Can you tell us about shop-to-my-door.com and what unique solutions you offer?
Basically, let us start with the problem of Nigerian space. You go to sites like Amazon, eBay, you see cheaper laptops, wristwatches, clothes compared to the prices they are sold in the local market but when you try to ship them down through those companies, they let you know that a small, cheap shirt is going to cost $80-something to ship it. So what Shoptomydoor.com did when we started operation in year 2009 was to set up warehouses in these various countries, so that as you buy from Amazon or eBay, we will collect the items for you and ship it down to Nigeria and what we see is a huge savings for the customer. Let us assume you are buying a wristwatch from Amazon, shoes from eBay, say five things from different stores; the traditional system is that each of those stores, if they ship to Nigeria, will ship from their warehouses. So, a wristwatch can cost you $70/80 to ship but using our method, most of those items we ship are free or at a low cost like $2/3 to your US address, and from your US address, we collect everything and ship it down to Nigeria. The benefit is that where you would have spent close to $80 to ship five items from five different stores, you end up spending maybe $50-$60 using our platform. Apart from that, our parent company in the US is a registered shipping company. So we are able to set our own shipping rates and it basically drives the prices down. We look at the problem of international shopping and came up with a solution where we set up each customer with an address in these countries, they buy from wherever they want to buy, send to that address, our warehouse people will collect it as one and ship it down to Nigeria.
How much of technology are you leveraging on?
We have spent thousands of US dollars on the design that we have put into our platform. Obviously, we need to make sure that people who are paying by using their cards are protected, and that is one of the key things we focus on. We have other technologies verified by the Visa, MasterCard secure code which is also implemented. We do all our monitoring through a US company cardinal office. These are key people that help to protect financial data. A lot of Nigerian banks work with them. From our back end, everything is online with a virtual view of what you are buying. There is a lot of complex programming involved. Basically, we have taken a physical warehouse, and moved it into the online space. So, am able to log in at any point in time. The simplicity is amazing. As soon as anything gets to the warehouse, you get an alert on your email which shows you the details of everything that comes in like the prices, the tracking number, and from the time we ship it out, you constantly get email alerts. Those are technologies that are software implementations that you only see in the big three shipping companies like FedEx. You hardly see this in any of the low cost shipping companies. Technology is key to us and one of the things we do is to simplify it more. Hopefully, in the next two to three months, we will be launching our App across all platforms. We will also be launching on the mobile phones. If you look at statistics, over 70-80% of people in Nigeria, browse with their phones and virtually every company is going mobile.
Do you really think people are changing in the way they ship in their goods?
They are. The key thing that drives this for consumers is savings. If I use this platform and another platform, what is my savings? There is a report we did some time ago, it shows that consumers are willing to wait six to ten days if they are able to get a product significantly cheaper. Our typical delivery from the US is six to ten business days. Already we are witnessing a huge growth in Shoptomydoor.com. We did a recent promotion on Facebook and within three months, we had almost seventeen thousand new subscribers who are actively using the platform. The testimonials we are getting shows that people are interested. The key thing is that a lot of people will want to test your service, once they are satisfied in it, you will see an increase in shopping. But we have taken that to a new level with big time partnerships to convince people to use this service more.
What are you hoping to achieve in the Nigerian Market?
The key thing we are hoping to achieve is that everyone is aware of our service. We are not saying this because we want to make more money, but because it is a service that will save Nigerians money. I used to work for General Electric in the US, and I had a lot of my friends sending me money to buy things. I saw that there was a potential there. The good thing is that most of our institutions are beginning to see the importance of what we are doing. We recently signed an agreement with Visa, where we offered discount to every Visa card holders. They believe so much in our service. We have also signed with FirstBank, FCMB, and about five banks that we are talking to, so that in August, we will also bring their card holders on board. We are looking into a lot of partnership not just with the local outfits but also with international companies to open up their systems to Nigerians. The biggest news came up three weeks ago when PayPal opened up in Nigeria and it is a lot of opportunity for us because when you look at the number of methods that use PayPal, Nigerians have more liberty to get more items at a cheaper rate. Such openings make the future brighter for Shoptomydoor.com. My greatest desire is that consumers see the benefit. You are getting the quality service at the right price and you are sure of what you are getting.
How secure is the site?
We have two ways we go about security. We have the standard security of which every organization shows her authentication. The second one is when you look at the back-ends of our system; it is designed with a lot of security in mind that everything we do is on a need-to-know basis. Basically, the customer service agent who is looking at your order of details will never have access to your credit card. We looked at two different systems when we were looking at the Nigerian concept. You have the one where our platform will store the credit card data and the one where it is not. We decided to go with the one where it is not. Our processing is done by Bank of America in conjunction with a company called Authorize.net. Authorize.net is probably the biggest credit card processing company in the US and the platform we signed out for them is such that the data is not even stored on our platform but on their platform and they do processing for millions of merchants in the US. So, in terms of security, I can confidently say that since when we launched Shoptomydoor.com, we have never had any security issues.
‘We look at the problem of international shopping and came up with a solution where we set up each customer with an address in these countries, they buy from wherever they want to buy, send to that address, our warehouse people will collect it as one and ship it down to Nigeria’