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Opinions of Thursday, 30 April 2020

Columnist: Eunice Asantewaa Ankomah

Welcome to the new normal: Business beyond COVID-19

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Throughout Ghana's lockdown period, I tried shopping online from known and big supermarkets in Ghana. To my surprise, these shops were either not online or even when they were; they had not enabled customers to shop online. They just had websites that were not user friendly and in some instances, difficult to navigate.

I am not sure when some of these "big-wigs" plan to go digital, but for any business out there, I want to welcome you to the new normal. The normal where shopping online is the first option and physical shop locations are fast becoming secondary options for shoppers. The normal where a decision today to avoid public places will likely become a habit and a way of life for many customers.

The concept of eCommerce is the practice of selling and buying goods and services via the internet. This medium of doing business has been with us pre-Covid 19. Except that now, a lot more people are looking that direction due to social distancing and other COVID-19 health-related concerns. Ecommerce has no longer become a luxury or a convenient way of shopping for a selected few; it is fast becoming a necessity for most people. It is for this reason that companies must more than ever, consider this way of commerce.

Covid-19 is not only a global pandemic but also an agent for the restructuring of a lot of our traditional ways of doing things. It has forced humanity to see the other side and embrace new ways of performing different tasks. Taught us new ways of doing business and opened our eyes to the endless possibilities that come with the adoption and usage of technology.

Educational institutions across the globe are turning to virtual & e-learning platforms; businesses are resorting to working from home strategies, churches are holding services online, among others. More than ever, digital options have become more relevant than it has ever been.

The Novel Corona Virus has reinforced the purchase behaviours of existing online shoppers and possibly changed the shopping practices of those who were not. With non-essential businesses closing down and customers avoiding public places, the likely option is online shopping.

Ghanaian businesses must, therefore, avail and position themselves to meet the changing customer purchase behaviours. Putting your business online extends your reach beyond the borders of Ghana. It exposes your business to new clientele. Not being online for me should not be an option for any forward-looking business.

Getting an online store is one sure way to get started. Except that it may not be enough to have a website that only describes what you do as a business, the site should also allow customers to shop. It should possibly provide customers with various modes of making payments for items bought. Outline clear cut delivery strategies. The website should allow for effective communication and prompt response to customer enquiries. Responsiveness to customer needs and concerns should be at the core of organisations online business operations.

Where a business is unable to develop and maintain a secure website, it can opt for a social media page (Instagram, Facebook, etc.). Create a business account on social media, dedicated to selling your product and attending to customer enquiries. Something as simple as utilising WhatsApp status to advertise your products or services could also help in meeting demand.

Ecommerce presents a unique opportunity for Fintechs and IT startups, Digital Marketing Professionals, Courier companies to collaborate and support businesses who are looking forward to building an online presence. It presents opportunities for experimenting with new market models; taking advantage of this period to help companies in the informal sector to digitise their operations. I look forward to seeing a site that mimics our traditional way of shopping from our local markets.

I look forward to businesses exploring the endless possibilities an online presence presents. While at it, companies need to build credibility by meeting customer expectations and security protocols that surround eCommerce. In the long run, it is your credibility that will keep you in business.

About the Writer: The writer is a Digital Finance Practitioner, an Accredited CIPR Public Relations practitioner and a Director at Africa Centre for Media and Financial Literacy.

She currently works with a Payment Systems Infrastructure Provider as a Senior Officer in charge of Corporate Communications & Branding.

Kindly send your comments to Follow her on LinkedIn Eunice Asantewaa Ankomah; Instagram: @asantewaa23 / Twitter: @AsantewaaTindi / Facebook: Eunice Asantewaa Ankomah-Tindi.