How does online-shopping work in a country without mail delivery, lack of street names and costumers without email addresses? Jumia started in 2012 in Nigeria, and soon expanded to other African countries like Ivory Coast, Marokko, Egypt, Uganda and Kenya – it is a big success story. TheNewAfrica reporter Solveig Rathenow has checked out, how Jumia works in Nairobi.
–. The biggest online shop of Africa is located in a small street in the centre of Nairobi. Jumia Kenya welcomes visitors on the 6th floor with an open office space and a large roof top terrace. Behind laptops, young Kenyans and Europeans work on different parts of the website of Jumia.
At one desk sits Sibyll Brüggemann. The 27-year-old German is the chief marketing officer of Jumia. She joined Jumia since the start of the company in 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria. The online shop offers everything from furniture, clothes, electronic, books up to alcohol. From Nigeria, Jumia expanded to other African countries like Ivory Coast, Marokko, Egypt, Uganda and Kenya. Sibyll knows all the teams.
Jumia is a company of the Africa Internet Holding, a cooperation of two African companies, MTN and Millicom, and the German Rocket Internet. To establish an Online Shop in Africa is not as easy as it seems. Although a lot of people are using the internet via their smartphone, a lot of them still don’t have an email address or a credit card.
In Kenya, where Jumia is the first online shop, the costumer service is one of the most important sections of the company. As many costumers who are calling the service are ordering for the first time online, they get a step-by-step explanation about how to transmit the order. Besides, the costumer service also calls the person who made an order to make sure that it was not only a mistake from a wrong click. Orders can be made without an email address, only by leaving a mobile number.
Because of the lack of credit cards, costumers can pay cash on delivery or via the popular M-Pesa system, which allows transferring money even with a simple mobile phone.
Special Customer Service
The delivery is made by a troop of motor bikers, so called “piki pikis”. To find the right address can be challenging for the drivers as many of the small streets in Kenya don’t have proper street names or house numbers. Once, a delivery was even in the National Park close to Nairobi. The client was a park ranger.
But not only the delivery is a task. The drivers also have to convince the costumers of the product, to demonstrate its functions and to take the cash back to the Jumia Office. Sometimes even a technician is needed when the drivers are delivering electronics like new TV sets. If the costumer is not satisfied, he can immediately send the item back to Jumia with the driver. This extra costumer service also makes deliveries much more time consuming than in Europe, where the postman just delivers the packages and leaves.
Looks like this careful adaption to the costumers’ needs is one of the main reasons leading to Jumia’s success. In 2013, the company won as the first African company ever the World Retailer Award. According to the company, each Jumia costumer orders items for an average cost of 100 Dollars, about 4 000 orders are made every day.
Working on both continents
Thanks to Google Hangouts and Skype calls, Sibyll can manage a lot of her work from her office in Germany. But she regularly spends time with the local teams as well.
“You understand things much better when you meet the colleagues in person”,
says Sibyll. This time, she came to Nairobi to meet the new Managing Director, Parinaz Firozi.
The first managers Nick Miller and Oscar Bore, started Jumia Kenya in a small office, with their laptops only. When they began recruiting young Kenyans for their team, they referred to Nairobi’s Universities and online networks likes Linked’in.
“Ecommerce has a big potential in Africa. In Germany, the market is different, more aggressive but with a bigger volume. In Africa, there is less concurrence but the costumers have to get used to online shopping first. The important thing is that the costumer trusts the company when he is making the order.”
But Jumia is on good way – and more and more online shops are coming up, following its example. Kenya will probably not be the last country where Jumia is establishing the shopping online experience.
The original article was published by Solveig Rathenow in German here.