Leading online retailer, Konga.com is about to launch a revolutionary new SMS-based shopping platform called SMS2ORDER tomorrow that basically lets you shop via SMS, similar to Amazon’s TextBuyIt service launched in 2008.
With a whole range of products from household appliances to groceries, Konga wants shoppers who have little or no Internet access or those that are not entirely comfortable or capable of using PCs and Internet-abled devices to shop from its site anywhere, anytime.
Users would need to send SMS messages with the unique codes of the item(s) they want to buy to an SMS short code (20050) being operated by Konga. Once Konga receives the request, a customer service personnel would call the customer to process the order and schedule product delivery. Upon delivery of the product, the customer would be able to make payment either with cash or via a POS machine.
However, a customer would have to bear the cost of the SMS which is pegged at N10 per SMS for all networks at the moment, which in my opinion is reasonable when compared to the cost of placing orders on the Internet or on phone.
While this service is highly innovative for online shopping in the Nigerian e-commerce space, there are some concerns.
One of such concerns is that customers would probably need to know (or save) the product codes in order to order for items via SMS easily which means that they may need to visit the site or call to get the unique code for each item.
I’m not sure why Konga is using product codes instead of product names, just like Amazon does, but my guess is that product codes are unique and would help to different products with similar (or long) names such as Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Another issue with the SMS model is that for products that may not be available (that is, out of stock), customers may place an order via SMS without knowledge, and although a customer service personnel would likely call to inform them, it could become a frustrating experience.
Again, some products such as gadgets and home appliances require that you do some research, read reviews before making a decision to buy, so customers would still need an Internet-enabled device to learn more about that particular product before deciding to shop.
That said, I think that the SMS2ORDER platform could be very useful for product categories such as groceries, stationery and beauty items that don’t require much knowledge before making a decision to buy them, that is, if you already know what you want.
For instance, if your office is running out of print paper or your mascara is finished, you can simply SMS the product code for any of the items to the short code and your product delivered in a few hours, depending on your location.
While SMS shopping may be a cheaper alternative and would allow, especially busy people to make quick purchases on the go, I personally don’t see it having a wide appeal in the long-run since Internet-based shopping is more effective and efficient.
As innovative online shopping sites such as Konga continue to make shopping for items cheaper, easier and hassle-free, we at TechLoy are delighted to be chronicling the developments and the innovations happening within the region’s e-commerce space now and in the future.