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  • Writer's pictureShakib Nsubuga

Co-branding campaigns with JForce agents in rural areas across Uganda

One common challenge with expanding e-commerce in African markets is penetrating rural areas. For example, in rural Uganda, we often encounter underdeveloped online marketing infrastructure, a lack of trust, lower smartphone and internet penetration and limited e-commerce knowledge.

For a while now, we've responded through the JForce program, where ordinary people can sign up as agents who help place orders for less tech-savvy consumers and teach them how to use our platform. We’ve also complemented this program with a network of pickup stations and offline advertising efforts on billboards, packaging and rider apparel.

Pick-up Station in Fort Portal, Uganda

Refining offline marketing and sales efforts in rural areas

Before setting up a pickup station or establishing a JForce network in a particular rural area, we start by conducting activations. These are small-scale physical events where we interface with the local populace to spread awareness about the offers on our platform, how to place orders, the order fulfillment process and other details.

Such events enable us to gauge the level of interest in e-commerce services, the consumers’ major pain points and the feasibility of expanding our operations in that area. They also help build trust, get more consumers to sign up and even garner some sales.

Unfortunately, during the preliminary stages, it can be tricky to determine which area will generate the highest revenue and sustain e-commerce growth. And with our sights set on ten major regions (Arua, Gulu, Mbale, Lira, Kasese, Fort Portal, Jinja, Masaka and Soroti), our team is undoubtedly spread thin.

Nonetheless, these multi-day activations provide valuable insight into the decision-making process that precedes various purchases. This is why we adopted a more targeted approach (prioritizing areas with high organic growth) and sought more cost-effective ways to enter these rural markets.

Adopting Co-branding

To continue reaping the benefits of activations, we collaborated with other brands that may be underprepared to execute these campaigns independently. This co-branding approach can serve vendors on our platform and other businesses, non-profit organizations or public institution initiatives.

We also accommodate a wide scope of objectives, which vary from one partner to another. For example, some organizations may want to maximize sales while others pursue account signups or app downloads. Alternatively, some may wish to perform product demonstrations, whereas others want to distribute free samples and conduct surveys.

In each case, we have a briefing to ascertain the goals and actual Key Performance Indicators and receive product knowledge, branded materials/merchandise and product samples. Ultimately, we share the cost of a resource-intensive activation and benefit together.

Achievements, lessons and goals

So far, we've achieved our greatest co-branding success with an electrical appliances brand, educating more people in rural areas about their products' value and how our e-commerce platform makes it easier and cheaper to get them. And in cases where some consumers bought the product from elsewhere, we can still get their feedback once they know we are working with that brand.

We have also realized that the benefits of co-branding go way beyond subsidizing marketing and sales efforts through actions like joint media buying. Activations and other physical events provide a more captivating experience for potential customers and get brands more deeply entrenched in rural communities.

The tailored conversations, knowledge exchanges, employment opportunities, branded merchandise and product sample giveaways, entertainment, and overall flurry of activity makes brands’ messages more appealing. This is because many people in rural areas would otherwise have to spend more time and money to access trend-setting information and services related to e-commerce and other businesses, with minimal guidance and a high risk of being defrauded.

Instead, they can witness various aspects of the service journey unfolding in real-time (like people buying products or becoming agents), gain confidence and opt in. As we advance, we hope to broaden what we can do for co-branding partners, strengthen the feedback loop with hyper-accurate and timely analyses from our field activities and train more teams to execute co-branding campaigns that satisfy all stakeholders.


Shakib Nsubuga

Head of Expansion and Offline Sales, Jumia Uganda

Shakib Nsubuga is the Head of Expansion and Offline Sales at Jumia Uganda. He works with the offline sales team (JForce) and expansion teams to grow E-commerce as an enabler for development across the country.

He is an experienced business development executive and project manager with a passion and demonstrated history of working in E-commerce, real estate, Agriculture, FinTech, Marketing and Advertising sectors and is particularly skilled in Business Strategy development and execution, negotiation, Policy Analysis and implementation and Customer Service.

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