Smartphones in Kenya are a big deal, globally they surpassed feature phones in sales four years ago, both globally and in Africa. We have moved from the point where it was just a mobile phone to becoming the primary computing device for many. And thus decisions for buying a phone are not limited to phone calls. There are several factors like loss of a previous phone, camera capabilities, storage, processing power, memory (RAM), display, brand and even design. With all these, of much importance is the availability of these gadgets, reliability of the vendors in terms of warranties and service support, and speed to market.
This is why eCommerce websites are winning every day. I met with John Ngure, the founder and proprietor of PhonePlaceKenya to discuss why people seeking to buy their next smartphone should pay attention to PhoneplaceKenya. John says he picked an interest in smartphones business when he was employed by his brother to sell phones. It is then he interacted with Jumia ecommerce website adverts and wondered why the site was popular. This led to him commencing use of search engines to understand how they could be useful in driving sales.
He started PhoneplaceKenya to answer the question of where people could find phones in Kenya. He believes that he and his team can solve that for Kenyans in a reliable way, all the while ensuring that they can sell them smartphones efficiently. This was in the year 2013. This was also followed up with him opening up a physical store in Nairobi, thus ensuring that he can deal with both walk in customers and online customers.
Ngure notes that many Kenyans love window shopping online but do like to make a physical sale, and that informed the decision to have a “call me” button on the site instead of shopping cart. When one goes to the site and browses through the web catalog, they can request to be called back to discuss either delivery or pick-up. This personalizes the service just like it is in a physical shop.
PhoneplaceKenya promises a 1 hour delivery time within Nairobi, and 12 hours in the major towns around Kenya. “No customer orders a phone and then is told to wait two to three days,” says Ngure, adding that the payment mode is cash on delivery, with the cost of delivery within Nairobi being free and around Kshs 500 for other towns outside Nairobi.
John is confident that they are able to get smartphones as early as possible and ahead of their competition, so they deal with both early adopters and the mass market as well. They even sell devices that are available in other markets but not yet in the Kenya market. With very competitive prices. This brings up the contentious topic of smartphone warranty.
PhoneplaceKenya gives the standard warranties as supported by vendors like Samsung, Huawei, Tecno and Infinix locally, and for that warranty claims can be done anywhere at the respective service centres. For those devices that don’t have vendors locally supporting them, you know, like HTC and OnePlus, they give a 6 month return if the device has any software issues.
Of course there are challenges, he mentions that classifieds websites like OLX even out the space for everyone including those without shops. These quite often sell their devices quite competitively. He deals with this by being innovative in how he deals with customers by giving service guarantees and being early to market.
PhoneplaceKenya also gets devices that aren’t in the market if a customer requests, for those cases the delivery is a bit longer as they source for the device either from the factory or from distributors in other markets. What one needs to do is make contact with them either at the shop or on the website by writing them an email.
From then you will be required to make a commitment by way of a small deposit, and they will tell you how long it will take to get the device. Many times it’s within the week. They also promise that they most probably will give you better prices than those listed on international websites. So it’s something worth considering.
An interesting revelation came from him, that devices like Sony and HTCs get as many sales as Samsung on the website. Naturally you’d expect that customers would shy away from devices that don’t have local warranty support by the vendors, but they do get many customers quite okay with the 6 month return. So yes, there is demand for those.
Check out the smartphone prices on PhoneplaceKenya by category and see how competitive they are.