Transforming rural trade in Senegal through Jumia's e-commerce network
Whenever we set out to offer our e-commerce services to a previously uncovered area, there are several factors to consider. In addition to having a thorough understanding of our potential customers’ major pain points, we need to understand the role technology, culture, and infrastructure play in the local commerce scene.
For example, in rural Senegal, we’ve encountered an interesting blend of challenges and opportunities that left us highly motivated to grow e-commerce in these areas.
The context of trade in rural areas of Senegal
One of the major trade problems in rural areas is the inability to get goods at similar prices to those in urban areas. This has a lot to do with the transportation costs and limited logistical resources, particularly the fleet size. With smaller fleets, getting large volumes of goods to rural areas is trickier.
Consequently, distributors focus less on providing several brand options, bulkier high-end electronics, or larger sizes of everyday consumer goods. And with these goods coming in irregularly, it’s hard to get a wide range of products at affordable prices.
Secondly, in regions like “Casamance” Southern Senegal, some areas are very isolated, with underdeveloped infrastructure, making them difficult to access. Additionally, there’s lower internet penetration in such areas, which complicates the use of e-commerce technologies.
Thirdly, many rural areas have higher illiteracy levels, and people have a “See before buying” culture. It's much harder to communicate to potential customers about our offerings and help them buy when the goods aren't physically present for inspection during the trade.
Seizing opportunities for E-Commerce Growth
Online trade has been thriving in numerous parts of Senegal for a while now, with many people using platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and others to market products, coordinate deliveries and other activities.
This gives us a gateway into the trading scene in rural areas. Interactions on such platforms offer great insight into consumer preferences and also expose consumers to information on several products. These platforms also enable us to advertise our services and facilitate conversations between our JForce agents and shoppers.
Some rural areas have unique trading activities, as seen in fishing communities. The dominance of such activity leaves many people with considerable liquidity and a desire to purchase different products with their cash.
However, the prevalence of a specific commercial activity can also create a situation where many support elements like stores, vehicles and other resources are dedicated to that trade. Other trades are left underserved, so we proceed to fill this gap and provide such communities with fashion products, home appliances and other highly demanded but often rarer items.
Since many people in rural areas prefer to buy what they can see and touch, physical retail outlets and periodic, pop-up markets are some of their preferred shopping avenues. Accordingly, we can apply a more experiential approach to growing e-commerce.
For example, we set up temporary stands where we blend music and other forms of entertainment with informative announcements and teach people how to use our e-commerce platform directly or place orders through our JForce agents.
Consumers also learn about our network of pickup stations and witness our on-the-ground operations, which helps build trust. These physical premises and events also provide alternative employment opportunities for people in these areas, who help us navigate language barriers and cultural complexities.
This highly engaging and economically empowering work of simplifying shopping for relatives, friends and neighbors makes e-commerce a more coveted sector and an unstoppable wave.
Current progress and the future of e-commerce in rural areas
Our e-commerce services have been warmly welcomed in regions like Casamance and the greater south of Senegal. Senegal has at least 40 rural regions, so there's still plenty of room for expanding e-commerce beyond urban areas like Dakar, and we are eager to continue this journey.
All-in-all, we are determined to offer e-commerce services that transcend existing commercial practices while smoothly ushering consumers into more affordable, convenient and satisfying shopping experiences.
Chief Marketing Officer, Jumia Senegal
Ernesto Hane is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Jumia Senegal, a position he has held since September 2021. With a career spanning over a decade, Ernesto is an accomplished marketing professional.
Before joining Jumia Senegal, Ernesto held the role of Director of Strategy at Caractère, where he spearheaded numerous successful marketing campaigns. Prior to his time at Caractère, Ernesto kick-started his agencies career at Havas Media, where he made his mark as a Digital Strategist.