In the rapid growing world of E-Commerce in Nigeria today, after less than a year into its existence, Konga.com has emerged as one of the strongest forces to reckon with. Founded by Sim Shagaya, a serial entrepreneur who is also the brain behind lifestyle website Dealdey, Mr. Sim would however not take all the glory for the success of Konga, as he credits it to his young vibrant team. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly Sim talked about Konga.com, alongside three key personalities who are responsible for its success.
‘Our strategy is great customer service’ – SIM SHAGAYA
Konga was an idea birthed by a need, there was an existing experience Nigerians were used to from the traditional brick and mortar stores, and we saw an opportunity to give Nigerians a totally new retail experience. Our goal was (and still is) simple; to frog leap the way retail had been for the past 50 years by creating new channels for Nigerians to shop with convenience, providing amazing selection of products and great customer service.
Since the launch of the Konga.com website in July 2012, the response and market has been much better than we expected Nigerians have really embraced not just online shopping but Konga in general and the reasons haven’t been far-fetched they include (but not limited to); great customer service, large selection of products, no need to get stuck in traffic, etc.
As one of the leading online retailers in Nigeria, What would you say is responsible for the growth in online trade in Nigeria?
The growth of ecommerce in Nigeria has certainly been a beautiful experience to watch unfold, and it is primarily driven by the absence of good formal retail. Nigerians have been on the search for a great shopping experience which they weren’t used to with traditional brick and mortar stores found in majority of cities in Nigeria. Konga basically empowers Nigerians by giving them access to a great selection of goods and great prices on the go which is much different from what is found in their localities.
What strategy have you used to dominate the online market and survive competition over time?
Our strategy is an open secret; great customer service is the parent of customer loyalty and word of the mouth.
Customer loyalty is what drives retail. At Konga, we cherish every customer, and merchants that use our website and we make sure they have such a great experience that will ensure that they not only come back, but also tell their friends about it.
Konga’s policy is such that payment is made when goods arrive, signifying an absence of confidence on customer’s online payment system. What can be done to address this?
There are several modes of payments on our platform, and cash on delivery is just one of them.
The reason for cash on delivery is about choice and the average Nigeria’s general distrust for sellers, more than the average Nigerian’s willingness to pay online, and we know this for a couple of reasons. The first is that as people buy more and more on Konga, they are more likely to use their credit/debit cards because we have been able to build up trust as the sellers of the products to them.
Take a look at Dealdey, a sister company to Konga, you will discover that its 100 percent prepaid, because customers have 100 percent trust in making payments on Dealdey. This is why we cannot but reiterate the importance of giving the customer a unique experience. We look forward to a time in online commerce when cash on delivery won’t be a necessary channel for payment on Konga.
Some companies have introduced pin numbers that serves as cash, these pin numbers can also be used to make payments. Is Konga partnering such companies?
It’s a very interesting concept with several innovators, and Konga is constantly looking for partners to improve the customer experience and this includes payment companies.
In five years, online shopping in Nigeria will have a totally different look, and partnerships will be key in shaping the future of online shopping in Nigeria.
ADE BALOGUN- HEAD OF ADMINISTRATION
‘We are the best in terms of getting our products to our customers’
My name is Ade Balogun, Head of Administration at Konga.com.
How long have you been with Konga?
I’m one of the founding staff at Konga.com, we started in July, 2012, but we have been working on the project since February.
What does your job entail?
Interestingly, the same way Konga has evolved, I have actually evolved with the company as well. My first duty at Konga was consumer experience manager, it was interesting on its own, because we had the opportunity to hear what customers want and how you can get it. I was on that for about two months, and then to head of administration. While we are running an e-commerce website, there are other parts like marketing, tech, and others, I’m majorly in charge of running the office, making sure that everybody has, tools and facilities to their job effectively.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced along the line?
When we started we were about 20, right now we have over staff, and managing those logistics, work tools, space, constraint for a growing business is increasingly challenging. We are growing very fast. And at the same time people are coming in very fast. We have to co-ordinate all that. At some point, I was handling a lot of human resource for the company, coordinating people, making sure that we get the right peopling, having to document that properly, because what we are doing is fundamentally important. If there is no power or no resources to go around, nobody would do his work. It’s been a challenge in itself to manage and grow as fast as it is.
What are the things you look out for when hiring?
Basically we look out for is people who are smart, intelligent, capable and good enough to do whatever job description. We have a culture at Konga.com. We look out for people who have that attitude, we are a free spirited, young, happy to grow, vibrant company. Our watch word says change by the second, if you are traditional person you may not fit in to our company’s culture. You must be ready to evolve, move as fast as everybody else.
As far as delivery is concerned would you say you are as effective as you would like?
We are the best in terms of getting our products to our customers, if there’s anything they are saying thank you for its for getting their orders fast. In that light we are still trying, this is Lagos, traffic situation, the new laws that banned tricycles and motorcycles from some roads, it’s all a challenge in itself, but our key word here is customer satisfaction. So we would go the extra mile, and if we are out of dispatch riders, staff who should naturally be behind the desk would be on the road to deliver that product.
If there are complaints of late delivery, who gets the hammer, how do you handle it?
The customer experience managers are the ones that are primarily responsible for that. People can send their complaints through social media, phone calls or text messages. All complaints are treated with immediate effect. If there is anything we do, we give you feedback on where your product is and why you haven’t gotten it. Whatever challenges we are facing, we always strive to make sure our customers are satisfied. We also have a seven day return policy in case there is something you are not satisfied with.
What would you say stands Konga.com out?
Customer satisfaction and our work culture. Everyone is happy to be here, happy to work here, there are fresh minds, fresh ideas, and the whole company is geared towards customer satisfaction. Our dispatch riders know that, customer service team knows that, our marketing team knows that.
ONYEKA AKUMAH, Vice-President Marketing, Konga.com
‘We are very customer focused’
What does your job at Konga entail?
I’m the spokesperson for the brand. I try to combine marketing initiative online and offline to promote the brand as much as I can. I’m responsible for the entire marketing team, the initiatives we come up with to push the brand what we are now. Those are my core responsibilities. Managing the team has been a great and exciting experience.
What are some of the roadblocks that you have stumbled upon?
Issues of gaining trust from customers. Some customers have one time or the other had bad experiences with some other online retailer, they find it difficult to believe you are actually going to deliver on your promises, but what I call roadblocks turn out to become challenges because by the time they cross the bridge, and have that first experience with us they end up trusting us.
From experience what would you say is the marketing strategy that has been most effective for you?
I wouldn’t say one has been more than the other, it depends on the timing, we use different mediums at separate times, offline and online, when it comes to offline marketing we try to create that brand presence in the minds of people and we make sure that when they come online, they are able to relate what they see to what they heard about it offline. So both of them compliment themselves. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, I would say they help us win customers over.
Konga.com recently signed Owawumi as brand ambassador?
Yes, we did.
What influenced the decision?
We were looking for a true African, we were looking for someone who represents a true Nigerian, we didn’t want to be perceived as being foreign, we wanted someone down to earth someone that truely understands what Nigerians are going through. We wanted someone that will speak and people will listen. Also she is someone that has unconsciously mentioned the brand’s name one way or the other, in her song Bottom Belle, she made mention of the brand name, Adebisi Konga.
What plans do you have to make more people aware of the brand?
We are going to keep pushing, keep preaching the gospel through public relations, a lot of PR activities, and our brand ambassadors, beyond Omawumi. We are going into campuses to talk about the brand, and we have people that will champion the brand out there. The more people get to see the team in house, they get to appreciate our efforts. They will understand that this is a brand that is here to stay. We will continue to make do our promises, continue to make our customers smile, the biggest marketing factor for us is word of mouth, as long as we keep making that customer that has come to see us happy, we are sure that he will tell three to five people about us, and there is no better way than convincing a potential customer about the brand than someone that has actually experienced it. We treat each customer like he is the customer we are all set up to make smile. With this we believe Nigerians would keep talking about us and we will achieve our goals.
What stands Konga out?
Konga is very customer focused, we are not here to make a business that will one day run away from Nigeria, we are here to establish a business that will one day enable my children to walk in here as interns, something that will last long. We also deliver on our promises, we are a young team, innovative, we are Nigerians. These are key factors that stand us out.
KEMI TIJANI, Head of Merchandise/Category Management
What does your job at Konga.com entail?
The biggest challenge is finding people who have experience and knowledge in the field, E-commerce is kind of new in Nigeria. Second, finding supplies for some of our products, a lot of things have to be imported. We don’t produce as much here, the industries are not mature enough, where you have wholesalers or suppliers locally, the supply chain is quiet complicated. The third challenge for me personally is working in a start-up and thinking differently in terms of loosely defined goals and having to fire fight in some cases. But generally, it’s been a great experience, there have been challenges, but nothing that we haven’t been able to overcome.
What criteria does a product need to enter into Konga?
From my perspective it just needs to be something we can sell legally. It should also be something that we can deliver. If there is demand for it, we definitely will add it to our cart.
Would you say you have been able to reach a wide market?
It depends on how you define a wide market, it’s all very relative. If I think about it relative to the market we expected to have at this point, yes we have done a lot better than we thought we would, if I compare it to Nigeria as a whole, then we haven’t reached a wide market. There are so many people that we are not serving yet, we are always looking to increase our catalogue. As long as it’s what people want we would be happy to sell.
What would you say stands Konga out?
As far as products, in some cases we are more compressive in pricing, where we really try to distinguish ourselves is how we serve our customers and how we interact with them. Customer service is a major thing for us, and we take our opinion and experiences very seriously. Logistics as well, we make sure if someone wants to buy something, he gets it within a reasonable time.
Mention some of the notable brands you have had on Konga?
We have had a lot of products from Proctor and Gamble, LG, Samsung, mobile phones from Nokia, IPhones, Apple, Blackberries. For the clothing brand, entourage, which is a Konga owned brand that’s doing great, and a few other international brands.
Are there some things that you set out to achieve that you haven’t been able to?
Yes, there are. I might not want to share specifics, because there are things that we might still get around to achieving that I wouldn’t want to put out there, but yes, there’s a whole lot that we have planned, that we haven’t done, that we are still working on achieving in a couple of months.
Is owing a physical store something you would consider?
It is something we would, I don’t know if it’s a medium or long term plan, but it doesn’t seem like an entirely bad idea. We can see how it will even drive sales on the online channel, if people can associate it with something physical. We don’t have any immediate plans to do so, but it’s not out of the question.
Is there any project Konga is working on that you might like to divulge?
Yes, its probably not a secret again, it’s the mall and the idea is to get other retailers selling online through the Konga channel, and basically what it means is that if you own a small scale business, you can get your products online through Konga, you would be able to reach more people all over the country who wouldn’t have known you if you weren’t on Konga. With this we could get more businesses online and drastically increase our selection, and just be able to offer more to our customers. The mall should be up in a few weeks and we would keep growing.
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, May 21, 2013