Pakistan’s eCommerce industry is tiny! The global average for eCommerce transactions as a percentage of total retail is in the 15% range (pre-covid). Digital-first economies such as China are expected to have the majority (>50%) of their retail sales now happening digitally.
Pakistan’s eCommerce sales in comparison are easily less than 1% of the retail industry. We have a long way to go, however, the industry has been growing rapidly and we wanted to help showcase the best eCommerce startups locally by hosting the first eCommerce awards in Pakistan.
The industry does not work in a silo. eCommerce startups are supported by payment gateways, logistics companies, software houses, and many other digital tools and services that help them provide amazing experiences to consumers. For this reason within the first eCommerce awards, we created the Founder’s Choice Awards, where the founders of eCommerce startups could vote for their best service providers in the industry.
We wanted to achieve all of this while being as fair and transparent as possible. This is why our awards focused only on votes from consumers or customers of the services that are being given.
Finally, we wanted to understand from actual consumers what their thoughts and views were on the eCommerce industry. For that, we organised the eConsumer Research Survey
The objectives of the award were threefold
- Promote the best eCommerce companies in Pakistan
- Set a benchmark for service providers so that eCommerce founders can make informed decisions and service providers are given direct customer feedback from their customers
- Be fair and transparent
The Mechanics of the Awards
There were two categories of Awards.
- Public Choice Awards
- Where the general public voted for their favorite eCommerce store.
- Each vote was cast after a mobile phone number was taken and the validity of that phone number was checked via a one-time password.
- Each mobile phone number could only vote once per category
- The winner in the public choice category was the nominee who had the most votes.
- Founder Choice Awards
- This is where each Founder/CEO/Business Manager of a nominated eCommerce company voted for various service providers they used.
- Each Founder was able to vote only once but for as many service providers they used in the last 12 months.
- Voting was done on a scale of 1 – 5 with 1 being “Poor” and 5 being “Excellent”
- There could be multiple winners in the founders choice category. To win a Gold Medal the service provider had to have an aggregate score of 4.5 or above, for Silver it was 4 and for Bronze it was 3.5.
- Alongside the aggregate score the service provider also had to have a minimum number of votes from founders before they could qualify for a medal.
The awards also had no profit motivation. No revenue was collected during the awards (quite the opposite). We also turned away offers of sponsorship from those who were themselves nominated to ensure we could not be biased into creating unfair or biased awards.
The Voters Behind the Results
People’s Choice Awards
Within the people’s choice award we had a total of 108,683 votes cast from 93,426 voters (1.16 votes per phone number). 77% of people only voted in one category while 603 people voted in 5 or more categories.
We had 332,858 visitors to the website until the 7th of April 2021 (i.e vote deadline). 213k of those visitors were from Karachi or Lahore and 94% of all visitors came on mobile devices with 80+% of mobile users on Android.
In terms of demographics 58% of the visitors were female and 88% of visitors were between the ages of 18 and 44.
Founders Choice Awards
In the Founders choice awards we had a total of 101 service providers nominated and of those 58 had received enough votes to be eligible for a medal. However, only 52% of eligible nominees won a medal, i.e almost half the nominees did not get a score of 3.5 or above from the founders of eCommerce companies. The awards were given based on the votes of over 80 Founders from across the industry.
In the Payment Gateway and National Logistics category voting was divided over 4 or 5 sub-sections.
- 21 eligible gateway (3 international)
- 5 Sub-sections
- Onboarding Experience
- Integration Experience
- Payout Speed
- User Experience
- Refund Experience
The average score that payments gateways got for each of the voting categories was as follows:
- 8 eligible logistics companies
- 4 sub-sections
- Payout Experience
- Delivery Speed
- Rejection at Doorstep %age (COD)
- Pickup Speed
The average scores that national logistics companies got for each of the categories was as follows
eConsumer Research Survey
We messaged over eighty thousand people who voted for the eCommerce awards and asked them to fill out a survey asking about their eCommerce preferences.
14.6k people responded. Some of the key highlights include that 79% of respondents prefer CoD over other payment methods and they prefer CoD as 42% have trust issues (option 2 & 3) and 33% do not have access to a means of prepayment.
A large 63% of respondents would be willing to do prepayment if they received the first 3-5 orders in perfect condition.
Over 64% of respondents have also not purchased anything above Rs 10,000.
We will be sharing the results and adding more insights in a future post from this survey result.
In an effort to maintain transparency and fairness, the management committee had to make certain key decisions during the voting process and after the voting ended. All key decisions have been mentioned below.
- 2 nominees in the public choice award sent communication asking for votes in return for the chance to win a gift.
- We were told about one of these within 24 hours of the post going live and we reached out to them to remove the post which they did immediately
- One of these nominees ended up in the top 5, and as such the management committee decided to remove all votes accrued by the nominee over the period for which the communication was live.
- 2 nominees were asked to withdraw from the public choice awards as:
- One was a B2B2C company whose service was not live yet
- The other was a B2B company
- 1 nominee was entered into the FB/Instagram store category. It was asked to withdraw as they had 4 retail stores as well.
- 1 nominee in the FB/Instagram store was asked to withdraw as the facebook store they submitted was not active. When we reached out to the founder in question they responded by sending us multiple facebook store addresses some of which were active a few months ago but not currently and it was not clear exactly what they were selling.
- Two startups run by the members of the management committee made it into the winners list. To ensure the long-term impartiality of the awards we, therefore, decided to withdraw our entry.
- Initially, in the founders awards, we had kept the criteria for the medal as 4.7, 4.2, and 3.7, however, after the votes were cast we felt that the benchmark was too high given the nascency of the industry and we reduced it down to 4.5, 4.0 and 3.5 for Gold, Silver and Bronze medals respectively.
- In the Founders awards, 9 votes were disqualified. 3 because they voted for their own companies, 4 had fake profiles, and 2 seemed to be selected votes for 1 company only with dubious email addresses.
Areas of Improvement for Next Year
For next year we will be also asking customers in the public choice awards to vote on a scale of 1-5 rather than just a simple vote. We feel that asking customers to give an actual score will result in more meaningful feedback for startups and it will also remove the competition element as you can then have multiple Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners in a category, rather than just first, second, and third place prizes. We opted out from doing that this year because we wanted to keep the overall consumer voting journey as simple as possible. However, given the extremely strong voter turnout this year, we feel that we can add that level of complexity while still getting a large voter base.
For the Founders choice awards due to lack of development time, we ended up doing the vote via a 3rd party form sent via email to all nominees. Next year we will build the system directly into the awards website and ask people to vote as part of their nomination. This will result in a much higher percentage of nominees voting for the founders awards.
The overall UI/UX of the website needs to be streamlined a lot more to encourage voting, especially on mobile. This year on mobile devices you could only see one nominee at a time on the page.
To further improve the fairness and transparency of the awards we will also be bringing in an audit firm to tally the results. This will result in a trusted 3rd party ensuring that all votes were counted fairly and faithfully and be a double check on the count by the management team.
We believe the eCommerce Awards are an improvement first step to grow the industry and understand where our current limitations also lie. We should not be arrogant or boastful about where we are or how far we have come. Instead, we should realise the journey is still long and we need to move forward together as an industry and support each other.
If you would like to support us next year please do get in touch at [email protected] and or if you are a service provider who wants to better understand your exact results (without revealing the names of those who voted for you) we would be happy to oblige you.