Now more than ever, Africa has and is becoming the epicentre of the incredible phenomenon know as Africa rising. The creative world and now the marketplace is bursting with dresses, furniture, accessories and even prints inspired by vibrant colours and African designs.
Marshall McLuhan spoke at length about the Global Village and how technology will eradicate the concept of borders and shorten the distance between space and time. In recent years, it has been possible to observe this not just through the advent of the Internet, but instead with the proliferation of social media platforms. These platforms have expanded the client pool of African fashion entrepreneurs, who are now able to access millions of people, fans and curious globally simply by retweeting, posting, tagging or being tagged on a post.
Fashion’s best medium to increase one’s clientele is Instagram. The platform provides a 1 billion potential client base, with a rough number of 500 million daily users. With the decline of physical stores, Instagram has opened a window on on the best and brightest designers from the Continent, providing them with chance to expand their reach to a global audience, overcoming the barriers of space, time, distance and lengthy bureaucratic processes that are typical of when one is opening a retail store. Additionally, the level of user engagement makes any brand more accessible and democratise fashion as a whole.
However, a medium that more designers should start exploring as the perfect tool to attract more customers and which is often overlooked, is WhatsApp. This is now one of of the best and most popular platforms that connects Africa and the Diaspora. Moreover, it is now being considered one of the most trusted medium for millions of African users, who rely on salient information distributed across the platform. Additionally, WhatsApp presents a greater advantage on other social media channels, because of its consumer-friendly use, where everyone irrespective of their background can easily use it to share information. More and more many business owners, entrepreneurs and fashion mavericks are appreciating this medium and are turning to it to and use it as an actual e-commerce platform.
Some fashion designers and other small Instagram retailers are now using over-the-top payment services, like cash transfers, Western Union, Moneygram, EFT or PayPal, depending on the customer’s convenience. This demonstrates the potential and actual impact that WhatApp can have on one’s enterprise, creating trust and mutual understanding between clients and business owners. For example, when a fashion designer incorporates a WhatsApp number to one’s account biography on other social media platforms, it facilitates request about quantity, size and payment transfer.
More and more Africans and Diasporans are using social media channels to challenge the traditional stereotypes about the Continent and business owners, fashion entrepreneurs and more can use dispel traditional myths one hashtag at a time, reflecting the contemporary world we live in, but by showcasing the strong connection with one’s Africanness.
Furthermore, the likes of Whatsapp and Instagram can contribute to to a more effective and better supply process, by identifying wholesale companies.
Having an online presence allows businesses to create digitally bespoke solutions and strategies and more so African consumers will feel at ease and not under any pressure or intimidation by a brand’s name or prominence.
It is important for an entrepreneur to position him/herself in the culture of online shopping and to use the latter as a tool to develop a fan base and consequently customers. As a matter of fact curiosity, word of mouth, exchanges on Instagram and WhatsApp can make a stronger case and be as impactful in building one’s customer base, which in turn will become a community ready to listen to advices and suggestions.
It is important not to forget that there are some downsides to the social media solution or strategy, which is an overcrowded marketplace. Thus, it is essential to stand out, reinvent oneself, be current, relevant and timely. Another important thing to consider when positing social media as a drive for business growth is to be tactical about posting, aligning with brand, the clientele wishlist, quality image, timing of posts and the appropriate local or global influencers.
Reliable customer service beyond online engagement is also key, such as ensuring that deliveries arrive on time, the quality of products and keep being reliable and trustworthy to remote customers.
Nana Yaw Owusu is the founder and the brain behind the success of fashion house, Yaw Bako Clothing. As a fashion entrepreneur, he provides insightful talks and pieces on fashion, entrepreneurism, business growth, social media and Africa’s new socio-economic narrative.