Major Takeaways from MEST Africa’s Conference On the Rise of eCommerce


MEST Africa invited Alex Mativo, Founder and CEO of Nanasi, and Bekithemba Ngulube, Co-founder of Kweza Technologies, in a webinar to discuss factors that aid innovation in the era of COVID-19, particularly in the social commerce sector. Here are my major takeaways from the webinar.

A startup’s relationship with its user community is vital

Understanding the community that uses a product is crucial to the success of the product. In Ngulube’s case with Kweza, the service helps to identify the increase and then decrease in volumes of orders placed by owners of spaza shops registered with the company.

Having a relational channel between the startup and those who adopt its products brings a degree of clarity and precision into decision making that a mass study does not guarantee.

Make the customer’s familiarity with social media work for your business

As Bekithemba pointed out, ‘Do not underestimate how comfortable people are with social media channels like Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook.’ Where applicable, do not structure your strategy in a way that shifts people from where they are comfortable to where they are not.

More companies are building sales channels on existing platforms. These make such services a comfortable first choice for the user when he/she needs a similar service while on the social platform.

Build for where your market is headed

It is not enough to understand the market at its present stage and create the product around that alone. Studying and understanding where the market is headed, whether in terms of technology adoption or competitive innovation, will make sure a company is not building its products for a disappearing audience.

“Have a 360-degree conversation with your ecosystem to know how it is changing. Talk to your customers and understand what their needs are, keep tabs with what their changing needs are. Talk to your team as well and know the KPIs in your industry, this will help you stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovating for your target market,” Bekithemba said.

Having data on the market and understanding how it performed in the last financial crisis, as well as studying where the market was headed before the crisis hit can help to make assumptions and projections on where the market is headed. The assumptions will not be spot on but close attention to the market and ecosystem will give the business a better view of opportunities and challenges.

Using the e-commerce sector as an example in light of the current pandemic causing lockdown around the world, Mativo said that the market had undergone major changes in what the people are ordering and what they are no longer ordering.

Post-COVID, companies in the sector will have to review the current operation and identify the areas where innovation is needed to stay relevant in the sector.

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