How online shopping in Uganda works: 5 important things you must know

It’s here and it’s not going anywhere. Online shopping is the future of how you’ll buy and sell stuff. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes, jeans, vegetables or if you want to upgrade your Television, you’ll most likely not walk into Game anymore, but rather enter and click away your order.

But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the thrill of walking into a store perhaps with a family member or a friend, admire stuff you can’t afford, accidentally break a few things or even face the embarrassment of returning stuff at the counter because your budget couldn’t foot it?

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There’s none.

But, for the very first time, you’ll be saved all the traffic jam, the long queues at the counter, the impulse shopping of stuff you didn’t plan to buy, security checks etc. Plus you can brag to your friends about ordering a pair of stocking online and being delivered to your door-step. It’s really cool.

But how does this online shopping work?

#1. Online shopping sites

Just like in the real world, you should know which online retail store you can use to get what you want. We know over 20 online shopping destinations operational in Uganda. We have previously listed 10 websites you can buy and sell stuff in Uganda and 5 places you can order food online in Uganda. That’s exclusive of global stores like Amazon, eBay, Target etc because they just don’t have the sort of infrastructure set up here that will make shopping from them hustle free. Most retailers for instance on Amazon don’t ship to Uganda. Even if they did, the costs of shipping are sometimes twice as much as the product itself. Bad deal.

But Ugandan-based online stores have the home advantage. They have their warehouses located here. They work with logistics and delivery companies that have been operating here for years. They use payments systems that are suited for our local environment. In short, they use what works here.

#2. How online shopping really works

-Usually when you visit an online shopping site like Jumia, you’ll have to browse through a collection of items they have on sale. This is similar to looking through items on supermarket shelves for what you want.

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-Once you have found what you want, you click on a “buy” button. This will add your product into the cart. What is a cart? A cart is that small vehicle you use to transport your stuff to the check-out counter after shopping in the supermarket. But this one is virtual. You can add as many items as your budget can handle into the virtual shopping cart.

-After that you’ll have to proceed to “checkout”. This is similar to walking to the counter to pay for your stuff in the real world super market. Usually for online shopping websites, you’ll need to fill in your personal details such as name, email, phone number and “shipping address” if you are a new customer to the site. But if you are returning customer to a site, this information is already stored in the database, so you don’t have to enter it again. If you are like me, I thought Shipping only means transportation of goods by sea. No. You can even ship using a Boda Boda!

– The last thing you have to do is click on “Place order” or “confirm order” button or an equivalent. But before you do, you have to choose a payment method for the retail to get their money.

#3. Payment methods

This is yet another tricky part although it’s a breeze for global online retailers. International retailers use Master card and Visa credit cards to process online payments. Unfortunately, our market doesn’t support that yet. We know of two local banks that support not credit, but debit cards that work with online shopping. That’s UBA and Cranebank.

However, that doesn’t mean that Ugandan online retailers don’t support Mastercard and Visa cards. Some do and if you have them, then you are sorted.

Other online retailers support Mobile Money options like MTN Mobile Money and Airtel Money.

Big online retailers like Jumia have instead opted for an old school method — Cash-on-delivery. When the goods are delivered to your door-step, that’s when you pay with liquid cash the good old way. OLX, Kaymu also simply connect buyers and sellers who then transact offline.

#4. Delivery methods

The fun about online shopping is that retailers deliver to you — to your home or office or beach. Just relax and that chocolate bar will find you. But online retailers are not like Satellite TV. They don’t reach everywhere. So it’s important to know the scope of delivery that an online retailer ships to.

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Pan-African online retail store, Jumia Uganda for instance promises nationwide delivery. The bummer is that they promise a standard delivery timeline of 5-7 business days. Seriously Jumia. 5-7 days when I can get to Game Luggogo and shop in less than 2 hours!

The Online retailer will deliver to the  “shipping address” you entered while registering with the site.

However, in Uganda, the “shipping address” is a little tricky. Myself, I don’t think I’ve one. But if “the house after the Muvule tree from the main road next to the house with a brown gate and green iron sheets” works, then I have a “shipping address”. Good luck finding me though.

#5. Return Policy

Now if you don’t like a product, found  a defect, changed your mind, received the wrong product, you simply go back to Uchumi or Game and return the product for brick-and-morta stores. What happens with a virtual store whose location doesn’t exist in the real world? And then, do I get my money back? These are very important questions and you should always read the online retailer’s return policy before doing anything else. If they don’t have one, don’t even think about them.

Various retailers have different return policies. Jumia for instance accepts returns within 7 working days after the time of the delivery. The item however must be in its original box or package. It should not have been used or worn and you should have the delivery receipt. They will probably send someone over to pick the item from your premise before handing you a voucher and not cash. You can then use this voucher to buy other items on the retailer’s site.

So there you have it; 5 important things you must know before you start clicking away your online orders. If you have already done some online shopping in Uganda, let us know your experiences in the comments.


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