Julia Zoo

Julia Zoo (eHomemakers): Julia received her BA with a dual major in Education and Sociology from Yonsei University in Seoul. She also attended Assumption University in Bangkok for two semesters as a transfer student in her sophomore year. After graduation she worked as a computer programmer for an IT service company in Seoul, Korea and interned at the United Nations ICT Task Force in 2006. Julia then received a Master’s degree in International Public Policy from New York University Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, where she studied development policy for information communication technology for development (ICT4D).

Market Not Ready

27 Aug

“How should we set our payment method?” Mariko’s question one afternoon led the entire crew at eHomemakers into an intense brainstorming on e-commerce. Mariko, my fellow peace fellow at eHomemakers, was working hard this summer to create a website for the Salaam Wanita project to sell our baskets online.

From the other day’s training session with our e-commerce tech partner, Mariko and I learned quite a bit about various payment methods available to sprouting e-commerce websites. However, the question was its value to a small social enterprise like eHomemakers; that whether the benefit of setting up an e-commerce module would exceed the cost incurred, particularly the licensing fees including set up fee, yearly subscription fee and 3-5% commission for every transaction made.

Surely, our web presence will increase the chance of attracting potential customers previously unreachable to us, allowing maximum impact out of our very tight budget on marketing and sales. Fully equipped in e-commerce, we may expand on our first international order from US this month and increase the order size with automation.

But then again, the cost. We may have to raise our basket price to cover this additional cost. Then, can our customers afford our price? Will they see our e-commerce website as a trust worthy solution to use their credit card? Wait a minute, do they have credit cards in the first place? What do we know about our customers? Our conversation went on. Maybe, it is not just about the cost-benefit analysis at fullz shop, but something that should cover more than that, like, the market readiness.

In many developing countries, the e-commerce market is still not fully ripe. For one, not every household owns a credit card, the most trusted payment method to the majority of online shops out there. From the experience of the Pan-ASEAN e-Mall, an online handicraft shop that accepts only two major credit card payments, the engineer acknowledged that 80-90 percent of their sales come from North America and Australia, in stark contrast to only 10 to 20 percent local sales. The borderless marketing via Internet may end up being confined in an unexpected border called ‘necessary conditions,’ such as the access to a rather expensive payment method. And after all the calculations, a realization comes that the size of the market ‘ready’ for e-commerce is not quite big at all.

In the mean time, the rest, those who cannot afford the e-commerce, are increasingly excluded from the economy. In some sense, they are the orphan population, to whom few private companies get interested in tapping into the market; thus, not many solutions have been developed to invite them into the era of e-commerce. And this is the truth about the dispassionate diagnosis that ‘market is not ready.’

That was our conclusion as well. After our own small computation, we set telegraphic transfer as our one and only solution for online purchase, requiring 50% deposit upon placing an order and payment in full before we ship products. That is quite a hassle of order process compared to a one-stop payment via credit card, which would potentially repel customers. But we would never tell whether the customer would pick up their orders unless we charge a lump sum deposit; in the mean time, our customer would never know whether we are going to actually deliver the product upon receiving 50% deposit. This is a rather sad lose-lose situation, but there is a void of an affordable trust mechanism to prevent this from happening.

Recently, I came across a news article on Tune Money, a new payment solution for e-commerce. In principle, users can just buy a prepaid voucher offline and punch in the numbers at the e-commerce website to check out, setting themselves free from the credit card requirement. Capturing the niche for the marginalized population, the initiative seems very much pro-poor. But still, details remain unknown as to the licensing fees to be charged to the e-commerce shop owners. In early September when more details are available, we shall see whether it is truly geared towards preparing more population to be ready for e-commerce with affordable and trust worthy payment mechanism.

Posted By Julia Zoo

Posted Aug 27th, 2007


  • E-commerce companies are growing the economy of the state….the developed states are getting benefit of it…Anyways…Thank you for that very intelligent and thought provoking post…


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