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Nnenna Okoye: How technology shapes online retail in Nigeria

Nnenna Okoye is a beauty enthusiast and CEO of online beauty retail store Youtopia beauty, which specializes in selling hard to find beauty products mainly for African skin. She bagged a beauty certification from a renowned beauty school, The Beauty Academy in London, where she specialised in skincare. In this interview, she speaks on how Nigeria’s online retail industry is being shaped by technology.

 

What are your thoughts on Nigeria’s beauty sector and online retail business?

Nigeria’s beauty sector is expanding and thriving. Amidst economic challenges, the sector has maintained its growth amongst other industries. The demand for skin care, oral care, hair and makeup products has soared. This has thus made the business of beauty a very lucrative business in Nigeria.

Similarly, online transactions have become a dominant trend in Nigeria. There is no doubt that shopping online is very convenient for people. Individuals can shop from any and every location, provided there is internet connection and access to a computer, tablet device or Smartphone. Moreover, online shopping allows people to easily compare products, prices and items across shops online to validate if a product seen on a particular shops website is more affordable or better than the other and vice versa.

 

Why and how did you get into an online beauty retail business?

Online retail in Nigeria has evolved. It is the latest way of buying items on the internet by shoppers all over the Nigeria. I noticed that there were not a lot of options in Nigeria and many people relied on products sold abroad, myself included. Skincare products were not largely sold online compared to makeup and hair products. So I decided to make it easier for people looking for very specific brands by starting an online retail business that focuses more on skin care, although not neglecting hair and makeup products.

The online beauty store also offers a free online Virtual Consultation. A skincare consultation set up to help as many people as possible suffering with skin problems like acne. These severe skin problems lead to low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Thus, the aim of the online consultation is to reach a broader audience; people from different parts in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

 

What do you think is the role of technology in your industry?

Technology has made online shopping a convenient, fast, accessible and stress free experience for customers.

It provides businesses with the platform to understand the needs of their customers and better satisfy those needs. No doubt a happy, satisfied and returning customer leads to more profit for a business. Through interactive and personalized product displays, online retail has been able to thrive.

The evolution of technology within the retail and e-commerce sector is shaping how consumers behave and interact with different brands. For instance, when customers make an online transaction, the retailer gets data about the customer. This data includes the type and number of products a particular customer purchased. An accumulation of this information enables the retailer to have an understanding of the pattern of inventory flow of products and this helps in getting the required items and avoids preferred products to be out of stock.

 

What are the challenges involved in this kind of business?

Many Nigerians still find online shopping risky due to card fraud and fake products. Online security concern is certainly an important consideration for customers when selecting an online retailer. For this reason, many people disregard online transactions.

Moreover, some customers prefer the in-store experience. They require the advice of sales assistants. These type of shoppers want to touch, see, and test products personally. “Customers always want to know what they are buying. They want more than product descriptions. Unfortunately, online shopping is not able to allow them do so. Thus, in order to serve these customers, a physical store was opened in Lagos Nigeria.

Another challenge is the cost incurred from products being damaged while out on delivery and the cost of paying for the logistics that has gone into delivering a product, which is then returned.

 

What makes your business, Youtopia Beauty, different from other online beauty retailers?

Most of all products displayed and sold have been tried and tested by me. It is very important that a beauty retailer knows exactly what they are selling. Customers deserve the best. Quality, trusted products should make the cut.

Also good customer service sets Youtopia beauty apart from other businesses. Customer service is key in sustaining business growth especially when a high percentage of consumers will always pay for a better customer service experience. Although an online retail business, Youtopia Beauty ensures that orders are processed correctly, transactions occur smoothly and customers are asked feedback regarding purchased items.

 

What are your long term goals of your business.

I will continue selling products that solve skin problems to help people overcome challenges that they never thought would be possible.

Furthermore, Youtopia Beauty aims to reach as many women as possible through the expansion of online and physical beauty stores across African countries. Youtopia also plans to produce its own line of targeted skincare products specifically designed for black skin that will be distributed across Africa and the rest of the world.