While Uganda is still battling the coronavirus pandemic, restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus are gradually being eased. Things are now returning 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 the same habits.
Today we will look at what has changed in eCommerce since the outbreak of the Chinese virus. Who is buying online? What products are selling? Which products are not selling? And what do 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.
Also read; The Expert’s Guide To Online Shopping In Uganda.
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 their options 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 the purchase of 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 neighboring Kenya reported surges in demand for toilet paper. However, that didn’t seem to be the case with Uganda, as reports indicate that consumption of such personal care items has stayed less.
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 the state house in sports attire.
When traditional shops were forcefully closed, the goods predominantly sold in such stores, especially groceries, experienced huge spikes in online sales. I 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 peaked, and people were buying in huge quantities.
Many local brands quickly adapted to changing conditions and focused more on eCommerce sales. This served many local companies well, bringing out the power of the 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 if 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 how they were before the pandemic?
Also read; How to buy goods on Alibaba and ship to Uganda.
Expectations for the future of e-commerce 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 most Ugandans’ consumption behaviors will return to normal after the crisis is over or fully contained.
Of the sampled data, 25% of Ugandans said they would consume less or a lot less than they had 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 eased and people are returning to work, it will take a long time for many of them to recoup those losses. 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. Because of this, it is expected that products that promote healthy lifestyles will experience an increase in popularity.
The biggest trend Ugandan eCommerce businesses will look at is an extreme increase in online sales. Whether this large surge will be maintained or not is another question for tomorrow.
But we must remember 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 coronavirus vaccine, eCommerce sales in Uganda will remain high as people continue to limit their contact with others or in crowded places like markets.
And even after concerns about the deadly virus are gone, many Ugandans will likely have been exposed to the culture and convenience of online shopping, resulting in the continued growth of eCommerce in Uganda.
Overall, we should expect consumer habits to return to normal eventually. 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 new normal, and it could stay that way forever. So expect a boost in online sales in Uganda in the Post-COVID-19 era, although the spike in demand seen at the pandemic’s peak will unlikely be sustained for a long time.