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‘Technology has redefined online retail in Nigeria’


Nnenna Okoye

Nnenna Okoye

Nnenna Okoye is a beauty enthusiast and CEO of the online beauty retail store Youtopia Beauty, which specializes in selling rare and luxurious beauty products mainly for the African and Nigerian skin. She recently bagged a beauty certification from a renowned beauty school, The Beauty Academy in London, where she specialized in skincare. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she talks about the beauty sector and how technology is changing its face

Tell us how online retailing has influenced and helped the beauty sector in Nigeria
It is no news that Nigeria’s beauty sector is expanding and thriving everyday. Amidst several economic challenges, the sector has maintained its growth amongst other industries. The demand for skin care, oral care, hair and makeup products have soared, thus making the business of beauty a very lucrative one presently.

In the same vein, online transactions have become a dominant trend in Nigeria. There is no doubt that shopping online is very convenient for a lot of people. Individuals can shop from any and every location, provided there is Internet connection and have access to a computer, tablet device or Smartphone. Moreover, online shopping allows people to easily compare products, prices and items across shops online to validate if a product seen on a particular shops website is more affordable or better than the other and vice versa.  Therefore, it is not surprising that it has had a positive effect on beauty retailing especially as the desire for quality products have soared.
How and why did you decide on Online Beauty Retailing?
I must confess that online retail in Nigeria has evolved in a huge way. It is the latest way of buying goods and services by consumers all over the country. I noticed that there were not a lot of options in Nigeria and many people relied on products sold abroad, myself included. Skincare products were not largely sold online compared to makeup and hair products and so I decided to make it easier for people looking for very specific brands by starting an online retail that focuses more on skin care, although not neglecting hair and makeup products. 

The online store also offers a free online Virtual Consultation. A skincare consultation set up to help as many people as possible suffering from skin problems like acne and uneven tones. These skin problems lead to low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Thus, the aim of the online consultation is to reach a broader audience, people from different parts in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. 
What role does technology specifically play in all this?
Technology has made online shopping a convenient, fast, accessible and stress free experience for customers. It provides businesses with the necessary platform to understand the needs of their customers and better satisfy those needs. No doubt, a happy, satisfied and returning customer leads to more profits for any business. Through interactive and personalized product displays, online retail has been able to thrive.  

The evolution of technology within the retail and e-commerce sector is shaping how consumers behave and interact with different brands. For instance, when customers make an online transaction, the retailer gets data about the customer. This data includes the type and number of products a particular customer purchased. An accumulation of this information enables the retailer to have an understanding of the pattern of inventory flow of products and this helps in getting the required items and helps preferred products being out of stock. 

What are some of the challenges of online retail?
Many Nigerians still find online shopping risky due to card fraud and fake products. Online security concern is certainly an important consideration for customers when selecting an online retailer. For this reason, many people are wary of online transactions. 

Moreover, some customers still prefer the in-store experience. They require the advice of sales assistants. These type of shoppers want to touch, see, and test products personally. Customers always want to be sure and know what they are buying, they want more than product descriptions. Thus, in order to serve these customers, a physical store was opened in Lagos. 
Another challenge is the cost incurred from products being damaged while out on delivery and the cost of paying for the logistics that go into delivering a product, which is however returned.
What makes Youtopia Beauty different from other Online Beauty Retailers?
Most of all products displayed and sold have been tried and tested by me. It is very important that a beauty retailer knows exactly what they are selling. Customers deserve the best. Quality, trusted products should always make the cut. 

Also, I believe that good customer service sets us apart from others. Customer service is key in sustaining business growth especially when a high percentage of consumers will always pay for a better customer service experience. Although an online retail business, Youtopia Beauty ensures that orders are processed correctly, transactions occur smoothly and customers are constantly asked feedback regarding purchased items.
What are your long-term goals for Youtopia Beauty?
I will continue selling products that solve skin problems to help people overcome challenges that they never thought would be possible. 

Furthermore, Youtopia Beauty aims to reach as many women as possible through the expansion of online and physical beauty stores across African countries. We also plan to produce our own line of targeted skincare products specifically designed for black skin that will be distributed across Africa and the rest of the world.

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