The advent of the novel coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, into the country seems to have destabilized our social norms and behaviour. Nigeria, like all other countries of the world where this pandemic has visited, has responded by both treating the people who have contracted the disease and putting some preventive measures in place to minimize the rate to which her citizens get infected.
Some of the measures the government has put in place to forestall transmission of the virus include the restriction on movement, closure of schools, ordering some cadres of the employees to stay home for some time, closure of markets and enacting laws limiting the number of people permitted at social gatherings, religious worships, markets, etc. to a specific number at a go among others.
While no measure taken to forestall the transmission of this pandemic could be said to be excessive, some of these rules, especially that of market closure, would pose the greatest difficulty to the Nigerian people, given our physical shopping culture, where one must personally go to the market, select and pay for his or her goods and take them home by themselves. This shopping culture has served us well in the past, albeit it cost us a little more, both financially and physically.
Given the prevailing circumstances, occasioned by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this shopping culture is no longer tenable, or at least cumbersome and needs to be changed if one would meet his or her recurrent shopping needs. This is the time for Nigerians to switch fully to the e-commerce platform and become online shoppers.
Let us take the experience of Lagosians, for example. When the state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, announced the closure of the markets on Tuesday, 24 March 2020, residents of the state immediately besieged the various markets and supermarkets in the state to stock up their homes with their prospective needs to beat the deadline that was slated for Thursday. The traders were overwhelmed by this upsurge in patronage that some even restricted the number of customers they allowed into their shops at a time in order to have full control of their sales.
On Wednesday, despite the fact that the governor exempted the markets and stores that sell food, medicines, water, and other essential commodities from the ban – which again was for seven days – most of the racks, especially in the food/groceries section became virtually empty as people, in panic-buying, have bought almost the products they thought they could need, even beyond the period the closure is supposed to subsist, thereby creating artificial scarcity and causing price increases for most of these food items.
While panic buying, with its attendant consequences of scarcity and price increases, is a natural fallout of such restrictions as was seen in some other countries that have experienced or are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is quite unnecessary, especially in Nigeria, where the restrictions do not affect traders of food items and all other necessary products. It is further unnecessary, given the presence of the various e-commerce platforms that people could log on to and purchase all their needs in Nigeria. Shoppers could do their purchases – from food/groceries, medications, water, and other essential needs to even personal electronics and gadgets – and have them delivered to their doorsteps even without going to the physical stores.
What is more is that these deliveries are done in absolute compliance with the social distance requirements, as prescribed by the federal government and the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC). Jumia Nigeria, in its bid to further curtail the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic, has begun what it calls contactless deliveries to its customers. In contactless deliveries, the delivery men drop customers’ orders at their doorsteps, move three meters back and call the customers to come and pick up their orders.
The advantages of switching over to the online platforms for shopping now, and the folly of physical shopping, are that online shopping is more convenient, cheaper and has the products more readily available at all points in time than in physical shopping. Above all, with Jumia’s contactless delivery, online shopping has become more COVID-19 compliant than traditional shopping.
Since the year 2012 that e-commerce platforms debuted and remained in business in Nigeria, there has been a reluctance on our part to change our shopping culture to the modern online platforms due to our attachment to the old ways. This is in spite of the increased number of merchants and goods and services available on these platforms, the increased ease, convenience and safety that come with the platforms, as well as the various incentives like price slashes, sales promotions, free deliveries, etc. offered by the e-commerce platforms.
With the presence of the coronavirus disease in Nigeria and the announced restrictions that are in place as a response to the pandemic, this seems to be the best time for Nigerians to switch over to the e-commerce platforms for a COVID-19-compliant lifestyle as well as enjoy safer and better shopping experience.