The New Times (Kigali)

5 August 2014

Rwanda: Big Stores Embrace Online Selling to Boost Sales

For a long time now, eBay, Alibaba and Amazon had been the only one-stop online shops for Internet-crazy shoppers. This is, however, changing as online shopping gets trendy, attracting a huge following across the globe, including in Rwanda, thanks to the proliferation of internet-enabled phones and improved ICT infrastructure.

This is where Kaymu, an online one-step market, and others come into the picture. The business has taken emerging economies, including Rwanda by storm, attracting droves of shoppers.

Kaymu's prosperity in developing economies has even attracted big retailers to trade their products online with ease.

User experience:

The good thing about online selling or buying, particularly on Kaymu, is it's user-friendly applications, says Phillip Muganza, who buys items on the online market regularly.

"Basically, one logs in and they immediately see what they want to buy, then get it after following an easy procedure," he notes.

He says the other good part about it is that there is a contact of a salesperson "They call you and you have a one-on-one conversation on what it can do or not do," he adds.

"When they deliver the item, it saves your time and money, especially for those from outside Kigali."

Big retailers join:

Justine Ngarambe, the Simba Supermarket managing director, lauds online selling, saying it has the potential to capture a wide market compared to the orthodox physical shops.

Simba Supermarket is one of the big stores that have embraced online trading.

"Even people that don't come to town everyday can now buy stuff from Simba. The goods we are selling online range from items in the supermarket to the menu in our restaurant," she explains.

The supermarket expects to boost their sales using the online platforms, thanks to the growing number of Internet shoppers in Rwanda.

Online buying different:

The number of buyers logging onto Kaymu goes up by the day. Carol Umulisa, who buys most of her stuff online, says Kaymu is giving her a great shopping experience.

"When I want to buy something, I log onto Kaymu and compare the prices of different traders to see which one fits my preference. I get what I want without roaming around in town, avoiding the hustle and bustle of downtown," she explains.

Umulisa says she has buys a lot of her jewelry from Kaymu, and argues that online selling has increased her purchasing power.

Increase in sales:

The proprietors of CheTantine Supermarket in Kicukiro District say they owe the recent 20-25 per cent increase in sales to online selling.

"It's a bit tricky at the beginning, especially for someone who hasn't used a computer before, but one gets used to it," says Umubyeyi, a customer of CheTantine Supermarket's online market.

The downside:

However, in online trading, what you see is not always what you get. Pictures can make something look better that they actually are. Customer persuasion always causes problems when a commodity is delivered as it will not meet the client's expectations, experts say.

Clement Hugura says buying online can't entirely replace the feeling of physical shops or markets.

"I always try on a shirt before I buy it or check a phone and see how it looks before I pay for it. I can't be satisfied with just seeing items on pictures. Online buying works for some things, but not everything," Hugura argues.

Growth of online trading:

Yan Kwizera, the Kaymu Rwanda boss, attributes the success of Kaymu Rwanda on the strong mobile and Internet backbone in place.

"The emerging middle-class that is largely tech-savvy and hungry for 'real price and product discovery' is ready to buy online. This has meant that the traffic on Kaymu increases daily, which shows people's desire to experience online shopping."

He hopes to give buyers real shopping experience by ensuring the market always have different types of goods. "We have just signed up famous book stores like Editions Bakame to enable people buy books online. We are also encouraging Rwandan craft shops to sell their goods on our site," Kwizera says.

"With time, we shall have a variety of sellers and give buyers a better shopping experience."

Kaymu is the brainchild of e-commerce group, Africa Internet Holding, backed by Tigo, MTN and Rocket Internet, the incubation centre founded by the German Samwer brothers famous for making millions by cloning digital businesses.

Real estate dealers like Lamudi have also used the strong presence of Rwandans online to market properties, while food vendors have not been left behind, too.

Global e-markets:

eBay and Amazon: These firms sell rare, branded or sought-after items. You can sell just about anything on eBay and Amazon, but you will find the best luck listing rare items that have a niche market.

Do you have classic toys like action figures, collectibles or vintage electronics you have kept for years? You can try your luck on these online markets.

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