Earning consumers’ trust is vital for evolution of e-commerce industry
The journey of the e-commerce sector in Bangladesh has been around for a decade. In the last 7 or 8 years, there has been plenty of changes in this sector--some of them have been better while some worse. No matter what circumstances the e-commerce sector was in, the main role has always been connected to the customers. It is the consumers who are the most important player in the whole ecosystem.
Consequently, everything--starting from policies to operational capacities--must be consumer-centric if the e-commerce industry wants to turn the corner and remain buoyant. In the last few years, especially the months after the pandemic, our e-commerce industry has undergone major changes following the changing consumer behaviour patterns and even in the recent months, the same industry has faced setbacks owing to a lack of credibility.
Our e-commerce industry is quite at a stable stage at the moment and is poised to grow in the coming years. At least, this is what industry players and experts believe and the statistics also demonstrate this fact. According to industry sources, the e-commerce industry has been growing at a rate of 25.6% in the last few years. The e-commerce industry in Bangladesh is expected to generate more than USD $5 billion in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV). Additionally, industry insiders predict that this sector will serve at least 25% of the total population in the next five years.
After Covid-19 hit the world, it has brought even the most developed countries and industries down to its knees. However, the pandemic has presented itself as an opportunity before the e-commerce industry in Bangladesh. After the pandemic, the e-commerce industry has been witnessing a spiral of increasing customers and transactions. According to data provided by Bangladesh Bank, the daily amount of aggregate transactions of the e-commerce sector is on the rise. In June 2020, the transaction amount was recorded at Tk 491.4 crore, while it was Tk 640.4 crore in July 2020. Even the subsequent months have witnessed a sharp rise in transactions, which will continue in the coming years. This growth has been possible owing to the changed consumer behaviour.
Nevertheless, just like all good inventions come with a threat of being misused, the e-commerce industry has got its own downside as well. Recently, a few incidents have shaken the tree of the e-commerce sector and engendered fresh controversies. Many people invested money in certain e-commerce sites with a hope of high return. Unfortunately, they were deceived, which has diminished the level of trust among the customers. Many customers are now moving away from e-commerce marketplaces whereas not every marketplace is liable.
In connection to these recent controversies, customers also need to realize the fact that too much greed can invite dangers in the long run. Thus, they need to expect only practical offers and deals from e-commerce platforms. There is no way that e-commerce platforms can give customers unrealistic offers on different products; instead of opting for such fraudulent offers, customers need to stay attached to online marketplaces that offer practical deals and prices for them. The moment consumers realize this and act accordingly, the entire ecosystem will be much more balanced, and the growth will be sound.
To that end, it is important that e-commerce platforms and the industry stakeholders talk about being rational, and different awareness-raising campaigns can also be organized in this regard to help our customers make informed decisions when it comes to online shopping.
Our local e-commerce sites/marketplaces can get ideas from the global trends to overcome the crisis of trust. International e-commerce platforms adhere to a set of policies taking the interest of all the stakeholders into account. Bangladeshi marketplaces can also adhere to it like many other e-commerce platforms. Meanwhile, the government has recently rolled out guidelines for e-commerce platforms, which need to be followed. This is a welcome step, especially at a time when the credibility of e-commerce platforms has been put into jeopardy. As per the guidelines, marketplace authorities will have to appoint a compliance officer who will monitor whether customer complaints are being dealt with properly or not. Such step will definitely play significant role in getting back customers' trust.
If we want a sustainable e-commerce industry that will move ahead tapping into changed realities and consumer behaviour, e-commerce platforms need to adapt to the changes and bring about significant changes in their business models in accordance with the needs of the customers. Moreover, the consumers must also be more practical and look for realistic offers and deals to do their bit for the growth of this industry. Striking a balance between these two is the key to guaranteeing the best outcomes for this booming industry. At the end of the day, it is the customers who are the life force of e-commerce industry. So, it is their satisfaction and trust that matters most.
Farhana Rafiq Uzzaman,
Chief Customer Officer, Daraz Bangladesh Limited