Chinese brands drive Jumia smartphone sales

Jumia Uganda, the country’s largest online retailer, recently released a whitepaper on online consumer trends and the smartphone preferences of their customers.

The website’s monthly visitors in 2016 increased to 200,000, a 12% rise from 2015. Most visitors – 80% – access the site through mobile phones, and 69% of them go on to place an order. Jumia says it expects to see the share of mobile customers go up as more people get faster 4G connections.

Unlike the other 15 African countries where Jumia operates, the top selling smartphone in Uganda is Samsung, a South Korean brand. Combined data from the 15 markets show that Chinese brands, particularly Infinix, InnJoo and Tecno, dominate smartphone sales. Infinix is not yet available in Uganda, but Tecno is the second most popular offering after Samsung, and “continues to secure an increasing amount of market share.”

The whitepaper said competition in the smartphone market over the last five years has shifted towards Chinese brands, whose growing domination has led to a “democratisation” of smartphones.

Chinese brands are desired for their affordability. “Over the last three years the average price of a smartphone in Uganda has decreased by almost 45% – from $178 dollars in 2014 to $99 dollars in 2017,” the whitepaper said. Chinese brands such as Tecno and Itel have driven the downward trend.

“The lowest price that we currently have on Jumia for a smartphone is the Blu Dash J – 4-inch smartphone at Shs99,900 UGX, and our current best-seller the Samsung Galaxy J2 is priced at Shs404,000.”

Smartphone sales on the website increased by 58% from 2014 to 2016, largely due to the availability of more affordable brands. But most of the buyers were from the greater Kampala metropolitan area, which accounted for 85% of smartphone sales.

The retailer does not expect the fall in smartphone prices to continue over the next two years. Instead, it believes brands will compete on new technology and more sophisticated features “such as the fingerprint scanner, Iris scanner, virtual reality, better camera resolution etc.”

The most popular sections on the website for customers access it using mobile devices are men’s fashion – not surprising, considering that 61% of total visitors are men – jewellery and watches, and mobiles and tablets.

The retailer is part of Jumia Group, which includes several online retailers in different sectors. Last year the group’s brands – which include an online real estate marketplace, a travel booking website, a food ordering website and app, among others – rebranded and took on the Jumia name; HelloFood, for example, became Jumia Food, while Lamudi became Jumia House.

The whitepaper does not give details of how consumers use the other Jumia services – although Jumia Travel released a Uganda Hospitality Report last month – and how their use of the services has changed since 2014 when Jumia Group launched in Uganda. In addition to its “progressive web apps” that provide a faster and lightweight experience, the retailer is counting on conventional strategies – research and development, customer service, and marketing – to get more Ugandans shopping online.