The lack of accountability in Pakistan’s ecommerce industry is something we’ve talked about previously. In a growing market, inculcating trust is how you get people to move away from traditional sales channels. Unfortunately, the tough competition and dire need to differentiate has resulted in online outlets ruining their goodwill for publicity.
Yesterday, we covered a story where we informed our readers about a sale on Bytes.PK. In the sale, 99 products were on sale for 9 rupees each. The true items of interest were a selection of mobile phones by Lenovo, Doogee and Rivo. However, as 9 PM struck, so did a steady stream of low ratings and angry comments on social media.
Apparently, the only things that people had any success in purchasing were mobile phone covers and other items of lesser value. Users complained of the mobile phones going out of stock as soon as the sale started, coupons not working, low inventory level warnings at the final stage of checkout and a host of other issues.
We asked readers on our Facebook page about the sale and the response was overwhelmingly negative. Here are some responses reproduced as received.
Akram Ali: Mobiles were not available and everything else was…coupon expired I tried at exactly 9:01 to 9:10 pm
Abbas Jeraj: It was a SCAM deal. A cheap tactics to bring traffic to your site without being aware of its aftermaths. Customer’s reviews matter a lot so as the word of mouth. This horrible experience will be propagated for long and will make sure to ruin their reputation as much as possible.
Syed Waqas Munir: Exact 9:00 pm py First 3 Mobiles from the list had no ADD to Cart Option
We should mention that this mirrors our own experience with the sale so it’s definitely not a case of sour grapes for these people. While personally we didn’t really think anyone in their right minds would sell smartphones for Rs 9, the problem is that it’s exactly what was promised and not delivered.
This isn’t an isolated case either. Earlier this year, we saw TechMela and it also had its fair share of criticism for a complete breakdown of the checkout process for products that had significant discounts.
It seems like either ecommerce stores are starting to mislead the public to get some cheap publicity or are simply underestimating the Pakistani spirit for a good deal. Either present a huge issue.
As we said, trust is a key factor in online shopping. Let’s assume both Daraz and Bytes.pk simply ran into technical issues or went out of stock soon after the sales began. What does it say about their estimation skills? Are 100 happy customers and 10,000 disgruntled ones an acceptable outcome? Why is there no clarity about the stock that goes on sale?
Maybe if people feel like they have been ripped off and proceed to comment angrily for hours after your sale has ended, it’s not such publicity after all. In the hours after the sale ended, Bytes.Pk’s Facebook rating dropped to 3.5.
The Need For Accountability in Pakistani Ecommerce Market:
Flash sales and mega discount offers are great for publicity but an oft ignored aspect is the number of registrations they bring in. For example, even if a sale has 10 items in stock, thousands will register just for the chance to win one of them. And if you conveniently forget to mention inventory levels, you could farm a ton of information in a single evening.
This now becomes the responsibility of the authorities. No industry can skate by unregulated and ecommerce is no different. Most of us in technology circles have first hand knowledge of defective products, abysmal customer service and misconduct from even the biggest names in Pakistani ecommerce.
Until the government establishes a framework that governs behavior and a clear process and dedicated channel for investigating complaints, the trust built in the online shopping industry could melt away. However, we don’t need the traditional government oversight on this sector. Simply taxing is not what’s needed. What we need is for the authorities to truly recognize the potential of this industry and draft regulations that protect the consumer while adding a layer of security for stores as well.
The ecommerce market in Pakistan is worth tens of millions of dollars but it’s still nascent. Each stunt like this will hamper growth and have serious repercussions in the short as well as the long term. So just to sum it all up, here’s what we think should happen:
- Government should introduce a barrier for entry to the ecommerce market. Not like the one on the fintech sphere but rather something that just acts as a filter. Consumers need to know that they can trust the shops they are buying from.
- Money back and refund policies should be made mandatory. This is something already in place in other countries so it’s nothing too drastic.
- An appeals and complaints process should be formalized to resolve issues between stores and customers. Small claim courts similar to the one in developed countries could be set up for this purpose.
- Whatever entity governs ecommerce should be in CONSTANT contact with store owners and all stakeholders. A delicate balance needs to be struck between regulations and free market activity.
What do you think? Are you firmly against government intervention? If yes, what’s your proposed solution? Do you have any other suggestions as to how the ecommerce space can be improved? Let us know in the comments below!