Advancing Financial Inclusion through Innovative E-Commerce
With foundations well in place for digital commerce to flourish in Pakistan, it is only a matter of time before e-commerce takes the Pakistani consumer market by storm. In today’s context e-commerce is a potent tool to further the goal of financial inclusion by drawing more people within the digital financial services space, irrespective of income and social status. Through simple payment and delivery options, innovative e-commerce solutions have the potential to transform the overall consumer shopping experience and positively influence customer behavior change particularly in regards to moving away from cash, thereby encouraging traditional brick-and-mortar retail shops to expand their electronic presence.
The Pakistani market got a glimpse of the potential power of e-commerce on November 27, 2015 when Rocket Internet GmbH launched the largest online sales event in Pakistan to date: the Daraz Black Friday sale. Orchestrated by Daraz.pk, the Black Friday initiative was supported by leading technology partners in Pakistan Telenor EasyPaisa and PTCL.
Cashing on the rising trend of online shopping in Pakistan which is set to become a USD 5 billion e-commerce industry by 2020, Daraz.pk found the perfect way to promote the sale at a huge scale by making the consumer shopping experience friendlier and simpler through the introduction of digitally driven convenience features including app-based shopping, online parcel tracking, and customer support features. The launch of multiple payment platforms including EasyPaisa, EasyPay, and mobile accounts, cleverly timed with an exciting American spending holiday led to the huge success of the first ever online Black Friday sale in Pakistan. As many as 1.5 million people visited Daraz.pk on November 27, 2015, and 55 times more orders were placed than a regular shopping day. Over the following weekend, when the sale was extended by two additional days due to customer demand, Daraz.pk processed over PKR 100 million in sales with an average transaction size of PKR 10,000 per sale.
An interesting observation from the event revealed a major shift in consumer behavior as a result of the availability of additional discounts and ease of use of electronic payments: while prior to the Black Friday sale 95% payments to Daraz.pk were cash-on-delivery or COD, over a third of payments made on Black Friday were electronic pre-payments. Other post-Black Friday statistics revealed a rise in the use of the Daraz.pk mobile app as 25% of all visits to the shopping website were through a mobile device. In a country where the total mobile user base comprises of over 125 million people out of which as many as 23 million are 3G/4G internet users there exists a strong case for the promotion of e-commerce through multiple digital platforms.
In a nutshell, the key attractions of the online Black Friday sale, other than big discounts, came in the form of a wide range of products being offered across a large geographic area through simple payment modalities:
- Availability of Service
From Peshawar to Sukkur, vast geographical payment and delivery coverage was ensured through a network of logistics partners in order to cater to all able and willing consumers from various socio-economic classes; where COD wasn’t available, small EasyPaisa agent outlets came in to fill the coverage gap. Thus a person living in the somewhat isolated city of Kandhkot, Sindh was as able to make purchases as easily as someone living in Lahore, Punjab.
- Ease of Payment
Another pull point for customers was the range of options that were offered for payment at checkout. Among these were COD, debit card payment, OTC payment through agent outlet and mobile wallets. Of these, debit card and mobile wallet payments were offered for the first time on the website. The convenience of making online payments greatly simplified the customer experience.
- Customer Trust in Online Payment Partner
Over time consumer trust in mobile money services has increased thanks to effective awareness building measures and high quality of service provided. According to a national survey, Telenor’s EasyPaisa was the most frequently recalled brand, with a combined awareness total of 58 percent, while also commanding the highest household mobile money market share. The credibility of Daraz.pk’s partnership with EasyPaisa thus ensured that people availed the option to pay online with little hesitation and this is reflected in the sheer volume of online payments made during the online Black Friday sale.
It is apparent that e-commerce has taken root in Pakistan nested within an environment conducive for further growth. As mobile phone adoption rises with smartphones becoming more affordable, maturing 3G/4G telecoms services and rapid growth of mobile money solutions, along with extensive wireless coverage, innovative initiatives like the Black Friday and online selling in general are set to lead customer behaviors and influence retail trends in Pakistan. E-commerce has a very important role to play in building an ecosystem of financial inclusion in general (as has been the case in Myanmar) and mobile money solutions in particular: by leveraging the best of mobile technology to convert brick and mortar stores into electronic marketplaces, every individual can avail facilities that vary from bill payments to ordering physical goods. The key, however, is to extend appropriate financial and non-financial instruments based on customer buying patterns as and when the need arrives, at the same time creating effective use cases for other players to replicate and scale.