B2B e-commerce as an enabler of micro businesses

The informal retail space in Nigeria has one of the lowest entry barriers. Most people who are into ‘hustling’ – street parlance for those chasing extra income – play in this space.

Characteristically, the majority of informal retail businesses are largely unstructured despite their huge potential. Nigeria’s informal retail business is estimated at $100 billion.

The food and consumer goods retail market alone is estimated to be worth over $40 billion, and there are millions of operators in that space.

For those that make retailing their daily occupation, they do face some challenges sometimes.

Mrs. Joyce Chukwu (not real name) typifies the problems an average Nigerian micro retailer goes through.

Delivered of twins recently, Mrs. Joyce has found it more tasking to run her grocery store which is about 30 minutes away from her house, and caring for her three-year-old son alongside her newborn twins.

Madam JC, as her customers fondly call her, finds it inconvenient to leave the house very early to beat traffic and get to a popular market where she gets goods for her store. She also moves around in fear of robbery because of cash money she goes to the market with.

These in addition to opportunity costs, dangers of travel, lack of financial advice, inadequate transport for purchased goods are part of the ordeals of women who are engaged in retail business due to Nigeria’s difficult social and economic terrain.

It is noteworthy, however, that the emergence of B2C and B2B e-commerce platforms has and is creating an environment that is more enabling for micro businesses.

With digital technology, retailers no longer have to deal with those issues highlighted above as e-commerce – one of the key gains of digital revolution – continues to impact our daily life, behaviour and choices, which also portend good for micro businesses.

Founder of Alerzo, a leading B2B e-commerce company, Adewale Opaleye, said the beauty of e-commerce platforms lies in their power to leverage technology to create opportunities for businesses including micro retail outlets as well as power them with digital solutions to improve and increase their efficiency.

He stated that with an array of Alerzo’s tech-driven digital solutions, retailers can order and make payment for goods as well as restock online or offline through USSD.

Opaleye stated that e-commerce platforms also provide warehousing and fulfilment solutions to suppliers while also delivering ordered goods at free cost to retailers. For example, Alerzo has been providing free delivery services to retailers for over two years.

“On our Alerzoshop retail app, we have a vast assortment available to our customers to choose from, and we offer free delivery in all the over 13 cities we’re currently operational. We change the landscape for them (retailers) through on time delivery.

‘‘For the past two years, we have delivered to informal retailers at no cost. With our delivery services, retailers save time, energy, and resources that they would have otherwise expended in restocking. These benefits have resulted in 85% of our retailers reducing their two to four times a week restock trips to zero,” he disclosed.

Other areas where B2B e-commerce platforms intervene include providing authentic goods and right pricing to retailers, thereby protecting the end-users from buying adulterated goods and being affected by unreasonable price-hikes especially by unapproved intermediaries.

The interventions also include providing credit facilities and financial literacy to retailers which further eases the way they run their businesses.

For Alerzo boss, supporting informal retailers is even a sort of empowerment initiative because majority of the retailers are women, 70 per cent of whom are primary breadwinners and contributing to Nigeria’s economy and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

With more informal retailers taking advantage of B2B e-commerce, and Alerzo and other platforms deepening opportunities on how technology can be further harnessed to empower informal retailers, e-commerce will be helping many businesses grow sustainably and thrive in today’s dynamic environment

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