Masoko (Swahili for ‘markets’), a Safaricom-owned marketplace has finally launched to the public with less fanfare and pomp than expected, an indication that the giant telco acknowledges that unlike airtime retail, eCommerce is not its forte.
As a marketplace, Masoko has borrowed heavily from Jumia-including hiring some ex-Jumia executives who hurt Jumia’s reputation by their failure to help it earn the trust of vendors and the public as a trusted etail platform.
Jumia’s passion to push down prices killing vendor margins and its huge inventory might be its key USP for now but Safaricom is leaving nothing to chance by hiring key ex-Jumia staff to help Masoko crack pricing and volume sales in the long-run.
Apart from hiring ex-Jumia executives, Masoko has been reaching out to vendors selling on Jumia and some ex-Jumia vendors. The ex-Jumia vendors might not be so helpful to Masoko as most were dissatisfied with how their issues were handled. It makes it worse when the same people who hurt you are recruiting you despite their new address. Masoko might struggle to sign up vendors to its platform if it uses the ex-Jumia employees to do its vendor on-boarding. Masoko should instead reach out to customers who have never sold online and that’s likely what its head of strategy is hinting at.
“Masoko hopes to unlock the untapped e-commerce market in Kenya by connecting consumers, merchants and vendors to each other using a powerful online portal. We are currently starting with close to 200 vendors offering over 20,000 products,” said Joe Ogutu, Director – Strategy, Safaricom.
Speaking of on-boarding, the customer signup process is a bit too long and time consuming. Safaricom would have used a simple mobile phone number, preferred location and email address to quickly sign up new customers. However, this is not a review of Masoko and we will stop there.
Masoko’s competition is not Jumia but the offline communities who see online platforms as fraudulent marketplaces with inauthentic or low quality items. OLX and Jumia failed to inherently address customer pains in their earlier days. These made many of their would-be users skeptical to buy online.
Most customers are not loyal but are looking to fulfill their needs. Whether an item is on Masoko or Jumia, both the firms would have to convince their buyers why they should buy from their shop on Masoko and not Jumia. These are just platforms, anyway. The vendors are their neighbors, their friends and their bosses with their own social media marketing tactics too.
Whether a shopper comes across Naivas on Masoko or Jumia, Naivas will remain the same. Depends on what the two firms will do best. Either, the two firms will repackage the products or they will lower their prices, make delivery super fast or give loans to their vendors-the winner will always be the shopper.
Of course customer care matters so do timely vendor refunds, or last mile delivery. Working wit platforms like Sendy and Fargo Courier wont address the delays shoppers experience when they use them elsewhere. Also having an own fleet wont be a cost effective thing at all. The excited and would be loyal customer and vendor for Masoko would be that person who has never had an online shopping experience, or who thinks having their shopping delivered to their homes somewhere in a rural home is a privilege.
The second would be loyal customer is one that went to Jumia had a terrible experience. Having terrible experiences with both platforms will just lower the number of online shoppers in Kenya. Safaricom says it will have a customer care team to manage any queries from customers and is also working on wide-ranging returns policy to ensure that all purchases meet the expectations of the customer.
The firm is also saying that Masoko is not just a platform to sign more users to its Lipa na M-Pesa service as it will accept all mobile money payments including Airtel Money as well as Visa and MasterCard payments. The biggest advantage though is Safaricom has the numbers, and if it can convince just 50 percent of its 27m customers to buy on its platform, then it’s good to go.
“By leveraging the strength and reach of our network, our customer base, and a number of partnerships with vendors, we hope to create a solution that can power the next phase of growth for the Kenyan economy. We hope to create a universal platform that will connect the smallest of vendors in Kenya to a nationwide market,” said Mr. Ogutu.