Contrary to the erroneous belief in some quarters that doing business in rural areas is immune from the common challenges that businesses generally face, reality is that micro business owners in underserved areas also have peculiar challenges they go through.
Some of these challenges include difficulty in accessing goods on time. Dearth of infrastructure such as good road network, long distance to the market and lack of adequate transportation system to move purchased goods are among the factors that constitute access barriers to goods and commodities.
As a result, many micro business owners spend longer time or wait for days and weeks to receive inventory or restock, while oftentimes they experience supply shortages. The delay or disruption in supply also affects the end-users/consumers, who are unable to purchase things they need as at when due.
Painfully, micro retailers lose sales, and ultimately money whenever they have stocks-out due to inefficient supply cycles.
However, the increasing impact of digital technology that is rapidly transforming every segment of our socio-economic ecosystem is also changing the narrative positively for businesses including retail trade.
The digitalisation of the economy, which is enabling e-commerce platforms in the B2C segment and lately the B2B segment, has had and continues to have great impact on the manufacturing, distribution and retail value chains.
With B2B e-commerce, tech-driven digital solutions including warehousing and logistics infrastructure and fulfilment solutions are making micro businesses more efficient and better organised in their day-to-day operations, especially those in the underserved remote or rural areas.
So, unlike the past years when micro business owners in underserved areas faced supply hurdles, most of them today can testify of better and faster access to goods and commodities due to B2B e-commerce revolution.
This positive development is not without the efforts of B2B e-commerce platforms like Alerzo whose strong presence in rural areas and commitment to the underserved micro businesses is boosting access to extensive catalogue of products and logistics.
Through SMS, WhatsApp, phone calls or log-in onto its site where applicable, customers now easily place orders and get the goods delivered swiftly without being charged for delivery.
Alerzo’s CEO, Adewale Opaleye stated, “Our strong presence in the South-West, and continued expansion to the North-West and Central consolidate our desire to grow in a sustainable manner and continue to serve those that are underserved.
“On our Alerzoshop retail app, we have a vast assortment available to our customers to choose from, and we offer free delivery in all the over 13 cities we’re currently operational. We change the landscape for them (retailers) through on time delivery.’’
Opaleye added that, ‘‘For the past two years, we have delivered to informal retailers at no cost. With our delivery services, retailers save time, energy, and resources that they would have otherwise expended in restocking. These benefits have resulted in 85% of our retailers reducing their two to four times a week restock trips to zero.”
As digital technology makes deeper impressions on more people, it is also anticipated that the rural communities would also open up. Hence, there is a bigger role e-commerce platforms will play in reaching the underserved in light of government’s focus on leveraging micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and digital economy as critical enablers of national economic growth.
As the engine of national economic growth, the MSMEs segment is reported to contribute 50 per cent to the Nigeria’s GDP and make up 80 per cent of the country’s total employment, while the informal retail segment is worth $100 billion. E-commerce platforms, in particular the B2B segment would ultimately be needed to bridge the potential supply-demand gap that could arise.