Emerging markets are a hotbed for e-commerce as the industry is continuing to rapidly grow. In fact, these economies are poised to become the next mega-market and are going to be essential for future growth as retailers may soon reach consumer saturation. However, the sector currently faces one fundamental challenge - consistent, free internet access.
For those in developed countries, the internet has become a daily, vital necessity. It has opened the door for opportunities in every sector of society and is often looked at as the number one, most effective medium for communication, entertainment, news and business. Unfortunately, it has had the opposite effect on those in emerging markets, as it has created a significant gap in terms of usage and access, otherwise known as the digital divide. Due to these access restrictions and data expenses, the average consumer is online less than 25 days out of every month; far less than in other parts of the world.
Not only is this an issue on the user side, but also for the retailers and e-commerce providers whose businesses operate in these markets. They are missing out on a large sum of sales and potential revenue, not only now, but in years to come. As the middle class continues to grow along with expendable income, e-commerce providers who don’t put forth an effort of building relationships with these consumers now will be left behind as the market continues to grow. On the other hand, those who can build a strong brand presence have the ability to become leaders as mobile and e-commerce sales grow exponentially in these regions.
Seeing this opportunity from both a businessperson and consumer’s point of view, it has become my mission to enable unbiased, frictionless and free access to the web. I strongly believe that consumers should not have to ration their time online or be stuck in the dark due to high fees and access issues, but instead be able to roam freely for what they want, when they want. In turn, I’ve been partnering with leading technologists and thought leaders to develop an infrastructure that will offer value to consumers, as well as deliver revenue opportunity, growth and market differentiation to carriers through the use of blockchain technology.
Blockchain offers a fully transparent, decentralized governance to enable publishers of any size to integrate with any internet service provider (ISP) or carrier without discrimination, helping to equalize the playing field across the value chain. In this instance, retail and e-commerce providers are made available to consumers in any market as long as they are operating on the ODX platform. With the projected increase in mobile phone usage and expansion of mobile networks in areas such as Asia, Latin America and Africa, now is the time for these retailers and providers to jump onboard. Once internet usage across the developing world matures to the levels of developed countries, providers could see a huge spike in revenue as an additional one billion users are brought online.
It is exciting to share that thus far, more than 50 leading online providers and apps across gaming, travel, fashion, on-demand services and more, have already joined the ODX network to connect with consumers even when they have no mobile data or mobile airtime credits. Included in the group are leading brands such as YouDeal, the world’s largest peer-to-peer marketplace, and Booking.com, the number one accommodation site in the world with over 1.5 million properties, covering more than 140,000 locations across 230 countries and territories. They are among the expanding list of organizations leading the way and making business decisions that address today’s issues while positioning themselves for long-term growth.
In order for the e-commerce sector to continue to grow, retailers need to acknowledge the digital divide facing consumers in emerging markets. I envision emerging markets, and everyone worldwide, having equal, frictionless and free access to the web and am excited to be at the forefront of this much-needed solution.
Nix Nolledo, Founder and CEO, ODX