In life, it is natural to avoid anything that comes with inconveniences. Thus, it is expected that in any environment, people should naturally embrace the ease and speed of online shopping. But in an underdeveloped economy like Nigeria, building an e-commerce platform that can gain the desired traction in the marketplace can be quite challenging.
Previous efforts at building a successful e-commerce platform in an economy with poor or limited infrastructure and no real history of structured and formal retail had yielded limited success. That was until Jumia became the game changer four years ago.
Chief Executive Officer of Jumia, Juliet Anammah, paints the picture of the initial challenges succinctly. In a recent interview with journalists, she stated that there were huge challenges at the beginning in the area of logistics- last mile logistics.
She said: “When you talk about last mile logistics, you can break it down to the processes involved in packaging an item like phone for delivery from the warehouse to a customer- not many logistics providers were doing that in the market. So we had to create a company called AIGX, now called Jumia Services basically to breach that gap.”
Obviously previous e-commerce players had challenges earning the trust of potential customers. The business models, operations and marketing solutions that worked in other climes could not function effectively in the Nigerian environment that was evolving very differently in terms of infrastructure and economic growth as there was no existing delivery infrastructure to support regular online shopping.
Jumia’s creative instinct in the last four years has effectively turned these challenges to stepping stones that have revolutionised Nigeria’s online shopping sector. Anammah explains further, “When we started there was limited trust in e-commerce but we were able to breach those gaps by offering payment solutions that influenced public perception in a very positive way. Now people know that if you order from Jumia it will surely come and the trust level in online shopping is much higher now than it was then. Talking about infrastructures, in most countries, the public national postal service like NIPOST serves as the biggest logistics partner in e-commerce because they are in every city. If NIPOST was working efficiently, which I believe government can do with some determination, we would not have been compelled by the situation we found ourselves to invest at all in logistics. I would only get a warehouse, assemble my products and get them to the nearest NIPOST where consumers can pick their items. If all ports were functional everyone will not be shipping through Lagos.”
Since Nigeria, like some other African countries, had less well-functioning postal system and effective logistic systems, Jumia had to create alternatives in addition to her e-commerce sites. For instance, a global player like Amazon, by way of comparison, can rely on existing delivery systems like courier companies, and an innate trust in online shopping among consumers in the developed world to excel. This trust and infrastructure did not yet exist in Nigeria, for Jumia and other e-commerce players.
The company had to leapfrog the prevailing bricks and mortar system of poor transport infrastructure, and high levels of crime, a user base that is predominantly accessing sites via the mobile web, and a large technological development skills gap to redefine online shopping experiences in Nigeria.
During the media interview held after the facility tour anchored by the Head of Marketing, Simone Bartlett, various team leaders presented details of their teams’ activities and their plans to propel the organisation through the delivery of first class services to customers. The team also answered diverse questions from journalists during the meeting.
Giving a detailed narrative, the Head of Customers Operations, Chidinma Ifepe, presented various innovative programmes and customer centred activities that have energized the brand to her present level. She explained how the team’s constant improvement in customer relations grew from a level where about 60 per cent of Jumia’s customers expressed full satisfaction to the current level of over 80 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Partner Relations Managers, Omolara Awoyemi, spoke on various outstanding payment options that have made Jumia the darling brand of online shoppers in Nigeria. She explained how innovative plans pioneered by the company like the cash-on –delivery payment plan and right to return any product within 7days changed the of face of online shopping in Nigeria.
Awoyemi stated that what drives her team and indeed the massive acceptance of the Jumia brand is the consistent pursuit of a Convenient and safe payment option through a secure server. She revealed other new payment options like the Jumia pay- direct which is a payment plan on the website where authentication would be done once, afterwards revealing the account details subsequently becomes unnecessary. The ‘Book on hold’ plan is another option where orders can be made online while payment via ATM or any other payment platform preferred by the customer can be used later within an agreed space of time.