Cracking the e-commerce business in Nigeria; The How

A lot of times, we blame Nigerian e-commerce operators or merchants for asking us to send a DM for the price. Should we?


Frustrated user who expresses her dislike for the “DM for price” culture of Nigerian online vendors
Frustrated user who expresses her dislike for the “DM for price” culture of Nigerian online vendors
Frustrated user who expresses her dislike for the “DM for price” culture of Nigerian online vendors

While I have also been an advocate of cancelling online vendors who engage in this practice, I did take a step back to introspect on ths issue and made a few observations.

This attitude actually is not a new attitude nor is it culturally bad for us in Nigeria. Let us take a brief look at it.

This is a typical market woman in a Nigerian market.

Now, let us call this woman Iya Taju. She is a fruits and vegetables seller and she sells her produce in one of the most visited and popular markets for farm produce — Mile 12 market. Iya Taju gets all forms of customers visiting her made up store everyday and this is what she typically does. When A visits her, she assesses A’s purchasing power and gives A price and expects A to negotiate downwards. Based upon the negotiating power of A, she or he gets to get a fair and considerable price for her vegetable. A can leave the market feeling Iya Taju got the better off me or I got the better off her.

This is a very typical example of how the market place is in Nigeria — the only place you will find static prices are in the malls where price labelling is done.

The user behavior visiting markets is to negotiate from multiple vendors first and finding the best possible deal that does not make you feel cheated. While many may argue that the current customer is not like this, multiple evidences suggest otherwise. People still ask multiple vendors online before picking one.

E-commerce in Nigeria and Africa at large have been largely unsuccessful despite the huge amount of investments buried into it since the advent of internet usage in Nigeria. While many have given many reasons as to why they think it has failed, like every technology driven business in Africa which fails, the very reason can be traced to — our culture.

Often times, tech driven businesses try to replicate a technology from the western part of the world or even the eastern part of the world which is the current rave and also replicate the culture practiced in those regions with it and we all know the end of it.

Same can be said of e-commerce, if Nigerians and by extension Africans have a way they shop, why are businesses not layering technology on that way of shopping instead of trying to teach Nigerians and by extension Africans how to shop?

A typical way to layer technology on the Iya Taju’s market scenario would be this

A Jumia or Konga displays multiple stores for the same product on the same webpage, creates a live negotiation system where I can negotiate the asking price and see if I can get a bargain and I can place an order thereafter. This is also the same thing that will happen if I walk up to Iya Taju’s shop but this time, the shop is not a physical shop but an online shop.

To conclude this piece would be asking us to stop demonizing social media vendors who ask us to DM for prices as one-on-one negotiation is just part of our sub-culture except you are from the west but here in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s a one on one negotiation system.

Let me know what you think about layering technology on culture to make tech products succeed in Africa in the comments.


PS: This piece was written by Ladi Ogunseye and do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the editors of TheFintechAfrica. You can also send in opinions and articles to

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