July 26, 2012

e-Business Review: Sabunta

I was so excited to tell a colleague that I had found very lovely and affordable pair of running shoes for her. The beauty of it all was that sitting from my desk at the office, I could show her these shoes and also buy them!

For someone who LOVES online shopping, the spring-up of the online shopping portals in Nigeria has been more than a breath of fresh air. You see I love love love shopping online. It's convenient, hassle free and at the click of a mouse I can easily get whatever I want. Before returning to Nigeria I shopped for almost everything online; food, clothes, electronics, books etc. Sites I shopped on included asos.com, amazon.co.uk, sainsburys.co.uk, tesco.com, next.co.uk, pcworld.co.uk.  I guess you can now imagine my excitement when I discovered sabunta.com and the other Nigerian e-business portals.

If you use the internet in Nigeria, you must have been plagued with the Sabunta banner ads on almost every website you visit.

So, how good is Sabunta.com?

PRICING - 8/10
PHOTO: Footwear pricing comparison
Pricing is a huge deal breaker for most fashion retailers in Nigeria and most of them close their doors after very few years because no one is buying. I selected some random items listed on Sabunta and compared them with the prices of the exact items on a on a couple of foreign websites and the result; Sabunta quotes reasonable prices for most items. Take the shoes in the photo for instance, these shoes are quoted on Solestruck and the Naira equivalent of the shoes shown is N18,392 ($114.95). 

While I cannot comment on the actual availability of items shown on Sabunta, I must give them thumbs up for their pricing. If you're used to shopping in Nigeria, you'll know that "foreign" items are sold at 150% of the price you'll pay for them outside the country. As my friend puts it, they have to pay for transporting their items (and no I don't want to delve into how Sabunta gets it's stock cos I don't know)

Websites with a white background always get the nod from me and Sabunta passed the test on this one. The site is very easy to use, functional, nice graphics and generally has this clean and professional look to it. 

I still feel there is room for improvement on the site. When I visited Sabunta today, I got some shopping recommendations. Usually these recommendations are generated based on your perceived browsing preferences on the site as a result of cookies stored on your computer. However, on my visit today, this is what I found;

PHOTO: Sabunta 'Recommendations for you'
Why am I unimpressed? Well I'm a lady in my 20s, have been on this site several times to look at ladies items and yet the recommendations for me are MENS SHOES! I went ahead to load Sabunta on my phone and a friends laptop and these same recommendations appeared.

According to Social Media Chimps product recommendation can increase sales revenue by up to 300%. So it's a win-win situation on the side of the customer and the seller.
In my opinion, a website without a functioning recommendations feature is slightly equivalent to a store without sales assistants. I hope Sabunta works on this soon.

A clear and simple ordering process is key for e-business and Sabunta definitely delivered here. 2 reasons why Sabunta failed to receive full marks on this feature;
  1. Pay on Delivery option appears inactive sometimes (without an explanation from Sabunta): After my friend placed her order, she had to email Sabunta to ask for the Pay on Delivery option and her request was granted. She ordered a single item worth about N9k. I decided to create an order over N10k and the pay on delivery option became active. It will help if Sabunta states what exactly qualifies for the Pay on Delivery option. 
  2. Order confirmation email: After placing an order on Sabunta, the usual order confirmation email (which you get when you shop online) was not received from Sabunta.

After you've place an order, you may need to contact the seller about the status of your order, delivery (or you may want to cancel the order altogether). After ordering the shoes on Sabunta, there was need to speak to Sabunta about the delivery options (pay on delivery was unavailable at the point of order). The call rang busy and went straight to voicemail and after many more tries, still no success. An email was sent and Sabunta responded the next day which was actually faster than expected given their phone gaff. 
I guess they have a single line which if lucky you will get through to speak to someone, otherwise, you'll be sent to voicemail. Let's hope Sabunta sets up a fully functional call centre with the call waiting function soon.

Range of stock - 9/10
Good range. Everything fashion, clothes, footwear, accessories...just everything fashion. Sabunta does have a nice mix of both Nigerian and foreign brands.

PHOTO: Sabunta Payment Options
Payment Options - 8/10
I believe a major hindrance to online shopping in Nigeria has to do with payment. Thankfully, e-businesses in Nigeria have been able to bridge this one. Although most people have payment cards, VERY few are comfortable with using their cards online. The horror stories of online payment has made some people chop off their cards altogether. The payment option of bank transfer and pay on delivery are user friendly. 

I see the pay on delivery option being taken off the menu soon as confidence on these sites is built in a bid to cut losses on the side of sellers - What happens when you go to deliver a product and the customer is nowhere to be found (especially with the free delivery bonanza where items of as little as N2k also get delivered for free)?

Sabunta may have scored better here if it had explained why the Pay on Delivery option appears sometimes and at other times comes up inactive.

Delivery - 3/10 
An order placed on the 9th of July has not been received and today is the 26th of July! Where is my order Sabunta?? Every morning, I ask my colleague if Sabunta has delivered her shoes. I'm now used to the loud NO response (with the evil look she gives me for introducing her to the site which I had never ordered anything from). Bear in mind that this frustration is made worse by the fact that Sabunta has still not sent an order confirmation email. Luckily, we made note of the order confirmation number from the page when the order was placed. Sabunta called today, to say that the item had been dispatched "from their warehouse" (where is this warehouse? I have no idea but we're waiting for the shoes in Abuja). Today makes it Over 13 working days and Sabunta's delivery page states 7-12 working days. 

12 days is a very long time to be expecting a delivery. That is 1/2 months wait right there and this takes away the fun of online shopping.
***UPDATE: Sabunta finally delivered the shoes on the 1st of August (that is 16 working days delivery).

Should you use Sabunta?
Our overall score for Sabunta based on issues raised above is 6.5/10

Should you use Sabunta? This may depend on how urgently you need your items. If you do not need your items immediately, then why not. If on the other hand you need your items immediately, then...look elsewhere first!

I am one of many people with fingers crossed hoping that in the coming weeks, Sabunta and the other new Nigerian e-businesses will firm up their services.




  1. Anonymous27 July, 2012

    This is just like my experience with them. Unfortunately I wasn't at home when they eventually came to deliver. Anyway, I had already lost interest so good thing they couldn't reach me!

  2. That's a fair review. I've only been on the site thru the ads but this is a really insightful read. Well done!