The pandemic provided a shot in the arm for the e-commerce industry in Bangladesh. The industry experienced a huge growth during the pandemic as buyers from different sections of the society were more interested in buying essentials they need from online marketplaces, rather than going out and buy things from brick-and-mortar shops.
Officially e-commerce business is been categorised as B2C (Business-to-consumer marketing), B2B (business-to-business), and G2C (Government to Citizen). From an operational perspective, we notice there are different types of online businesses. For example, we know about normal online shops, where the sellers sell their products. Then there is an online marketplace, which is a platform, where many brands and merchant companies participate.
Be that as it may things are not so rosy for the e-commerce industry these days. According to a recent report published in this newspaper the fast growing e-commerce sector are facing a bleak future at a time when the country is claiming to have achieved “Digital Bangladesh-Vision 2021” goal, and set to moving towards “Smart Bangladesh” with an aim to digitalise every possible sector.
Fahim Mashroor, founder and CEO of one of the leading e-commerce company Ajkerdeal.com to The Business Post “We were expecting that e-commerce sector would mature and expand to district and upazila levels like in India and China by 2022 and 2023, but the current scenario is rather frustrating.” The imposition of VAT on online sales and deliveries and excessive import duties could further impede the growth of the sector.
The first challenge is for the e-commerce industry itself as it has to get back the lost trust of the customers if the sector wants to flourish in the long run. In order to build trust, e-commerce platforms have to take initiatives to educate the customers and the sellers as well.
Especially, customer-centric educative initiatives will be much more helpful. There is no denying that this is an age of fierce competition and aggressive marketing strategies. To survive in such an ecosystem, different online marketplaces come up with lucrative offers from time to time, some of which are largely impractical and unrealistic. Such offers create imbalance in the market and develop a sense of greed among the customers. To stop such trend, e-commerce industry will have to run awareness campaigns so that the customers understand the fact that more is not necessarily the better. It is very natural that the consumers will resort to different tactics like showrooming and webrooming to get the desired products at best prices.
But, it is also important to remember the incident of Evaly and other platforms that pulled the wool over buyers’ eyes by enticing them into buying things offered at very unreasonable prices. To keep people away from such marketing gambits, the industry will have to take steps to make them aware of the risk factors.
In the meantime, different platforms will have to be more careful and thoughtful while devising strategies for different campaigns. Everyone will have their own strategy to lure customers, but at the same time it is important that online marketplaces come up with offers that are reasonable and will, in no way, cause upheaval and imbalance in the market. For example – you cannot simply offer a car or bike at half its price because that’s not actually possible. In this case, the role of the regulators comes in. It is vital to ensure that everyone is following the Competition Act to maintain the balance.
The ministry concerned must make sure that the e-commerce platforms are doing business following the recently introduced Digital Commerce Operation Guidelines, 2021. In order to protect the interests of the customers, online marketplaces need to follow the guidelines. Only then, customers/consumers’ confidence in e-commerce platforms will grow. If they turn back to online shopping in full force, good days for this industry will be back again riding out the uncertainty. All the stakeholders involved in this industry must work together and put all-out efforts if they really want to sustain the growth momentum in the near future.