Ecommerce in Ghana is both growing and changing. Even as it continues to grow exponentially around the world, its adoption in Ghana is also on the rise.
Several factors influence the degree to which online businesses are successful in a country. They include Internet speeds and penetration, payment platforms and solutions, ecommerce software, delivery and logistics management, addressing systems, favourable regulatory frameworks and a whole lot more.
The more data available, the easier it is to make good decisions. To this end, we decided to undertake a 2020 study of ecommerce in Ghana. We believe this might be the largest study of its kind conducted so far and we hope you find it insightful.
To quickly find a section you’re interested in, simply click on that section in the table of contents below.
The data in this report has been gathered almost entirely from open source or publicly available locations. We started out by gathering as many companies as we could find mainly from Google Search with regards to the sale of various products.
For example, searching for “buy shoes” or “buy mobile phone” would bring a list of links for that search query. Some of these links would be informational articles, eg. Wikipedia, and others did not pertain to Ghana. We sifted these companies and links out of our data.
Starting with a list of 311 companies, we further eliminated 165 of them. Some didn’t have shopping carts at all, meaning you couldn’t add products to a cart and checkout (144).
Others did have shopping carts but no listed products on the site to purchase (18). Finally, there were those who had shopping carts and also had products to sell, but no means of payment to complete an order (3 of them).
Our final list of 146 companies was a varied one with many businesses, both big and small.
There is a group of sites on which a tremendous amount of business is transacted. These are mainly classified and marketplace websites where ads are posted by sellers.
Although there are variances in the definition of ecommerce, a lot of business that happens on the Internet does not actually qualify as ecommerce. Oxford defines ecommerce as “Commercial transactions conducted electronically on the Internet.”
Shopify, one of the largest ecommerce providers in the world, has an article on ecommerce where they state:
“Ecommerce, also known as electronic commerce or internet commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet, and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions.” – Shopify
Classifieds and marketplaces were excluded from our study as they do not facilitate financial transactions online and rather recommend you connect with or contact the seller of an item directly.
History of ecommerce in Ghana
The first ever ecommerce website in Ghana was eshopafrica.com. It was founded by a lovely English lady called Cordelia Salter-Nour in 1999, with the website launching officially in February of 2001.
The site dealt in products mostly manufactured in Ghana like baskets, carvings, jewellery, kente cloth and collectibles. They received lots of international coverage, especially due to the unique and unusual coffins they displayed and sold from their website.
The amazing story of eShopAfrica.com is that of four wonderful expatriate women: Cordelia Salter, technical member, Tine Knott, marketing member, Trish Graham, products member and Kawther El Obeid, business member coming together from different fields of endeavour and working from home to create what one IT professional at the launch remarked ‘is the most practical example of ecommerce yet to come from Ghana’. – Computer and Technology News
Whilst it’s easy to set up an ecommerce website in just about 24 hours today, everything 20 years ago was much more difficult and much more expensive. Actinic Software Ltd. (acquired by Oxatis S.A) provided the ecommerce software for eShopAfrica.com as at 2005.
They accepted Visa and MasterCard payments via WorldPay and PayPal. Because Africa was and still is considered a high risk location, they had to pay higher transaction charges to accept card payments. Deliveries were done in partnership with DHL.
Cordelia spoke at AITEC (African Information & Communication Technology Exhibition & Conference) in May 2003 on the topic “eCommerce in Africa – Making it Happen”
It’s a terrific overview of the ecommerce industry and the problems they faced almost two decades ago. Sadly, a lot of the problems she states are still yet to be solved.
Since then, many other ecommerce sites, have come and gone with new ones launching regularly. Past players include: shopafrica53.com, afrochiconline.com, africaretail.com, tisu.com.gh, ahonya.com and mogoogi.com.
Current players include jumia.com.gh, superprice.com, kikuu.com.gh melcomonline.com, zoobashop.com and a lot more.
83.5% of ecommerce websites in our study are less than 10 years old with the average age of their domains being around 5 years. Jumia.com.gh for example recently celebrated their 8th anniversary internationally although they’ve been in Ghana for only 6 years.
Generally speaking, some industries lend themselves more to doing business online than others. That has to do with the fact that it’s really easy to startup a business online than traditionally.
For other industries, delivering their products nationally or even world wide makes ecommerce an appealing option. So we wanted to know:
Which categories have the highest representation of ecommerce sites?
Grouping the sites by categories, the fashion industry came out on top. This included all those into clothing, shoes and fashion accessories.
In second place was the electronics industry, covering laptops, phones and other electrical gadgets.
Superstores, or websites that sold a bit of everything (like jumia.com.gh, kikuu.com.gh and melcomonline.com) came in third.
Baby and toys, food and groceries, and miscellaneous (sites with a very low representation) rounded up the top 5.
The top 3 categories actually lined up with other international data we found where fashion and electronics were the most patronized shopping categories online.
Although books and entertainment are highly patronized online products worldwide, this wasn’t reflected in our data by the number of stores in those categories.
Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world today, got started out in books and then entertainment categories.
Popular ecommerce websites
The popularity of a website is largely correlated with the number of visitors accessing that website regularly. The more visitors to your website, the more popular you are.
However, the only accurate way to identify the number of visitors to a site is to have access to their analytics software. Without access to that data, we relied on Alexa and SimilarWeb, two traffic and analytics companies to help us.
Their methodology for identifying the amount of traffic to a site is less accurate, but is a useful starting point for our discussion.
Which Ghanaian ecommerce website is the most popular?
Out of the top 50 most trafficked websites in Ghana, jumia.com.gh was the most popular ecommerce site, found in position 19.
Based on Alexa’s rankings, the top 10 most popular Ghanaian ecommerce sites are:
How does that translate into visitors and traffic? Jumia’s top ranking position brings them approximately 1.38 million visitors a month, according to SimilarWeb.
Frankotrading.com was in second position with 223,000 visitors a month and superprice.com rounded up the top 3 with 134,000 visitors a month.
As you can see from the graph above, Jumia’s position is so dominant as the most popular ecommerce website in Ghana that they have more visitors than the other top 6 websites combined.
What about international sites?
Both SimilarWeb and Alexa showed a few international sites that were popular in Ghana. These included Amazon.com, Aliexpress.com, Alibaba.com and others which we had never even heard of.
Many of these sites are doing a great job of tailoring their international websites to local users.
Not only does Amazon ship to Ghana, but they customize all their prices and shipping cost in Ghana Cedis as well. They even estimate import fees you might incur.
Whilst we do believe some of them are very popular in Ghana, because they aren’t Ghanaian websites, registered in Ghana or specifically tailored for Ghana, we excluded them.
Traffic from Ghana to these websites usually makes up less than 1% of their visitors. This means that what happens in Ghana hardly influences their business decisions.
Where do their website visitors come from?
There are actually quite a few sources of traffic. Some from organic searches in Google, others from social media campaigns, some from email marketing campaigns, referrals from other websites, and also direct traffic.
On average, the most popular sites had 52.67% of all their visitors coming from Google Search. This was followed by Direct visitors (38.05%), Mail (4.07%), Social (2.65%), Referrals (2.15%) and finally Display ads (0.4%)
Considering the amount of time and money invested in social media, it is quite interesting to note its relatively low contribution of traffic to these websites.
Probably the most defining factor of ecommerce is the actual ability to place your order and make your payment electronically.
As defined by Oxford, ecommerce refers to:
Commercial transactions conducted electronically on the Internet.
So let’s discuss the various payment methods used by online shops in Ghana.
Firstly, all the sites in our study had at least one payment method, with some having as many as 4.
Of these various payment methods, they can be categorized into online and offline payments.
Online payments constitute all payment methods where payment for your order is completed right on the website and confirmed automatically.
Offline payments on the other hand refer to all payment methods where the payment cannot be immediately confirmed online. This is due to the fact that the payment method is not integrated into the website’s systems.
For example, if you place an order on a website and the payment method you select requires you to enter your payment details, leading to the amount being deducted instantly from your bank or mobile money account and the website instantly confirming that your payment has been received, that is usually an online payment method.
On the other hand, if the payment method you select requires you to pay in cash, or manually transfer the amount to a particular bank account or mobile money wallet, that is an offline payment method as the website cannot instantly confirm that your payment has been made.
Of the payment methods offered by the sites in our study, only 34.1% of them were online payments. The majority were offline, requiring intervention from either you or the support team of the site to complete your order.
Most sites had a combination of offline and online payment methods, although 70 sites (47.9%) did not have any online payment options at all.
The most popular offline payment method offered was cash! This encompassed both cash on delivery payments and cash payments in store.
The second most popular offline payment method was Mobile Money. This referred to direct payments to any of the 3 mobile money wallets being MTN Mobile Money, AirtelTigo Money and Vodafone Cash.
In third position was Bank Transfer, where a client transfers or deposits the order amount into a bank account.
One interesting option we encountered was a store which provided its shoppers outside Ghana the option to pay via WorldRemit.
Disclaimer: There is a lot of innovation going on in the payments arena. 2 companies in particular have worked hard in bringing the offline bank transfer payment option online.
This payment option is limited currently to Nigeria where bank transfers are one of the most popular methods of payment. We hope to see the same innovation in the Ghanaian online payments space soon.
So now we know about offline payment options offered by ecommerce websites in Ghana. But we wanted to find out in how many cases offline payments featured as a backup option or as the main payment method for these sites.
We were pleased to discover that the majority of sites in our study offered at least one online payment method, 52.1% to be exact.
We do hope the rest integrate at least one online payment method for their customers. That would allow for a seamless online ordering process from beginning to end.
Of the sites that offered online payments, 84.2% offered a single option whilst 13.2% offered 2 options. Only 2 sites (2.6%), shopayamorrison.com and yevuclothing.com offered 3 or more online payment options.
It was interesting to note that of the 12 websites with 2 or more online payment options, 83.3% offered PayPal whilst 50% offered Shopify payments.
Most of these shops were in the fashion industry and targeted not only Ghanaian but international customers as well.
Were there any sites that went all in on online payments? Did any sites offer zero offline payment methods? We found 27 of them, 18.5% of the sites in our study.
Which online payment platforms are the most popular in Ghana?
The answer was quite clear. Out of the 90 sites in our study that had online payments, 23 processed those payments via SlydePay. PayPal (17), Flutterwave (12), expressPay (8) and Hubtel (7) rounded out the top 5.
We came across 17 payment methods in total which you’ll find below listed in the order of their popularity:
- The Teller
- Jumia Pay
- Amazon Pay
You might notice from the list that some payment platforms listed aren’t available to Ghanaians. PayPal, Shopify, Amazon Pay and Stripe are all payment methods you can’t sign up for from Ghana.
The sites using them might have someone based outside the country to help them with that. Or the owners opened the account when they traveled abroad.
GH-Link cards and online shopping in Ghana
Setting aside mobile money payments for a moment, card payments in Ghana are dominated by Visa and MasterCard. There are locally issued debit cards via GH-Link of which eZwich is an example. They are issued by various banks.
Whilst hopefully their adoption may increase in the near future, they are currently accepted on most ATMs and also via some of the Ghanaian online payment processors.
Cost of ecommerce websites
If you have a great product or service you want to sell online, you might want to know how much it costs to launch and manage an ecommerce website.
Whilst we’ve covered website costs in Ghana before, there are quite a few areas to touch on specifically in this case.
For a standard .com domain (ideal for an online shop), that will usually cost between GHc60 and GHc200/year.
If you prefer a .com.gh domain which is more expensive, you could be looking at anywhere between GHc250/year (if you purchase it directly from the registrar and up to GHc850/year elsewhere.
Some prefer a newer and more specific .store domain. These can cost anywhere between GHc300 and GHc600/year.
Do note though that domain name costs are yearly. They aren’t one time. A domain name is more ‘rented’ than it is purchased.
With a domain name selected, the next cost to consider is the cost of hosting your website. This can be a little confusing because there are many different types of hosting.
There’s cloud hosting, managed hosting, dedicated hosting, VPS hosting and shared hosting, to name the main types. We recommend discussing with your website designer or team before purchasing hosting to ensure it meets any needed criteria.
If you go with a paid and proprietary platform like Shopify, you won’t have to worry about hosting because they provide great cloud hosting.
The same goes for Wix, Squarespace or BigCommerce. One possible downside is that you would be ‘locked’ inside their system with no easy way out.
The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies have many packages ranging from GHc150/month to a high of GHc1,800/month.
If your website won’t be developed on a proprietary platform, then you’ll need hosting. Your website designer may provide this (depending on the terms of their package) or it can be purchased from a hosting company.
Will your shop be something really small for selling just a few products? Although not usually ideal, you can start out with a shared hosting package.
That would run you between GHc30/month to GHc150/month (local hosting companies can get you even lower prices) or a VPS package between GHc100/month and GHc500/month.
For certain large and powerful sites with lots of features and functionality, they usually need to consider a dedicated server or a cloud hosting package. A dedicated server doesn’t come cheap though, usually starting from about GHc1,000/month to GHc4,000+/month.
At the moment, cloud hosting provides one of the most popular options as it can scale and grow as you need it. You can start small from less than GHc100/month to GHc6,000+/month, depending on how powerful a platform you need.
Once you have your domain name and hosting platform considered, the design of your site comes next. If you’re designing your website yourself or with a builder of some sort, then it’s probably not going to cost you too much.
If you prefer to have a professional website designer create your site, it will depend on the size, complexity and features you require.
We studied the top 50 website designers in Ghana and of the 8 that mentioned the price of their ecommerce packages, the average cost was GHc3,227.
It was a range though, from a low of GHc1,000 to a high of GHc6,000. These are for small to medium-sized websites which aren’t entirely custom.
An example of our own ecommerce website pricing can be found below:
If you want a very large and complex site, you’re going to need a quote from a web design firm.
Another cost that shouldn’t be overlooked is the ongoing maintenance cost of your website. A firm or developer may provide you with ongoing service for your online shop.
This may include activities like adding new products, editing existing information, updating pricing, maintaining the platform and technology, etc.
Maintenance packages vary depending on the amount of work to be done, but can range between GHc50/month to GHc1,000/month or more.
Payment gateway costs
As long as your ecommerce site is going to be accepting payments for products and services, another cost to keep in mind is that of your payment processor.
All payment processors charge a transaction fee on every payment processed through their system. This is usually a percentage of between 2% and 5%.
Some charge a flat fee in addition to the percentage, a setup fee to get you onto their platform, an ongoing monthly fee for the use of their service or a combination of all four.
We’ve broken down the fees charged by the 10 best payment gateways in Ghana for you here if you’d like more information on that.
One slightly unusual arrangement in the modern era is that of Shopify. They have a payment processor which is only available to businesses in America and 15 other developed countries.
If you do not use their payment processor, Shopify charges you an additional percentage of all your transactions, besides what your processor charges.
This percentage ranges between 2% and 0.5%, depending on the package you’re on. So you might end up paying out 5% of all your revenue as transaction fees if Shopify charges you 2%, in addition to your choice of payment processor also charging you 3%.
That’s something to consider if you desire to go with Shopify’s platform.
The last cost has to do with SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Having an ecommerce website is good. But having an ecommerce website that ranks number one for the products or services you sell is exceptionally great.
As we’ll discuss below, some of the businesses in our study have websites that receive over GHc230,000/month in traffic all because they’ve invested in their website’s SEO. That is literally GHc230,000/month in marketing expenses that they don’t have to pay, saving them millions of cedis each year.
SEO is a very wide and complex field and is certainly not cheap. It does have the ability to pay for itself many times over so we recommend you consider that in the cost of your ecommerce website.
Ecommerce shops and profitability
With the world becoming more and more digitalized and the Internet playing a larger part in our lives as it gets faster, a lot more businesses come online. But is it worth it? Are ecommerce shops making good money being online?
We ran into a real pickle trying to answer this question, for a few reasons.
The first had to do with the fact that most Ghanaian businesses do not share their financials with the world. If you do not have access to the financial statements of a company, it is close to impossible to determine if they are profitable or not.
You will find a few companies that make some type of financial disclosure although we can’t independently verify these. For example, GoodLuckAfrica states that according to their 2017 financial statements filed with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), their turnover was close to GHc4,000,000.
Whilst this doesn’t give a clear picture into their profitability, it’s closer than can be achieved with most other companies.
Apart from voluntarily publishing financial statements, the other source was publicly traded companies who are required by law to publish their financial statements. Sadly, none of the companies listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange are into ecommerce.
The second problem was with the concept of profitability itself. Interestingly, not every company wants their website to be profitable.
Amazon.com, the largest ecommerce website in the world by far, is widely known for hardly making any profit despite soaring revenues.
Whilst this is technically accurate, it’s also a bit misleading. Amazon makes a lot of money from their business which they could declare as profit if they wanted to. Instead, they reinvest every dime they have in order to expand and grow the company even more.
Jumia is trying to replicate this model in Africa. They continue to raise lots of money and invest in the company to continue its expansion. Despite this, they continually record sizeable losses each year.
Just last year, they raised $196 million via an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.
A different angle is that many ecommerce sites are the digital store front for an offline business. Many of them use their sites more as marketing tools to generate leads and customers, than as standalone profit centres.
As long as the online store helps them sell the offline products, they’re happy. They do not consider their ecommerce operations separate from the rest of their business.
So while the profitability question is answered differently for each business, the financials are universally opaque. We hope to revisit this question one day when we have much more access to the needed information.
Ratings, reviews and problems with ecommerce
With the world becoming more and more social online, reviews and ratings have taken centre stage in deciding between competing options.
If one online store has great reviews and ratings whilst another has poor ones, it usually makes your decision easier.
We wanted to know how Ghanaian ecommerce stores fared with respect to reviews and ratings.
Quite a few sites provide such reviews and ratings, including Google My Business (GMB), GhanaYello and Facebook. One of the most popular review sites in the world, Yelp, isn’t available in Ghana yet.
Our review data was based on Google My Business entries. These are the most popular review source in Ghana at the moment.
There are two points we’d like you to consider with respect to the data we gathered. The first is the fact that most reviews are of the businesses themselves and not solely their ecommerce operations.
So a company may have a shopping mall offline but also have an ecommerce operation online. The reviews and ratings encompass people’s experience with the business, whether that was offline or online.
Another issue to consider is the fact that some businesses in our study had multiple locations in Google My Business, which means they had separate reviews and ratings for each location. We combined these where possible to gain an overall score for them.
Of the businesses in our study, we found that more than three-quarters of them (76%) had received a review or rating in Google My Business.
The average rating for the businesses was 4.3. Business ratings ran from a perfect score of 5.0 all the way down to 1.6.
The top 5 businesses accounted for more than half of all the reviews received. The other 106 business received only 37.9% of the reviews.
Palace came out on top with regards to total reviews received at 6,824 followed by MaxMart at 4,397. CompuGhana, Franko Trading and Jumia had 1,017, 747 and 668 reviews respectively.
All other things being equal, the more reviews your business receives, the harder it is to maintain a high rating. More than half of those receiving a 5-star rating had less than 5 reviews.
Among the top 5 by number of reviews, there was a direct correlation with the ratings they received also. They maintained the same positions when sorted by rating.
Do businesses with an offline presence receive better ratings than those with only an online presence?
We found 24 business that were purely online businesses where as the other 87 had both an online business and an offline presence.
We found quite a large decline in consumer satisfaction with purely online business as compared to businesses that had an offline presence.
Businesses with physical locations got a lot of positive reviews largely centered around how nice their location was or the quality of products they had available.
Their average increased from the overall of 4.3 to a rating of 4.4 whilst that of purely online businesses dropped significantly to 3.5.
For online only businesses, there was much less correlation between the number of reviews and the rating they received. In actual fact, some of the online only businesses with the highest number of reviews received the lowest scores in our data.
What are the major problems faced by customers of ecommerce websites?
To understand the significant difference in satisfaction levels between solely online ecommerce sites and those with an offline presence, we decided to dive into the reviews by customers.
We went through over 1,000 reviews and here’s what we found.
The number one problem customers complained of was customer service. 39.3% of all the complaints we found had to do with the business not picking their calls, not returning their calls, not responding to emails, not sending notifications or agents being rude or unhelpful.
In second position was delivery with 38.1% of the complaints. These included complaints of items never being delivered, items being delivered late, delivery personnel refusing to deliver orders and orders being marked as delivered when they hadn’t been.
Complaints about product quality were the third largest group with 8.6%. Customers complained about wrong items being delivered, faulty items, low quality items and outright fake products instead of the originals.
7.8% of clients had problems with returns and refunds and that was the fourth largest category of complaints. Some businesses flatly refused to accept a return whilst others refused to refund payments for orders.
Businesses that did accept to refund payments took a long time to do so whilst others delayed in picking up orders marked for return.
The other 3 classes of complaints encompassed alleged fraud, tracking issues and payment issues, although they made up only 6.2% of all issues reported.
You might notice that many of the reviews we’ve included actually encompassed multiple issues. A client having a problem with a wrong product delivered would trigger a request for a refund which ends up with customer service giving them the runaround for 2 weeks.
Whilst most of the reviews touched on a single issue (54.8%), some did have 2, 3 and even 4 different categories of problems in their complaints.
For ecommerce providers who want to give the best online shopping experience possible, the first thing to tackle would be customer service. 59% of all the negative reviews complained of poor customer service.
Closely behind in second place are the delivery and logistics problems which plagued 57.3% of the reviewers.
Product quality and ensuring that customers receive the exact product they ordered the way it was described on the website was third. It affected 12.9% of customers.
What are the problems faced by owners of ecommerce websites?
It turns out that customers aren’t the only ones facing problems when it comes to ecommerce. As an ecommerce and website design company ourselves, we know that business owners are also dealing with a number of challenges.
Those who desire to cater to international customers have issues with expensive international delivery costs and difficulty in accepting international payments.
But for the large majority of ecommerce sites catering to Ghanaians, their number one problem is the inability to get customers to use their websites. This isn’t entirely the fault of customers obviously, but it is still a significant hurdle.
Many customers who find products they like online take the transaction offline via phone calls, DMs and WhatsApp. And considering the preferred payment method is cash on delivery, they end up skipping the website altogether.
One of the main reasons for this is the high incidence of fraud in Ghana and lack of effective mitigating systems.
For example, if you complete a payment for a product online via mobile money, there is no possibility of a chargeback via the mobile money provider. Your money would be gone forever.
Similarly, many ecommerce sites have no refund or return policies. For those that do, the requirements to qualify are stringent and there’ll end up being a lot of back and forth before an amicable solution is ever reached.
Because of these trust issues, and a few others, a lot of Ghanaians like to shop in a way that they have control over the experience. Be that talking directly with someone on the phone or WhatsApp, or only handing money over once they’ve received and inspected the item they ordered.
If you’d like to learn more on how to get customers to buy from your website, our article on that covers the following 9 points:
- Increase website promotion
- Improve the user experience
- Provide sufficient information
- Ensure information is 100% accurate
- Prioritize orders and enquiries through your site
- Offer incentives
- Provide tutorials and education
- Increase trust signals
- Provide multiple payment options
Ecommerce and social media
In the modern age we live in, your online presence as a business is not complete without a presence on social media. The volume of commerce that takes place via social media most likely dwarfs the commerce taking place through online websites in Ghana.
Since Facebook was founded, it has been the practice of a lot of individuals and businesses to test the waters with a social media page first. Growth in the enterprise then leads to expansion with a website and probably online shopping.
Social media is a very useful marketing tool that supplements the other marketing efforts a business might employ. We wanted to know:
How many ecommerce businesses in Ghana also had a presence on social media?
We based the analysis on the ‘big six’ social networks being Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. These are all very different types of social networks that appeal to different groups of people.
97.3% of the ecommerce businesses in our study had a presence on at least one social network. 4.8% were located on all 6 networks, 14.4% on 5 networks with the majority of 24.7% on 4 networks.
Only 2.7% of the businesses were not found on any social networks at all.
Facebook was by far the most popular social network, with 95.2% of all the businesses in our study having a page there. Instagram came in second with 79.5% and Twitter third with 66.4%.
YouTube had 31.5% of businesses with a channel there, whilst Pinterest and LinkedIn tied in 5th position with 22.6%.
Whilst Facebook dominated in the total number of businesses on their platform, that is only a minor portion of the story. We went ahead to check the share each network contributed based on the number of followers.
In that scenario, Facebook followers accounted for 94.3% of all social media followers of these businesses. Instagram accounted for 5.3%, Twitter for 0.3% and the other 3 networks were basically rounding errors.
Diving into each network individually, jumia.com.gh came out on top for Facebook with well over 18.3 million followers. The runner-up position was food.jumia.com with over 748,000 followers and telefonika.com was in third place with over 507,000 followers.
Jumia.com.gh skewed the numbers tremendously, garnering more than half of all the followers on Facebook in our study.
We were very surprised by this so just to make sure we hadn’t made a mistake, we double-checked and confirmed that this was Jumia’s Ghana-specific page.
The problem though is that according to data available online, there are about 7 million Facebook users in Ghana. So we were left wondering where Jumia got the other 11.3 million followers from, assuming that every Ghanaian Facebook user liked their page.
Instagram was up next and hairsenta.com topped with 160,000 users, followed by kikuu.com.gh with 141,000 and in third position was ishop-ghana.com with 106,000.
Jumia.com.gh was back on top when discussing Twitter with 15,800 followers. Melcomonline.com and flyafricaworld.com made their first appearances with 14,400 and 5,167 followers respectively.
Jumia.com.gh maintained their top position on YouTube also with 2,600 subscribers. Kikuu.com.gh followed with 682 subscribers and goodluckafrica.com rounded up the top 3 with 649 subscribers.
LinkedIn had flyafricaworld.com, hubtel.om and melcomonline.com being the most popular ecommerce businesses with 11,764, 2,103 and 1,876 followers respectively.
When it came to Pinterest, a brand new set of winners emerged. Pinterest is a very visual social network and we weren’t surprised to note that 80% of the top 5 were in the fashion industry.
Christiebrownonline.com topped with 1,001 followers. Lynnfashiongh.com was second with 941 followers whilst ohemaohene.com was third with 475.
Interestingly, we came across 11 websites in our study that had links to a now defunct social network, Google+.
Google+ was created by Google in 2011 as a 3rd attempt to take on Facebook in the social media space. Because of low user engagement relative to their targets, a change in strategy and also disclosed software flaws that could lead to data breaches, it was shutdown in April of 2019.
Links to this social network no longer work and the presence of the Google+ icon gives rise to doubts over how regularly updated a particular site is. We recommend that the 7.5% of sites remove or replace Google+ with a social network that is alive and active.
What about other social networks?
Whilst WhatsApp is technically a messaging app, it is more than a social network to most people. The majority of businesses out there have a WhatsApp line or account as it is one of the most preferred ways for customers to contact businesses.
Not only that, but with the introduction of their catalog feature, along with debuting payment options in Brazil and other countries, WhatsApp is actually becoming a more and more functional platform for small businesses.
WhatsApp’s setup does not lend itself to easy analysis as all communication is private, but we hope to revisit this if things change in the future.
One social network that has exploded in popularity recently is the video network TikTok. We found 7 businesses in our study that had a TikTok account.
Whilst that is only a small percentage today (4.79%), it may certainly grow in the future. Currently, consumers are enjoying the platform, but wherever consumers are, businesses quickly follow.
Some of the businesses which had a TikTok account included Jumia, HairSenta, Decathlon, Sprogstore and Nallemstore. None of them had more than 4 followers on the platform though, and very little content published.
Ecommerce and SEO
Being popular as a website pushes you up in Google Search results, but the opposite is also true. Being high up in Google Search results helps your website become popular.
Google uses hundreds and hundreds of factors to identify who should rank highly in Google and why. Businesses spend thousands and thousands of dollars in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services, to gain the coveted top spots for various keywords.
Studies have shown that the top 3 spots in Google Search result pages or SERPs account for 75.1% of all the traffic for those searches.
So if you want to be found in Google for the keywords that pertain to your business, you have to aim for the top 3 spots.
Our study shows that the most popular sites have definitely been attacking those positions. A jumia.com.gh result pops up for 1,865 various keywords, according to SEMrush.
Frankotrading.com appears in the top 3 for 415 keywords whilst melcomonline.com does so for 211 keywords.
It’s been said that SEO is not an expense but rather an investment. From our study, it surely does look like that.
For the top 3 positions gained by the various sites, they earn a very significant amount of money in free traffic, or free advertising.
Think of it this way. The traffic cost is the amount of money a business would have to spend on advertising in order to send an equivalent amount of quality traffic their way.
And according to our data, frankotrading.com currently tops the list. They have approximately $42,700 worth of free traffic from Google each month. Jumia.com.gh comes in second at $33,100 and superprice.com third with $5,000.
We cannot tell how much these companies invested in SEO, but we can surely see that Google is rewarding their investment with thousands of dollars of free traffic each and every month.
If you haven’t already, we recommend you contact your SEO firm or agency and have them do an audit of your site. It will be a true eye opener to discover how much (or how little) money your site is earning in free traffic, and which of your competitors are running circles around you, taking all your potential customers.
Popular top level domains
The vast majority of stores in our study use a .com domain name (92.5%). Sadly, only 10 sites, representing 6.8% used a .com.gh domain.
Some of the popular websites that went with the Ghanaian top level domain include jumia.com.gh, kikuu.com.gh, decathlon.com.gh and pisen.com.gh.
In the case of Jumia, Kikuu and Decathlon, these are international brands with websites in multiple countries so it’s understandable they’ve elected to use the top level domain of the country they’re in.
Decathlon are in 45 countries with a website and corresponding top level domain for each.
For others, a .com.gh name is an option when the actual name you want as a .com is already taken. Whatever you want is highly likely to be available and it may help you stand out.
Why aren’t more Ghanaian ecommerce sites using a .com.gh domain?
We may have hit on the reasons in our article here: How much does a website cost in Ghana? where we mentioned the following:
- They currently go for about 5 times the cost of a regular domain name
- The process isn’t instant.
- Payments aren’t completed online.
- You may not be able to easily search for the availability of the domain you desire.
- You don’t get a console or account to manage your domain.
- There are restrictions on who can purchase one.
- And you sometimes need to submit company registration documents for the entity you are registering.
Whilst .com domains are the most popular in the world, the right marketing and policies in place can have .com.gh domains sky rocket in popularity.
If you take South Africa, Nigeria or even the United Kingdom, you will notice a huge patronage of their top level domains (.co.za, .com.ng and .co.uk respectively).
That’s because they have removed all the blockages listed above. Many times, they even sell their top level domains for up to 60% less than a regular .com domain.
Platforms and technology
There are many different ways of creating ecommerce websites. Because of the complexity, almost all of them require the use of a database for storing and retrieving information.
You are unlikely to find a functioning ecommerce website built in let’s say HTML or PHP alone. And that’s why a majority of the sites in our study used a Content Management System, 80.9% to be precise.
For those that didn’t use a CMS, we found various technologies or frameworks used included CodeIgniter, Laravel, Ruby on Rails and Tengine.
Content Management Systems can be divided into two categories, open source and proprietary CMSes. A CMS is open source if it is available for anyone to download and use free of charge.
The most popular open source CMSes used by the ecommerce sites in our study include WordPress, Magento, Prestashop, OpenCart and Joomla.
On the other hand, all the proprietary CMSes were provided by Software-as-a-Service companies. Most of them provide an entire ecommerce package which includes hosting your website, providing a DIY (Do It Yourself) website builder and support.
The SaaS providers were Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce and Squarespace.
Our study showed that WordPress was the most popular CMS used by far at 64% followed by Shopify at 13.2%. Magento (9.6%), Prestashop (5.3%) and OpenCart (3.5%) rounded out the top 5.
This was backed up by the fact that the best payment processors in Ghana all ensured that you could accept online payments with their plugin for WordPress.
When it came to the other platforms, fewer and fewer payment providers catered for those platforms with plugin integrations ready to go.
For the sake of comparison, we decided to pit WordPress against the rest of the field and it turns out that it had a higher representation than all the other CMSes combined.
Whilst we won’t be doing a comparison of open source and proprietary platforms, we did mention a bit of this in our article titled: How much does a website cost in Ghana?
Are Ghanaian ecommerce websites secure?
WordPress was the dominant CMS used but we were very surprised to discover that not a single one of these popular sites on any open source platform had updated their platform to the latest version, except for the possibility of 6 unknowns.
For example, WordPress 5.4.2 was released on the 10th of June, 2020 and almost a month later, none of the sites in our study had upgraded to it with the exception of 3 where we couldn’t detect the particular version.
We found some sites using WordPress 4.4.12, a version that came out well over 2 years ago in October 2017.
The situation was similar with all the other open source CMSes. Out of the 11 sites using Magento, 3 were on the latest major release (2.3) but we were unable to detect if they had updated to the latest minor release which is 2.3.5. All the other Magento sites were on earlier versions.
It’s understandable, especially for large and complex ecommerce websites, that they may not always update to the latest version immediately, given the need to test, ensure backward compatibility with their modules, plugins and custom code.
It is however a best practice to update your website to the latest available version as soon as possible. This is one problem that sites on SaaS (Software-as-a-Servce) platforms don’t have to deal with.
Ecommerce websites on platforms like Wix, Squarespace and Shopify never have to bother with keeping their platforms updated because this is done automatically for them.
If Shopify updates their software or systems, it’s only a matter of hours before every user is on the very latest version.
Some companies provide managed hosting services or maintenance packages which ensure that your website’s platform, plugins, themes and extensions are always updated to the latest version as soon as possible.
Although most sites weren’t updated to the latest version of their software, the majority of ecommerce sites displayed as Secure when accessed. The remaining 21.8% of sites showed a Not Secure browser warning.
This is an issue to be taken seriously as anyone making financial transactions and payments on a website is going to think twice the moment they see any type of warning, especially one that tells them not to enter any payment details as the website might not be secure.
The most obvious reason for a Not Secure warning in the browser is the lack of an SSL by the website. With the current ubiquity of SSLs, we do not believe there is any reason why an ecommerce website shouldn’t have one.
Some websites do have SSLs but sadly, their pages are serving up “mixed content”. This happens when some information is served over a secure SSL connection, whilst other content isn’t.
In this case, the browser cannot vouch for the authenticity of all the content and shows a Not Secure warning, even though an SSL exists.
Hosting options and servers
Shopify came out on top as the number one hosting option for ecommerce websites in our study with an 11.8% share.
This is understandable as they are an amazing ecommerce provider and host all the sites on their platform. You cannot have a Shopify store hosted on any other hosting platform.
GoDaddy, Namecheap, Google, Bluehost, A2 Hosting, Ultrahost Ghana, AWS (Amazon Web Services), Digital Ocean and Dreamhost round out the top 10.
Whilst our method of detection showed Cloudflare as the top hosting provider, they aren’t actually a hosting company nor platform. They are a CDN (Content Distribution Network) and DNS (Domain Name System) provider which distributes content for a website.
Because of the DNS functions they perform, they are able to obfuscate the actual location and IP address from which their clients’ websites are served.
That is certainly a security advantage, alongside mitigating DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, speeding up websites and a whole lot more.
As this is a study about ecommerce in Ghana, we would have hoped to see more websites hosted in Ghana also. We did have two Ghanaian hosting companies in our list though.
Ultrahost Ghana (4.66%) and Stormerhost (0.78%) were the only Ghanaian hosting companies we could identify.
Why weren’t there more? Here are a few possibilities.
- If a Ghanaian hosting company chooses to use Cloudflare or a similar CDN, that site would turn up in our data as hosted by Cloudflare. We wouldn’t know it’s rather hosted by a Ghanaian company.
- Secondly, a Ghanaian web design firm that creates a site on any of the SaaS platforms would not show in our data as being hosted by a Ghanaian company.
Similarly, any Ghanaian hosting company that wasn’t hosting its sites in Ghana wouldn’t show up. We currently do not know of any Ghanaian hosting companies that provide shared hosting on servers located in Ghana.
The majority of small ecommerce websites are located on shared hosting and will simply gravitate to wherever they can find such hosting, even if it’s in the United States.
D-Tech Ghana states that they provide VPS (Virtual Private Servers) and dedicated servers located right here in Ghana. So if you do want to host your website or application in Ghana, you can give them a try.
These are likely available for much larger applications though.
- Finally, advances in technology have led a lot of the hosting world in the direction of cloud hosting. Instead of having a website on a single server, it is hosted on thousands and even millions of servers in the cloud.
The largest cloud hosting providers including Google, Amazon Web Services, Digital Ocean, etc have sunk enormous sums into their infrastructure.
The requirements of a website or the advantages of cloud hosting may take precedence over the company providing the hosting.
Which countries host the most Ghanaian ecommerce websites?
66.4% of all the online shops in our study are hosted in the United States of America. The Netherlands (11.6%) and Germany (4.8%) were second and third respectively.
Whilst a minority of websites were hosted in Europe, there’s actually a very good reason to do so. It isn’t a well known fact but the majority of Ghana’s Internet is routed through Europe.
This means that if your website is located on servers in Europe, your website will load faster to the majority of users in Ghana. Load speeds can be doubled (which is bad) just because your site is located in the United States.
A lot of hosting platforms today do provide options to have your site hosted in Europe. This isn’t the case with most of the SaaS platforms though.
The world has gone mobile first when it comes to the Internet. This means that more people are accessing the web via their mobile phones than they are their laptops and desktops.
Because most phones are under-powered compared to computers, websites tend to load slower and provide a less enjoyable experience.
To provide the best mobile shopping experience possible, some ecommerce businesses have gone a step further and have also created native mobile apps for smartphone users.
Almost a quarter (23.3%) of the businesses in our study had created a mobile app whilst the rest hadn’t.
According to Statcounter Global Statistics, almost 98% of all smartphones in Ghana run either the Android Operating System by Google, or iOS by Apple.
With Google’s operating system running on the vast majority (84.42%) of phones in Ghana, we assumed most apps would be on their platform. Sure enough, almost two-thirds of the apps were Google Apps whilst the other 34.6% were apps for Apple phones and devices.
Were there companies who had decided to go after the entire 98%? Yes, there surely were. More than half of the companies in our study (52.9%) created apps for both platforms. 47.1% created apps for only Google phones.
We didn’t come across any companies who had developed their apps for Apple without developing one for Google’s platform also.
The apps varied in their ratings from users, from apps with no ratings at all to ones which had achieved and held onto 5 stars. On average though, apps had a 4.2-star rating.
Which ecommerce apps were the most popular?
Whilst Google provides data ranges on the number of people installing an app, Apple provides no such guidance.
4 apps in particular were far and away the most popular in our study, garnering 98.5% of all the installations of the 34 apps we had data on.
These apps were for Jumia (over 10 million installs), Decathlon, Kikuu and Jumia Food (all with over 1 million installs each).
These 4 apps are not installed in Ghana only though. They are used and installed by users in many different countries as the companies have a multi-national strategy.
Because there wasn’t a way to accurately measure their Ghanaian users only, we set these 4 apps aside.
Frankotrading.com topped the list of the top 10 Ghanaian ecommerce apps with over 100,000 installs. Superprice.com came in second with over 50,000 installs.
Hubtel.com and thebiblesociety-ghana.org tied for third place with over 10,000 installs each.
But are customers actually using these apps? Or do they go on to be white elephants after their creation?
The fact that someone installs an app and is counted in the installation numbers doesn’t mean they’re still using the app. Google does not reveal the number of active users of apps, unless you’re the app developer.
According to Quettra, the average app loses over 95% of its active users in just 3 months. This means that most apps lose almost their entire user base within just a few months. Very remarkable!
It’s possible for an app that has received 10,000 installations over it’s lifetime to have less than 500 current users. Churn is a very significant problem for mobile apps.
To get the best of both worlds, some of the largest ecommerce websites in the world have taken advantage of advancing browser technology to make their mobile websites respond just like a native mobile app would.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have existed since 2015 with gigantic retailers like Alibaba, AliExpress and Flipkart, India’s largest ecommerce site, all implementing them for their mobile users. Combined, they serve over a billion users with some seeing conversion rates increase by over 80%.
Only 2 sites in our study (1.4%), lynnfashiongh.com and superlovek.com, had implemented PWA technology. We do believe this is highly recommended in Ghana where 3G Internet is still widespread, although broadband speeds and 4G are picking up.
When it comes to the web, faster is almost always better. Studies from Amazon, Google, etc have shown that the longer it takes users to find what they’re looking for, the less likely they are to stay or spend money.
Google states that a one-second delay in mobile load times can impact conversion rates by up to 20%. – Think With Google
So let’s find out, how fast are ecommerce websites in Ghana? For this test, we turned to Google’s PageSpeed Insights. They use an automated tool called Lighthouse for running various audits on websites.
The default results returned are for mobile and the world is going mobile first. For this current iteration though, we decided to stick with desktop load speeds.
We also filtered out sites that had expired since we started our study and pages that were under maintenance or didn’t load any meaningful data.
We found that the two fastest loading sites were up in just 0.7 and 0.9 seconds respectively. On average though, the ecommerce websites in our study loaded in 4.82 seconds.
But how fast is fast enough? A study in 2009 by Akamai (a leader in powering video, dynamic transactions and enterprise applications online) stated that:
…two seconds is the new threshold in terms of an average online shopper’s expectation for a web page to load and 40 percent of shoppers will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site.
But that was in 2009!! They came out with a new study in 2014 and the standard had risen again.
For a growing contingent of e-commerce consumers, the two second wait time is two seconds too long. Regardless of device, they expect pages to load instantly. The expectation for instant page load was the most significant performance development from Akamai’s 2009 study to our 2014 study.
Going by a 2-second load time, only 11.1% of the sites in our study met that threshold.
How did the successful companies achieve that? Some chose to have a splash or landing page with little content to get their home pages to load as fast as possible.
A combination of tactics helped full fledged shopping sites load within 2 seconds. Most implemented caching, CDNs, cloud hosting, lazy loading images, removing render-blocking resources, and more.
If you’d like to improve the speed at which your website loads, we’ve got an article that tackles various points including:
- Poor network
- Web server location
- Site performance and architecture
- No caching systems
- Excessive traffic
- Low quality hosting
- Server misconfigurations
- Huge images and videos added to site
- Outdated technology and software
Does the size of a website affect its load speed?
There was a correlation in our data between heavy sites and load speed. The heavier the website was, usually the longer it took to load. One site that weighed in at 23.1MB took 14.7 seconds to load.
A lazy loading implementation for images is one of many factors that could have helped.
The longest it took a site to load in our study was 16.6 seconds whilst the largest site loaded was 29.6MB. Surely not a site you want to visit if you’re on a limited data plan.
Ecommerce in Ghana has definitely changed a lot over the past 2 decades. Whilst some facets of it have gotten much easier, like the ability to set up an online shop and accept mobile money payments, others are largely the same.
Accepting international payments from abroad with PayPal or Stripe still remains a challenge. Same with shipping products to international customers. Even locally, customers still consider delivery as one of the main problems to be overcome.
Despite all the work that needs to be done, ecommerce keeps growing. And in a post-covid world, that growth will only continue to be exponential.
We look forward to hearing from you with regards to your ecommerce endeavours and helping you where we can.