If you live in an “industrialized” nation, you likely enjoy certain luxuries on the internet. For example, if you email a business, they will email you back.
In Colombia, it doesn’t work that way. You could try emailing a locally-owned hotel or real estate agent, but your efforts will be fruitless. Your email might be responded to within a week. If at all. If it doesn’t bounce back.
When shopping around for clothes, furniture, or other goods, you might expect to see prices on a provider’s website. Maybe even - gasp! - an option to buy online. In just a few clicks. With your credit card.
In Colombia, 99% of businesses with a website have no prices advertised and no option to buy.
Nowadays, you might expect a company to have at least three of the following: a website, a profile on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and/or Pinterest.
In Colombia, most companies get by with just a Facebook account. Their Facebook page probably doesn’t link to any website, or have the about blurb filled out, or any phone number to reach them at.
They might be listed in a local online yellow pages, which would be typed in capital letters, rife with spelling errors.
(In the example above, notice the use of all caps, the lack of their own domain, the social media icons that link to nothing, and the bits in English.)
If they do have their own “website”, it might be built on a free website platform with broken images and a non-functioning contact form or no contact information at all.
This makes comparison shopping a grueling process. You know how to find the best deal on, say, electronics? Go to every electronics store you know of and ask the price. Then go back to the cheapest store and buy it.
An elite few are getting it right…
I didn’t start analyzing how truly deficient Colombia’s internet presence is until a recent online exchange I had with a local business here.
I stumble across a vegetarian shop and restaurant in the Manila sector of El Poblado. I check out their website, and I’m blown away. It’s covered in high quality images. Their address, telephone number, and social media links are clearly visible from every page. They boast not only an email address, but a contact form. And not one sentence is typed in all caps!
I see they also offer online ordering. I sign up for an account and receive a confirmation link to my email box in seconds. I click it, add a few items to my shopping cart, and hit send. 25 minutes later, they show up at my door with the products I ordered.
Magic! Finally, a company that understands the basics of e-commerce. I rejoice!!!
OK – that’s a bit overboard. But seriously, their online presence is dominating other restaurants in the city. Shout out to Casa Vegetariana, my new favorite local businesses.
The situation above is commonplace in other countries – why not here?
Why is there such a resistance to making use of the internet?
Why aren’t businesses sold on the increased profit potential that awaits them in cyberspace?
Oh Colombia… the internet doesn’t bite. I promise!