despite the several channels open to Nigerians for financial transactions, coupled with CBN’s awareness campaign drive to deepen financial inclusion, the Nigerian economy is still regarded as cash-based economy, where most people prefer the use of physical cash. What is your take on this, and how can this be changed?

I think that is a problem of numbers. The amount of cash-only transactions still greatly out-numbers non-cash transactions. However, more people are adopting the e-payment channels which will eventually cause a shift in the means of settlement to digital options. The CBN has a lot of campaigns to promote e-payment which is helping build confidence in the other payment channels.

How will you describe the success rate of financial inclusion drive of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and what are the roles of e-Commerce players like Pack ‘N’ Pay in achieving financial inclusion drive in Nigeria?

It depends on what metric you measure it by, I would measure it in terms of adoption rate of the non-cash channels over a specified time like annually. I can’t say for sure because I don’t have access to the actual data but I think that would show you positive results meaning the CBN’s financial inclusion drive has been successful. E-commerce players like Pack’N’Pay should keep doing what they initially set out to do, that is provide excellent service to their customers which can be done by giving them the option to pay for the service through any and all of the several payment channels.

Since your business has to do with delivery of goods, you are automatically into courier service. Are you a licensed courier operator, and how compliant are you with the courier delivery laws in Nigeria. What are some of the observed challenges in the logistics and delivery business in Nigeria, and how have you been able to overcome them over time?

We partner with registered courier companies for deliveries. Because Pack’N’Pay is a wholesale company our logistics and deliveries have to be done with bigger vehicles than other e-commerce companies who deal with retail quantities. With that comes new challenges of getting the right courier partner who understands your business and has the right size of vehicles for the deliveries.