Five useful tools to grow your eCommerce platform

If you think about it closely then you could say that nowadays, most if not all business is e-commerce. More and more enterprises are selling their goods and services over the internet.  Having a website is more the rule than the exception now. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, online transactions made up more than six per cent of all purchases in Kenya. Although this far behind Western Europe, where 75 per cent of all purchases are online, we are rapidly catching up.

A report by the Communication Authority of Kenya and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that 27 per cent of all Kenyan companies sell their products online. Multiple online marketplaces such as Sky Garden has come up to serve the growing demand.

Smaller retailers also exist in this space. E-commerce is a very alluring business model. First, e-commerce is cheaper than your conventional brick and mortar store. There is no rent to pay. You can minimize the inventory you keep. You need fewer employees to man the store. Selling online gives you access to more customers. In Kenya, there are more than 36 million data subscriptions. There are 300 million smartphones across Africa. All these people can get to your store by simply using your URL. Advertising is cheaper than on traditional media such as TV. You can access thousands of people on Facebook and Google using just tens or hundreds of dollars.

There are also a number of free tools you can use to improve your eCommerce platform. Here are some examples.

  1. Google analytics

Perhaps the most underrated advantage of the internet that smaller eCommerce overlook is data. Never has it been possible to understand your consumers better than in the present day. User share data on the internet, often oblivious of who has it and how they are going to use it. Google, the world’s largest search engine and one of its most valuable companies capitalizes on this. Google Analytics is arguably the most powerful data collection tool for business. At its simplest, it allows you to measure how many visitors are coming to your website and what they are doing on it.

Google Analytics is free and easy to deploy. You just have to copy paste a piece of code into all your website pages. There are even plugins that can help with this.

  1. Google optimize

In 2017, Google made its Optimize service freely available. Optimize is a website experimentation tool. It enables you to change parts of your website and measure the effect of using analytics. It employs split testing, which is a fancy way of saying randomly chosen people see different versions of your website to see which one works best.

It is an incredibly easy tool to use and you need little knowledge of programming. Google optimize allows you to drag and drop elements of your website and change as you please. It also handles the mathematical side of things ensuring the results you see are statistically significant.

  1. Hubspot CRM

Hubspot is one of the leading customer relationship management solutions in the world. It helps you keep track of your marketing campaigns and potential customers as they move through the purchase process. It is especially helpful when your sales cycle is long. The best part is it is entirely free. You can add unlimited users, build lead collection forms and templates for email and manage up to one million contacts. As you scale, however, you might find it necessary to use other Hubspot software such as its marketing and sales hubs.

  1. Advertising on social media

As social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp have grown, they have created the opportunity for businesses to talk to more people. Contrary to popular belief, social media is not free. Facebook and Twitter limit the number of your own followers who can see your content. According to both, there is just too much content. In 2018, Facebook also announced that it would limit the visibility of brands on people’s newsfeeds. Increasingly, you have to ‘boost’ your content for it to get seen. The advantage is that advertising on social media is cheap. You get data on your followers. It is also possible to target customers based on their interests, location and demographics.

  1. Sendy API

The biggest challenge to developing e-commerce in Africa is logistics. There is no public addressing system in East Africa for instance. The sector is mostly informal and expensive. Most businesses find it hard to get their products to customers making it less viable to sell things online.

Sendy’s platform connects thousands of drivers to businesses and enables your users to request deliveries at the touch of a button. Once you integrate the API on to your eCommerce website, a user can simply indicate where there want goods delivered and the cost appears as part of the receipt. A Drivers comes to automatically pick up the goods from you.

Meet October’s Partner of the month: Henry Kesydany

I joined Sendy in September 2017. A friend of mine who was also a Rider Partner on Sendy referred me. He told me all I needed was a bike with a license and a log book and I could apply online. He told me what I needed and we went to the cyber cafe and completed the online signup. I got a text from Sendy 3 days later inviting me to a rider training.

That first month I did not make that much. I did not know my way around town too well so I spent a lot of time on a few orders. I kept calling clients asking for directions and wasted a lot of time. With time and experience, the money got better. Today, once I get an order, I don’t need to call the client. I know my way around pretty well. Once I see the location on the app I know exactly where to go. That way I can do a lot more orders.

Before I came to Sendy, I was employed. The needs of my family and I took up almost all my income when end month came. You end up with little or nothing for the rest of the month. I have two daughters and a wife. Sendy has really improved my life. Sendy pay’s riders weekly and some of the orders are cash. It makes it easier to fuel, pay my bills and save.

When I joined Sendy, I joined with a hired bike! However, within four months I made enough to buy my own motorcycle. A little later I bought a bike and hired my own rider. I added another and another. One of my riders even made enough to buy their own bike.

I want to buy a pickup eventually. It is my vision 2020.

The amount of work you get depends on the time you put in and your location. You can’t miss work on Sendy. You need to pick your location and time carefully. You can change locations depending on how business is on that day. I get to choose what time I start work. I don’t have pressure. I know what time I will get the most orders and work around that. I would tell riders to do as many orders as they can. They shouldn’t despise the smaller orders either.

Use customer service to grow your business

Did you know that most companies today compete primarily on customer service? Gartner, a leading customer experience consulting firm conducted research that showed that 89 per cent of businesses in 2018 is focusing on improving customer experience to create and enhance their competitive advantage. The same study showed that by the end of the decade, customer experience will outstrip price and product features as a business differentiator.

Why is that?

The customer today is more informed and discerning. They have more access to information and can compare different products and services. Customers can either recommend your brand or disparage it. Social media means their thoughts have much higher reach. They are also more likely to share bad experiences than good.

Bad experiences cost you, customers, you would not even know it. Only 1 out of 26 customers complain. An unhappy customer will tell thirteen other people about their experience. A happy customer will only tell six.

Businesses are focusing on improving the customer experience for three primary reasons. First, they want to improve retention of customers. Secondly, they want to improve customer satisfaction. Third, they want to create the opportunity to upsell their existing customers.

“Customer service is important for a 2-sided platform like Sendy as we are matching merchants and enterprises with delivery needs to drivers who undertake the actual deliveries. Our role is to ensure the deliveries happen seamlessly providing reassurance to both the clients and drivers throughout the deliveries.” Explains Juliet Mwangi. Juliet is in charge of customer support at Sendy.

So how can your business improve customer service to grow your business?

  1. Use multiple channels

Use multiple platforms to communicate with your customers. Sendy, for instance, uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email and its helpline 0709779779. The point for this is to give customers options on how they can communicate with your business.

“To improve our efficiency, we offer multiple channels of communication including Phone calls, emails and chats. This enables our customers to connect to us using their preferred channel of communication” Juliet explains.

It is also not enough to have multiple channels. The customer experience must be seamless on all these touchpoints. Consequently, you must link them. Integrating all communication channels is necessary because it keeps the message customers are hearing consistent. It also helps consolidate data on consumer needs. It puts all the data on what a consumer needs in one place regardless if they called then emailed then complained on social media.

  1. Collect data

“At the heart of our Customer service strategy is a wealth of user insights that we collect from the various user interactions. We translate these into data points that drive our product innovation and maintenance,” states Juliet. Tracking the right data can help you discover opportunities for improvement. Consistent complaints could be used to determine what features to add or remove. Keeping track of customer communications and categorizing them appropriately can help you spot trends and emerging issues in real time.

With the right data, you can optimize the customer service experience itself. Examine how long it takes to respond to clients on average. This should be as short as possible. Even if requests cannot be immediately be sold, someone should reach out and explain to the customer that his or her questions are being worked on. Also, track how long it takes to completely resolve issues on average.

Note which types of issues take longer than others. Keep track of how many replies it takes to deal with customer concerns. It could indicate where your team needs more training or information. Eventually, your team can spot trends and patterns that you can use to improve customer service.

  1. Leverage technology

Integrating all your customer service channels and collecting data requires that you use technology. There are numerous solutions you can use to optimize your customer service. Zendesk, for instance, offers excellent flexibility. It can handle thousands of issue tickets and take up to 500 customer service agents. Customers also need to access information readily on their own.

“In this age of self-reliance where 90% of customers use web self-service knowledge to find answers to their questions, we have an online self-help centre to empower and educate our users”, states Juliet.

Customer service is undoubtedly the next frontier in business strategy and businesses need to keep looking for ways to improve and innovate in this area.

  1. People people people!

The people behind the calls, DMs and emails make or break your customer service experience. The Customer service team has to be passionate and engaged to effectively deliver an exceptional experience to customers. At Sendy for instance, the customer service team has embraced this maxim.

“We constantly train, coach, mentor and keep our agents engaged to offer instant, up-to-date and consistent answers to the enquiries of each user,” Juliet expounds.

With customers becoming more discerning, businesses will have to give greater focus to customer service in order to stay relevant.

Article by Glenn Ogolah

Sendy Customer Story – Nanjala

“ I go for the eco, you know when you buy a plant sometimes you get them in plastic. Everything I use is eco-friendly the cardboard should be what you are looking for as a sustainable design. I’m also about to launch candles, made out of soy wax and the scent will be from essential oil like natural vanilla essence and coconut. I should be able to launch them before Christmas because I think the candles will be a big seller. Sendy has been really good in terms of transportation, it is easy since everything is packed, I have labels, if you look at the back there are actually instructions on how to take care of the plants.

Shop Nanjala

My plants are very easy to take care of. We had generic ones but they ran out.

Sendy Partners with Yamaha to train motorcycle drivers

Online delivery platform Sendy has partnered with Yamaha to train its motorcycle drivers on safety measures when driving motorcycles. This comes at a time when motorcycle accidents have been on the rise in Kenya with 18% of fatalities being caused by motorcycles according to NTSA report released last year.

The partnership is intended to give drivers professional training on how to safely drive motorcycles to reduce the rate of injuries and deaths caused by accidents related to motorcycles.

Speaking during the training, Mr. Meshack Alloys, Sendy Founder and CEO said that it was imperative that their drivers received training given the increase in the number of drivers on their platform.

“With over 800 motorcycle drivers on our platform, it is our duty to ensure that our driver partners stay safe when driving. The number of motorcycle accidents has evidently been on the rise and partnership with Yamaha will see them get training on motorcycle best practices and make the best out of the safety gadgets these motorcycles come with,” Mr. Alloys said.

According to NTSA, a majority of motorcycle accidents were caused by riders who were not trained. In 2017 over 147 motorcyclists had died in road accidents most of which were caused by riders not wearing a helmet or following traffic rules.

Mr. Augustine Juma, the General Manager of Yamaha, said that their motorcycles are built in a manner to ensure maximum safety for riders and knowledge of how to maximize on these safety gadgets will not only help Sendy riders but any motorcyclist using Yamaha.

“Yamaha considers rider safety as top priority and training on how to use our motorcycles is key for us. Together with Sendy, we have embarked on an exercise to train their riders on motorcycle safety. Head injuries caused by motorcycles are ranked highest and it is for this reason that we need to ensure motorists use all the gadgets we provide when purchasing our products. We will continue to train riders to reduce the number of motorcycle related accidents and injuries” Mr Juma said.

A similar article also appeared on Business Daily and Soko Directory.

Logistical challenges for SMEs in East Africa

Retailers and wholesalers are the largest customers for logistics companies across the globe. In Africa specifically, these sectors have seen strong growth due to a rising middle class. In Kenya for instance, multinational retailers such as Carrefour, Choppies and LC Waikiki have set up shop in recent years.

However, structural issues persist that make serving this market a challenge. This has translated to a higher cost of goods. In East Africa, more than 60 per cent of product cost consists of the cost of moving the product to consumers. There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. Fragmentation of Kenyan logistics

The informal sector services most of the logistics needs for SMEs in East Africa. This sector consists of thousands of vehicle owners ranging from motorcyclist to pickups and lorries of various sizes. Often, these providers have specific parking areas within specific locations and wait for orders to come in. Providers eventually develop relationships with small businesses and deliver their goods on demand. There are a number of problems with this model. First is the downtime. Vehicle drivers spend most of their time parked waiting for businesses. The contacts they have accumulated do not need deliveries made all the time. To make up for the downtime, drivers overcharge the few customers they do get.

Even then, these drives only have access to a limited number of businesses often restricted to their locality. Another issue is the uneven distribution of delivery service providers. Some localities have more providers than other. You might expect more vehicles to be available on Kirinyaga Road for instance due to a large number of businesses needing deliveries. The concentration of delivery providers reduces as you move further away from the main the city’s economic hubs. This leaves small retailers and distributors, scattered across different neighbourhoods, underserved.

  1. Poor quality logistics

A fragmented logistical sector lacks accountability. It is the experience of many Kenyan small businesses to have someone they trust accompany the drivers that transport their goods. These business owners are afraid the drivers might mishandle or make away with the goods causing losses. Up to now, the approach to mitigate this risk has been building relationships with drivers and to create trust over time. Although this solution helps, it is not scalable. You can only build so many relationships. The number of trusted drivers would be limited and the time it would take to cultivate these relationships also make it uneconomical. A lack of accountability has created room for rogue elements within the sector. It is not uncommon to hear of drivers arriving with goods damaged in transit and refusing to make good on the damage.

  1. Infrastructure and home addressing

Do you know your home address? Do you know the name of the street you live in? For most Kenyans, the answer is no. Home addressing in mostly non-existent in the country. Although an initiative spearheaded by the Communication Authority is looking to solve this issue, its efforts are far from complete. This has made it hard for retailers to implement door to door delivery of their products.

Home addressing has been the foundation for e-commerce in more developed countries. This system provides a consistent referencing point which delivery services can use to reach their consumers efficiently. As it stands, landmarks and an understanding of the locale are a necessity for finding anyone in a Kenyan urban area, especially in its estates.

What next?

This is not to say that all is lost. On the contrary, the rapid expansion of Kenya’s retail and wholesale sector presents an opportunity to build logistics further. Kenya and East Africa at large have a number of other things going for them.

The logistics sector itself is expanding rapidly. Euromonitor estimates that in this decade, the sector would have grown by 34 per cent. Investors are setting up their logistics hubs within the country. According to the World Bank, Kenya has stayed in the top 5 logistics hubs in Africa over the past 5 years.

Mobile telephony has grown exponentially and this has changed the face of business in the region. According to Communication Authority numbers, 90 per cent of Kenyans had access to mobile phones. Kenyan’s move a fifth of their GDP using mobile money. There were 30 million internet subscriptions in the country in 2017. Here lies an opportunity to connect delivery service providers and their customers at little cost and make the logistics sector more efficient. Already, tech companies such as Sendy have created platforms small businesses can use to carry out their logistics more effectively.

All this portends a bright future for logistics on the continent.

 

Article by Glenn Ogolah

Role of technology in making logistics seamless

The world is in a constant state of flux. Take Kenya for instance, the road and rail network has expanded considerably and you can travel to the coast in just 5 hours. Everyone you know likes their coffee or wine in a certain way. Just 5 years ago, most people had feature phones, with buttons you had to press thrice to get the letters you wanted. A Trump presidency was unthinkable and fries tasted differently. Now almost everyone and their grandparents have a smartphone. More parts of the country are accessible by road and rail and more people like chai lattes.

In this time, technology has changed the logistics industry in a number of ways

  1. The smartphone

Did you know that your average smartphone has at least 4 sensors? There are the accelerometer and gyroscope that help change your screen orientation. Some phones have light sensors, fingerprint scanners and even thermometers. All these sensors are constantly collecting data on smartphone users. The smartphone has become so popular, that we carry them everywhere without a second thought.

This has two implications for Logistics. First, is GPS tracking. All smartphones have GPS capabilities. It is possible to track the locations of smartphone users in real time. Before it was necessary for businesses to invest in expensive equipment and software to keep tabs on their fleet. Now the phone itself is an inexpensive and readily available GPS tracker with many other uses.

The second implication is the pervasiveness of smartphones. Legacy software was necessary to link logistics providers with their consumers. Now that everyone has a smartphone, the platform already exists. It is simply a question of how to leverage it.

Sendy, for instance, eliminates the need for a fleet in the first place. Its platform connects drivers and their cars to businesses that need them. The platform uses smartphone GPS to enable real-time tracking of deliveries.

  1. Data

Data is the oil of the 21st Century: cliché but true. Home appliances and phones are increasingly connected to the internet. McKinsey expects the Internet of Things industry to 581 billion dollars by 2020. The logistics industry is expected to spend 40 billion dollars worldwide on the Internet of things by 2020.

This growth boils down to the importance of data in business. With more data, you get a better understanding of who your consumers are and what they need. With more data, you can pinpoint inefficiencies in your business operations. Through leveraging mobile phones, it is now easier than ever to collect data on business costs, waiting times and routes.

  1. Documentation

Record keeping takes considerable time and money to do efficiently. Keeping the proper documents is necessary for a number of reasons. First, it is often a legal requirement to maintain certain documents. The Kenya Revenue Authority, for instance, requires businesses to maintain records of invoices and receipts that validate their reported income and expenditure. Documentation is also necessary for billing clients. Delivery notes serve as proof that goods were received by the customer and are a basis for invoicing. Sendy allows businesses to upload documents like delivery notes to their platform.

Before companies had to make employees carry around books with delivery note leaflets to track the movement of goods to their consumers. These documents are however prone to be misplaced or damaged. Technological platforms can solve this problem by generating and storing these documents online. Sendy for instance, allows Drivers to upload delivery notes. It also requires drivers to obtain the name and signatures of people receiving goods. This way Sendy customers have undeniable proof that orders were fulfilled.

Of course, technology is constantly changing and businesses need to stay ahead of current Trends. Using tech platforms such as Sendy could be one way of doing that.

Article by Glenn Ogolah, Marketing Associate

Meet July’s partner of the month: Japheth

How long have you been working with Sendy?

I started this year in the month of April.

How did you hear about Sendy?

One of my friends introduced me to Sendy.

What did you do before becoming a Sendy Partner?

I used to work as a declaration clerk but later left because I wanted to manage myself. I liked it much.

Tell us about your Family?

I have one wife and a baby girl who is in baby class with another one along the way, we live in Embakasi.

How has Sendy helped you?

I now know how to be my own manager in terms of time management, I used to wake up at 5am to go to work. But they still ask me to go back to work for them at times.

Any Challenges?

Customers sometimes request for delivery but go offline when you reach either the drop-off or pick up point, when I got there they cancelled the order. Also, today in the morning I incurred the same challenge but this time the client was unavailable.

What are your future plans?

I’m planning to go back to school God willing to advance my studies since I have a diploma in Clearing and Forwarding.

What’s your advice for other partners?

To be careful while on the road, watch all the road signs.

 

Congratulations to Japheth for being Partner of the Month!