For the last few years, retail is going digital. This trend is further accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, with social distancing being the basic norm to keep ourselves safe. Be it e-commerce stores like Daraz or other e-retailors, everyone is offering online shopping with online payments or a Cash On Delivery facility. All we have to do is to open the website, select the products, enter a location and that’s it, you’re done. While the overall process seems so easier to read, in actual it is a heck of a task when you are in Pakistan as problems associated with it are extravagant. This blog focuses on factors that are preventing growth in Pakistan’s e-commerce market.
In an effort to push e-commerce in the country, the government published the most awaited policy framework back in 2019. Though it was able to bring this sector into the limelight, we couldn’t reach the crux in these two years. Even during the pandemic, to help people with online shopping, the state bank of Pakistan lifted all the taxes on online payments and interbank transfer. While much is done at the state level, the brands offering online shopping are not able to maintain the customers’ trust resulting in a hurdle to the e-commerce boom in Pakistan.
E-commerce- The Missed Opportunity
Keeping in view the global statistics, in the United States, e-retail in the last three months grew as much as it had in past ten years. During the pre-Covid days, the US remained ahead of Pakistan in e-commerce and now Covid-19 has further widened the gap. Europe was second in e-commerce as its e-retail sales from January 2020 to August 2020 were equivalent to the sales in the previous six years.
While e-retailers in Pakistan witnessed a mushroom growth in big cities and remote areas, the main problem is no buyback clause as such. Most retailers do not even allow the consumer to open the product before making payment. There are numerous instances where the consumers received different colours or sizes of the dresses they ordered. Getting it replaced is a hassle that many cannot afford.
What’s Preventing a Growth in Pakistan’s e-commerce market?
A colleague of mine who has requested to remain anonymous has shared his experience of online eid shopping during the last week. He ordered shirts from Sapphire online. When he received the parcel the size was not the same as ordered. When inquired from the helpline, the company’s sales executive told him that the parcel will be collected from his home and a voucher will be given to him. This overall process will take 15 days and then he can buy something else by using this payment voucher. When he asked for the right sizes instead of the voucher, the company declined it by saying that providing the right sizes is not its policy. So instead of waiting for 15 days ( as he had to wear them on eid), he had to go to Rawalpindi all the way from Islamabad to get the right sizes.
I ordered Kurta from Amir Adnan during the ongoing sale and the same thing happened to me that the sizes were not what I had asked for. The same voucher story was narrated so I had to ask them for the nearest outlet to get the right sizes. I went to the brand’s outlet and they said to me that the sale was only online and to get my articles changed, I had to pay the full amount.
My friend ordered a shirt from bonanza and as usual, the shirt sent to her was different from what was ordered. While she kept on communicating with the sales team for 15 whole days, finally they asked her to go to the nearest outlet and get something else from the same collection. When she went there, they asked her to buy things from the old collection as within 15 days they got their new collection and the shirt which she bought for full price 15 days back was now at 30% off.
All glitters are not gold! While the trend of e-commerce is increasing, we cannot overlook these issues at the backend which are not highlighted. While all the brands are spending a lot in marketing their products on social media, they should also address these issues faced by the customers and should extract some easy way out for these problems. Due to such issues, there is a general trust deficit in e-commerce. A proactive leader and conductive policy are not enough, on a smaller level, the e-commerce stores and brands offering online shopping should address such issues effectively to build people’s trust.
The nascent e-retail market has a very bright future in Pakistan only if the buyers develop confidence in sellers. For this, sellers need to have a proactive approach to solve these issues, only then we can truly enjoy online shopping resulting in Pakistan’s e-commerce market boom.