While Uganda is still battling the corona virus pandemic, restrictions that were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus are gradually being eased. Things are now getting back to normal; however, I can authoritatively say that the effects of COVID-19 on the ecommerce industry in Uganda will still be felt for years.
The pandemic brought a miraculous change in the online buying habits of Ugandans, and they seem to be carrying on with same habits.
Today we are going to look at what has changed in ecommerce since the outbreak of the Chinese virus. Who are buying online? What products are selling? Which products are not selling? And what we expect about these trends?
The information in this article was summarized from a survey code named The COVID-19 Uganda consumer pulse Survey. The survey was conducted by a US based management consulting company called McKinsey & Company. I have delved into the collected data to help you better prepare your e-commerce business for now and for the times ahead.
Changes in Consumption and Buyer Behavior
Surprisingly, people’s spending habits, especially those living in urban areas quickly changed in Uganda. People’s priorities started to shift, and the options they had for getting the items they need also drastically changed.
The biggest shift was an increase in online shopping. This was partly due to people’s inability to leave home and many brick and mortar stores being forced to close because of the pandemic.
There was an increase in online purchases with the biggest gains in hygiene and household cleaning products. There was also an increase in purchases in medicines, food and fashion items.
Available consumption data also shows that the demand for beauty products dropped dramatically while essential items like hygiene and cleaning supplies saw a huge boost in sales.
Local news outlets in the neighboring Kenya were reporting surges in demand for toilet paper, but that didn’t seem to be the case with Uganda as reports indicate that consumption of such personal care items has stayed more less of the same.
However, there was an acute rise in sportswear, specifically sports shoes. People resorted to workouts. Sales in sports shoes even plunged more when president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni appeared in a video doing press-ups at state house in a sports attire.
When traditional shops were forcefully closed, the good were predominantly sold in such stores especially groceries experienced huge spikes in online sales. I personally ordered 100kgs of beans online for the very first time.
While many people were concerned about the likely food shortages, online demand for fresh produce dramatically increased when the pandemic was at its peak, and people were buying in really huge quantities.
Many local brands quickly adapted to changing conditions and starting focusing more on ecommerce sales. This severed many local companies well, bringing out the power of ecommerce trade.
Interestingly, items like pajamas and hair clippers experienced double sales after people were forced into isolation. We are waiting to see whether these products will continue to be ordered online or consumers will return to buying them at local traditional stores.
That said, what can we expect for the future of ecommerce in Uganda? Or will buying habits go back to the way they were before the pandemic?
Expectations for the future of ecommerce in Uganda after the pandemic
There’s no doubt that this pandemic changed things for everyone. But are these changes long-lasting, permanent or temporary?
A recent survey indicates that, for most Ugandans, their consumptions behaviors will return to normal after the crisis is over or fully contained.
Of the sampled data, 25% of Ugandans said they will consume less or a lot less than what they have been consuming during the pandemic. 34% said they could only last more current financial situation comes to normal or if their finances continue growing.
With the isolation forcing many companies to lay off workers, many Ugandans have been hit hard financially. Even as restrictions are being and people getting back to work, it will take long for many of them to recoup those loses. What does this mean? There will definitely be less demand for expensive luxury items.
The one thing this pandemic has changed for sure is what consumers value in a product.
During the COVID-19 era, more Ugandans are now concerned more about their health and the environment they live in than ever before, and because of this, it is expected that products that promote healthy lifestyles will experience increase in popularity.
The biggest trend Ugandan ecommerce businesses will be looking at is an extreme increase in online sales. Whether this large surge will be maintained or not is another question for tomorrow.
But what we have to remember is that even as Uganda is lifting restrictions, many people are still cautious, with a number of them concerned about a potential second outbreak. This means that even if the current trend isn’t permanent, we expect it to last longer.
It is projected that until scientists develop a successful corona virus vaccine, ecommerce sales in Uganda will remain high as people continue to limit their contacts with others or in crowded places like markets.
And even after concerns of the deadly virus are gone, it is likely that many Ugandans will have now been exposed to the culture and convenience of online shopping, which would result in continued growth of ecommerce in Uganda.
Overall, we should expect consumer habits to eventually return to normal. But it is going to take time. So, ecommerce businesses are encouraged to plan accordingly, to ensure that they put the best position to succeed.
Also read; How To Start An Online Store In Uganda
When it comes to Uganda’s ecommerce, consumer habits have certainly changed since March, 2020. These changes will stay for a long time. Anyone who hadn’t realized how convenient online shopping in Uganda is, has probably realized it now. For many Ugandans, buying products online has now become a normal, and it could stay that way forever. So expect to see a boost in online sales in Uganda in the Post-COVID-19 era although the spike in demand that was seen at the peak of the pandemic will unlikely be sustained for a long time.