Ghana’s Retail Story: Is Online Retail The Future?

Me: Hey bro, I need to get a new SSD External drive. Know where I can get one?Nana:  Have you tried Circle?

Me: Yeah I have, they don’t have the exact size I need. Moreover, they were quite overpriced.

Nana: Tried Jumia? Olx? Tonaton? GhanaBuySell?

Me: Oh that’s true – I’m yet to. Will check. Thanks, buddy.

And less than a week later, I had gotten a brand new Transcend 500GB SSD external on Tonaton, without much of a hassle and much cheaper than the physical stores.

This is the story of retail in 2017 – Online!! Retail has invariably moved from physical to online stores in most categories of products. I mean, didn’t we all see this coming? The go-to store in Ghana for gadgets, electronics, vehicles, properties etc, for the everyday millennial usually starts with the Jumias & the Tonatons.

Why Shop Online?

Online stores/Classified Ad stores over the years have proven to be the spice of life and have given people an array of options they’ve craved for so long. This has by far improved the quality of retail. But it’s also important to differentiate the Classified Ad’s online stores from an Offline retail with a shopping website

Say, for example, a Telefonika – they have physical stores but also have a website with shopping abilities. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that the prices in the physical stores are any different from the prices on their website. There is a major difference!! And that difference sets the pace for the traditional online merchants.

What Sets Online Retail apart?

A bigger Customer Pool

When offline retail moves online, it usually doesn’t translate to a larger customer base for them. More times than not, it gives their already existing loyal customers easier access to products. But the traditional online stores? They’re winning!

They pretty much pool the customers from across the brick and mortar stores and serve the same products for usually cheaper and way more conveniently. They also offer a platform to aspiring merchants and entrepreneurs who can’t afford to build physical stores but have products to sell. They’re basically swimming in customers and asides just being a platform, they’ve found ways to also monetize their platform, with delivery-payment offers and opportunities to set priority ads.

Tonaton reportedly has over 600,000 unique visitors monthly with over 90,000 product listings. Those are amazing numbers for an online classified ad’s store.

Competitive Prices

Wherever you look, you’re bound to see the most competitive prices online. This is usually because products come to you directly from the manufacturer or seller, without the offline middleman being involved. You’re also bound to see cheap deals, group offers, discount coupons and rebates also.

If you do a quick search of a product on Jumia or Tonaton, you’re bound to see varying prices. Some lower prices are for quick sales – folks who are in dire need of cash and need a quick transaction. The higher prices are usually offline middlemen, trying to also make some profit. It’s also important to not ignore the fact that, dubious people exist on these sites, but in some cases, the pro’s outweigh the cons.

Also, online stores in most countries aren’t taxed, soooo…

Variety is the Spice of life

The choices you can get from online retail are amazing. You can literally get Nike, Adidas and Puma products all in one place and from one seller. Apart from that, the stock is much more plentiful. Some online shops even have provisions in place to accept orders for items out of stock and ship it when the stock becomes available.

I’ve literally done all my gadget accessory shopping from one merchant. Curated all I needed and delivered in ample time. What else do you need?


There’s really never a time you browse through online stores and turn out disappointed. You’re almost sure to always find what you’re searching for. That’s the beauty of online retail; an always available factor!

Who’s running the online retail game in Ghana?

Tonaton which means “buy and sell” in Twi, launched in 2014 and in 3 years, have conquered Ghana’s online retail game in terms of reach, listings and unique visitors. Upon launch, the website was quickly embraced as the best and simplest way to find the best deals for mobile phones, cars, property and furniture throughout Ghana. They’ve since expanded into other categories, conquering retail a step at a time.

Rocket Internet-backed online merchant, Jumia launched in Ghana in 2014, and have had a fair pass so far. Being one of the first online merchants in the country, when the markets hadn’t matured in terms of Internet penetration and Internet savviness, they’ve done a good job in terms of service, listings and reach. They’ve since expanded to their hotel and property services. Alexa rates them No. 10 most visited site in Ghana, so they must be doing something right.

Also a pioneer in the online retail market, OLX launched with a bang, rolling out OVC’s, display and search Ads all over Ghanaian internet. They’ve managed to gather momentum and kept up with their social media brand over the years. Their website recently got a UI/UX lift, creating a better mobile experience and feel.

Obviously, there are the product-centric online merchants like Meqasa (Properties), Carmudi (Automobiles), but in terms of reach, availability, a number of listings etc, these guys are running the online retail game.

Ghana is still a  country with emerging technologies, and with such prospects and hope, comes more opportunities for businesses to emerge. There’s still plenty of room for new players in online retail, but they better come with a lot of firepower. They need to ready to roll up their sleeves and put in the work if they’re going to give any of the existing ones a run for their money.

Rest assured, the future of online retail in Ghana looks bright, and we’re just happy to be documenting the journey.