Business

New research finds corner shops faring well against big box stores in emerging markets

shops

BY BENJAMIN OMOIKE

Today, Flourish Ventures released a new research report showing that corner shops are doing better than predicted despite protracted supply chain issues and big-box and online retail competitors.

The study confirmed better-than-expected sales and that 94 per cent of consumers surveyed plan to shop as much or more at their corner shops in the future. Both shopkeepers and customers believe however, that corner stores will need to accelerate digital technology adoption to remain relevant and competitive.

The 2022 Digitising the Corner Shop research report, published by Flourish, a global fintech investor in partnership with Bain & Company and 60 Decibels, elevates the voices of more than 800 shopkeepers and 800 of their customers in Brazil, Egypt, India, and Indonesia.

These primary research findings, along with accompanying Flourish analysis, provide shopkeepers, technology providers, and investors with fresh insights into this often overlooked $900 billion industry with informal retailing making up 67 per cent of total retail across Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Key findings include: 50 per cent of consumers visit their corner shop daily, and 24 per cent regularly use a store tab for credit purchases.

71 per cent of consumers purchased more groceries from local corner shops during Covid-19 lockdowns. 73 per cent of consumers strongly agree that the corner shop is vital to their community, valuing proximity, convenience, and service. 80 per cent of shopkeepers are eager for digital business and financial tools, which have the potential to increase profits by 60-100 per cent.

“Our research proves that, even during the pandemic, predictions of the corner store’s demise may have been premature,” said Flourish Managing Partner Arjuna Costa.

“But while customer sentiment across the surveyed markets is enthusiastic, continued patronage will depend on further digitisation of store operations and customer responsiveness. The findings of our research can be applied to other markets in Sub-Saharan Africa with corner shops adopting some form of digital solution with the diffusion of mobile technologies in Africa solving many of the challenges that shop owners face, making it easier to track inventory, record sales, monitor cash flow, and supervise customers’ credit.”

Shopkeepers are adopting new technologies that customers wanted yesterday.

During the pandemic, shopkeepers accelerated the adoption of digital technologies to address supply chain inefficiencies, low online sales and limited access to finance and other banking services.

Research findings include: Across the countries, 55 per cent of shopkeepers use messaging apps in their businesses, and 75 per cent plan to increase usage in the next 12-24 months. Together, these factors point to the opportunity for a “digitised corner shop,” a tech-enabled, well-financed, efficient, responsive, and competitive informal retailer.

Flourish estimates that when corner shops go digital, merchants can increase profits by 60-100 per cent which may explain why 80 per cent of shopkeepers are eager for better business and financial tools. However, they remain slow to adopt them due to other pressing business tasks, data security concerns, lack of familiarity and limited access.

“As the digitised corner shop ecosystem matures, early technology platforms—such as ApnaKlub in India, MaxAB in Egypt, Mercê do Bairro in Brazil, and ShopUp in Bangladesh will develop into trusted service providers,” continued Costa.

“However, to serve this market, entrepreneurs must determine what immediate pain point to solve, how to monetise and when to partner versus build technology. They must create a seamless and trust-worthy onboarding process, as merchants are reluctant to invest time and money into solutions until they see the tangible value.”

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