The ecommerce marketplace has opened its doors in diverse emerging markets, and a March 2013 study by market research firm Jana shows that a significant percentage of mobile phone users in these countries are beginning to buy digitally.
Compared with the other four countries surveyed—India, Kenya, the Philippines and Nigeria—the study found that South Africa had the greatest percentage of mobile phone users (67%) who at least sometimes bought products online. Kenya posted the lowest percentage of mobile phone users sometimes buying online, at a still considerable 56%.
It’s important to note, though, that mobile phone users still represent a relatively small proportion of the population in many of these countries, and these individuals are the likeliest to be able to access the internet. In India, eMarketer estimates 43% of the population will be mobile phone users this year. In South Africa, GSMA Wireless Intelligence estimated that mobile phone user penetration reached 66% last year.
Where are the online buyers in these countries most likely to make their purchases?
The Jana study found that eBay has made the strongest overall push into these emerging markets. The website was among the top five ecommerce sites in each of the countries studied. OLX, an online classifieds site, made a strong showing as well, ranking among the top five ecommerce sites in India, Kenya and South Africa. And Amazon and Google were also in the top five in Kenya and Nigeria, with Google as the No. 1 ecommerce site in Nigeria. A variety of local sites have also successfully gained market share.
Convenience and price were the top reasons mobile phone users in these countries reported buying online. The ease of using ecommerce sites, the overall online shopping experience and the selection online vendors offered were less critical.
When it came to what was hindering ecommerce among mobile phone users, delivery time posed the greatest obstacle in every country studied. In South Africa, Nigeria and the Philippines finding a reliable internet connection ranked as the second-biggest challenge, while in Kenya and India security concerns trumped internet connection difficulties.
For ecommerce vendors reaching out to these markets, logistics seems to be the first problem to tackle—making sure consumers can get the products they want reasonably quickly and have the infrastructure available to make their purchase.