Jumia’s Seemingly Unstoppable March To Becoming The ‘Amazon.com’ Of Kenya

2014-10-29 17.09.50
Jumia Kenya’s Robinson Murage (Public Relations Manager) and Sophia Zab (Manager)

Jumia is on a mission to become the ‘Amazon.com’ of Africa via its ever increasing footprint. To be more specific, Jumia now has a valuation of close to US$ 600 million after raising a US$ 150 million round last month to expand its operations on a continental basis. Indeed, Jumia which is backed by the Rocket Internet venture Africa Internet Group seems to have a ‘lock’ on e-commerce at scale throughout Africa where the latest metrics suggest only 2.5% of all commerce is via e-commerce – there is lots of room to grow and Jumia seems to be establishing an almost unassailable lead.

In Kenya, Jumia is already a beast of an e-commerce business having only just started operations in March 2013 which is just shy of 2 years. This happened after the Naspers’ backed Kalahari and Mocality exited the market leaving a huge vacuum for Jumia to fill which has more or less seen them run with the market with limited if not non-existent resistance. Indeed, Jumia in Kenya has managed to grow its inventory of products to over 60,000 and is experiencing double digital growth based on their current run rate.

I recently had the opportunity to meet Robinson Murage (Public Relations Manager – Kenya) and Sophia Zab (Marketing Manager – Kenya ) last month to get some insights on their success thus far. Here is what they managed to share with me.

On Customers

According to Robinson and Sophia, the bulk of their customers are located in ‘urban’ Kenya in cities and towns like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret. However, they also have customers in ‘rural’ parts of Kenya such as Bungoma and Namanga which clearly demonstrates that the demand for e-commerce offerings in Kenya transcends the usual haunts. Jumia’s core demographic is young-er adults in the 25 to 35 years old age range who are Internet savvy, mobile connected, social media adept, and are typically located in Nairobi and Mombasa.

Robinson and Sophia were reluctant to share specific metrics on the number of customers they currently serve in Kenya but they did indicate that they number in the ‘tens of thousands’ at this juncture. In addition, the typical Jumia customer in Kenya has done an average of 6 transactions on their website which demonstrates that there is loyalty and trust leading to recurrent business. Another key factor driving sales is that just like Amazon.com they ensure that they have some of the most competitive prices for their offerings in Kenya.

On Logistics

The majority of Jumia’s customers in Kenya prefer to pay either by cash or via mobile money, with mobile money payments exceeding cash payments. This trend exists even though credit cards and debit cards can be used, due to fears of fraudulent online transactions which are widespread in Kenya. In addition, Jumia typically delivers orders within 2 or 3 days in Nairobi and in some cases next day deliveries are possible. However, nationwide, Jumia works with a 3 to 7 day delivery service to your door steep, wherever you are in Kenya. If the goods acquired on their website are worth Kes. 5,000.00 or more then delivery is free. Otherwise, deliveries are normally billed from Kes. 200.00.

Jumia also has a return policy of 7 days from the date the goods are delivered. This means that if a customer is for some reason or other NOT happy with the goods they purchased from their website they can return these at no cost for a full refund.  Jumia has also set-up logistics hubs in Nairobi and Mombasa which ensure speedy processing of deliveries. In time, the plan is for Jumia to have logistics hubs nationwide so that even same day delivery can be a reality wherever you are in Kenya – this I find to be quite ambitious in the short term but it could become a reality in a few years time. Sometimes, deliveries are a huge challenge as Kenya does NOT have a very well developed addressing system for their couriers.

On Usage

According to Robinson and Sophia, 70% of their website visitors come via mobile devices whilst 30% come via desktops. Correspondingly, the majority of their sales happen during commute times and also after work hours on mobile. However, the bulk of desktop transactions happen during the work day, during the week. As mobile web leads the way, the uptake of their iOS, Android and Windows Mobile Apps is a key driver in terms of acquiring even more customers and transactions. In addition, because their website has been mobile optimised, even users of basic feature phones are able to navigate the website to find products of interest although an increasing number are coming to the website via smartphones.

On Service

Jumia is investing an inordinate amount of time ensuring that their customers have a good experience every time even though their prices are incredibly low in some cases. This has led to recurrent sales from many customers which is a key driver behind their double digital growth. In addition, they have also expanded their inventory by forming partnerships with well-known retailers in Kenya such as Bata, Text Book Centre, Nairobi Sports House, etc so that they too can benefit from selling online without having to invest in building e-commerce-capable websites. In many ways, this mirrors the Amazon.com business model which is often a hybrid of competition and collaboration (i.e. co-opetition).

The Future

Going forward, according to Robison and Sophia, Jumia has the bold ambition of becoming the Amazon.com of Kenya, in no uncertain terms. Given that there are very few e-commerce businesses of the sheer scale of Jumia in Kenya, this seems like almost a forgone conclusion. However, only time will tell since as Jumia’s business scales aggressively in Kenya there are bound to be other big global players who will set-up shop to compete. However, if history is anything to go by, the first-mover advantage could be all that they need to indeed become the proverbial Amazon.com of Kenya in the next few years.

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  1. Ben Kairu
    December 9, 2014 at 6:14 am — Reply

    I have transacted 3 times on Jumia, difficult to assess the overall user experience considering there is no other local player in this space to compare with or even talk about. However if they can address the following key issues then their march to be Kenya’s Amazon will be unstoppable.
    1. Poor customer service and very rude customer care agents especially the ladies.

    2. Mix up of packages; you order a Galaxy Note they deliver a 14K X-touch tablet.

    3. Price variations, price on website and on checkout being different than what you are required to pay upon delivery.

    4. Honesty in all transactions and engagement. I have always wondered why some of these businesses consider the average Kenyan to be some idiot who can be fooled and taken round in circles.

    Finally promos should be done well. The just ended Black Friday promo was a total failure; items dissapearing in the cart, price quoted unavailable, stocks being depleted even before orders are completed, telephone lines that are overwhelmed, a customer service that went missing.

    I have been buying stuff from Aliexpress, other than the extra shipping costs the overall experience is much better and i hope Jumia can tie up the loose ends and deliver a better experience.

  2. December 9, 2014 at 7:34 am — Reply

    Interesting attractive starting paragraph, with the words – Jumia is on a mission to become the ‘Amazon.com’ of Africa – I however have a different view. One of the main successes of Amazon.com was that their pricing was better than in-store prices. This is because they cut out the whole ‘store’ or ‘shop’ bit in the buying chain to be able to make some of their products cheaper than they are at a physical store – and so far – I have not had a similar experience with Jumia. Case in point – the BATA products that they have listed on their site are priced at the same exact price point at the store.

    It is a known fact that BATA will give a 15% discount on wholesale purchases from their factory – and assuming that Jumia would be using this advantage – then cut out the whole store process and replace it with the simpler – hopefully cheaper – delivery process – why should the same shoe on their site cost the same? I found this out while in a Bata store near me where I saw and tried a shoe I liked – and tried to find it cheaper online. I did find it online – on Jumia actually (and Bata’s own online store but that does not count) – but it was not cheaper. It was exactly the same cost – and at that point – it was simply easier to buy the item from the store seeing as I was right there!

    I believe the idea of seeing before you buy is one that is still here for a while – and the one thing that has prevented me and people i know close to me – from buying stuff from Jumia is that there is not price advantage – in fact in some cases – for those who are not too lazy and can get off their computers and compare prices from other places – Jumia is a price disadvantage.

    I have bought stuff from Jumia – but the lack of price advantage is somewhat discouraging. And as i pointed above, one of the pillars to the success of Amazon.com was and still is ‘better than in-store pricing’. Au sio?

  3. December 18, 2014 at 11:29 am — Reply

    Rude customer care!

  4. Abdul
    January 18, 2015 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    Well I may have different take. I have used Jumia twice and in both times the service was fantastic! One time I was even able to change the delivery location mid-order.

    Considering everyone knows someone who has used Jumia, that is a good feat. I once or twice tried to snoop through Kalahari (before nature took its course) and I was shocked! The fellows were selling things at twice the price! plus to really rub it off they were saying the items would take 7, 10 or even 20 working days to arrive….really!

    Then again anything new must have its challenges and also bearing in mind that I have never before shopped online, thus I may not have much experience to compare.

    All in all lets see how this game pans out

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