Why every progressive business in Malawi needs to have an online presence

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Biz Directory MW, Malawi’s easy to use online business directory, has clocked six months since its launch. Analyzing access statistics to Biz Directory MW, which we collect through Google Analytics and other traffic anaysis engines, reveals empirical insights as to why every business in Malawi needs to have an online presence.  At Biz Directory MW, we are giving an opportunity to every business in Malawi, whether large or small, to have an online presence where they can list their products and services as well as their contact details. Biz Directory MW, has so far registered not less than 2000 businesses. The businesses listed were either self-registered or entered by Biz Directory MW staff.

In the first six months of 2015, Biz Directory MW has been having an average of 700 page views per day and 80 per cent of this traffic is coming from within Malawi. This means that a good number of Internet users in Malawi are using the Internet as their source of information for business and online business directories such as Biz Directory MW are filling an important business information gap. A further look at the sources of traffic to Biz Directory MW shows that 39% of traffic came from direct hits (i.e. traffic emanating from someone entering the website address of Biz Directory MW in their web browsers), 35% came from search engine queries entered via Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, etc., 14% came from referrals from other websites and 12% came from social media links such as Facebook and Twitter.  Of particular interest are the search engine queries as they underscore the fact that that a good number of Internet users in Malawi are searching for business information on the Internet and online business directories such as Biz Directory MW are filling this important business information gap.

Pie chart illustrating traffic sources to Biz Directory MW
Another interesting statistic on the traffic to Biz Directory Mw is the type of devices, site visitors are using to access the online business directory.  So far, 52% of Biz Directory MW visitors are using desktop/laptop computers, 47% use mobile phones and a paltry 1% use tablet computers. It is interesting to note that access through mobile phones is almost at par with access using desktop computers. This empirically demonstrates that quite a good number of people in Malawi are using mobile phones to access the Internet. This trend has a number of implications.

Pie chart illustrating access devices to Biz Directory MW


First, if the cost of Internet access through mobile phones can be affordable, we could see an increase in Internet usage in Malawi.  Indeed, reducing the cost of mobile Internet access is key to encouraging access to Internet in developing countries like Malawi where fixed Internet access infrastructure may be very expensive to install and maintain.

Second, if the cost of Internet enabled smart phones could go down, many in developing countries like Malawi could have an opportunity to start using the Internet. Fortunately, affordable but quality brands of smartphones like Tecno, Itel and others are helping to break down these barriers and as such, should be greatly encouraged. 

Lastly but not least, since quite a good number of Internet users in Malawi are accessing the Internet using mobile phones, owners of businesses which have websites should be making sure that their websites display correctly both on desktops, mobile phones, tablets and other access devices. Technically speaking, a website for a progressive business organization should be responsive. It is expensive to have websites specifically designed for a specific access device, hence responsive websites which display correctly across different devices are a recommended solution to the varying access device problem. In addition to this, website developers also need to avoid putting too much graphics and videos on their websites as these unnecessarily consume more bandwidth hence costing more on the part of the website visitor as ‘data bundles’ get consumed unnecessarily. Websites are software and as such, software usability guidelines need to be followed when developing them. In other words, there should be a balance between aesthetics, content and other usability factors.

As more people are turning to the Internet for business information, it is easy to see that every business that needs to widen its customer base in this digital age should have an online presence. The Internet presents a promising frontier to reach more potential customers in this digital age. Indeed, through the Internet, we can promote entrepreneurship in Malawi. However, websites being one popular medium for an online presence, should be designed with the above considerations in mind. 

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