With the entrance into China, GIG Logistics now provides more shopping options for individuals and businesses in Nigeria.
The tech-driven logistics company solves two significant challenges in the e-Commerce space: Hassle-free last-mile delivery and payment in local currency when shopping on foreign websites.
With the GIGGo app, customers can now shop from Chinese websites from their comfort zones, pay in Naira, and ship to their doorstep in Nigeria in a few days.
The differentiator for GIGL China’s launch is the introduction of a personal shopping assistant, “KIM”, an Artificial Intelligence-powered bot that provides a personalized shopping and shipping experience for customers on Whatsapp & WeChat.
In this interview, Dr Ocholi Etu, the Director of Operations at GIG Logistics, emphasizes the economic benefits of GIGL’s presence in China to merchants and customers.
He also delved into ‘Kim’; how it enables payments, verify orders, create shipping bills and invoices, ship items from China to Nigeria, and track each shipment until it gets to the customer’s doorstep in Nigeria:
TE: Congratulations to GIGL for berthing in another market. Why China this time?
Dr. Ocholi Etu: The innovation that we do at GIGL is based on feedback we get from customers. It is the philosophy of being customer-obsessed; meaning that we don’t just create products and shove them to customers, we get feedback from customers for existing products, what they would have wanted, and even how to improve on our products.
The constant feedback and reviews we get from our customers inform every adjustment and innovation we make.
China has always been in the hot spot of what we needed to do and we didn’t just start this year. Originally, we planned to mirror our existing product design for the US and UK but it became increasingly impossible to use that model especially after CBN came with policies that restricted payments and everything.
So, we had to go back to the drawing table and map out solutions that address the challenges that Nigerian consumers are facing when they shop from China.
As you would know, China is one of the top manufacturers for the global market, not just because of the affordability of products but also the increasing numbers of manufacturers in China that allows customers to have many choices of products, compared to the US and UK.
This means that the Nigerian economy, to a large extent, is interlinked with China. Almost everything that we get in terms of supporting commerce and industry, comes from China.
At GIG Logistics, we pride ourselves as a gateway to Africa, so expanding operations to China was a major move that we had to make.
As a technological company with logistics solutions that are designed to power e-commerce, we needed to ensure that consumers in Nigeria can enjoy the convenience of shopping with ease like their counterparts in the US and UK.
To replicate this success, we introduced a Personal Shopper named KIM to help Nigerians shop from Alibaba and other Chinese websites.
Kim is an artificial intelligence chatbot that would take your order, ensure that you get that item, then do verification because one of the feedback we got was the ‘what I ordered and what I got’ situation which is common with online shopping. So, in order to allay our customers’ fears and to give them the best shopping experience, we introduced the verification process with pay a little service charge.
KIM is going to guarantee that you get the right quality and quantity of products. She’ll also ensure that your items are packaged in the right boxes because shipping fees are based on weight. Extra boxes will bring additional charges but KIM will help you avoid all that through a personalized shopping experience.
Another benefit of shopping with KIM is that you make ALL payments in Naira instead of the Chinese RMB. This means that you don’t need to worry about how you’re going to get the money out through all the CBN restrictions and all, KIM will help you with all that.
The third advantage of using shopping with KIM is speedy delivery to your doorstep. After sorting the payment and quality issues, we decided to top it with speedy delivery as fast as 5-7 days.
These combined benefits makes KIM your best plug for shopping and shipping from China to Nigeria.
TE: Can you shop from any website in China or you have to pass through a gateway?
Dr. Ocholi Etu: We will be enlightening our customers about other Chinese websites they may not know because we noticed that a lot of Nigerians are only stuck with the Ali Baba website when there are other websites with cheaper products. So, we want to give Nigerians more shopping options to choose from.
China has domestic websites that are accessible to China residents and international websites that are available to the global market. With KIM, Nigerians can also have access to the domestic websites using a key and they can be assured that they will be getting quality products because we have a thorough verification process.
TE: Tell us a little bit about Kim, the AI-powered chatbot
Dr. Ocholi Etu: As a technological company, we always ensure that our solutions are tech-inclined. Kim is an AI interface that can chat and respond to customers, take their quotes and demands, then at the backend, she interacts with our partners.
KIM is a bilingual chatbot that can speak English and Chinese fluently. So, she bridges the language barrier between our customers in Nigeria and Chinese suppliers.
As we continue to advance our technological solutions, we will be exploring more integrations such that in the future, our customers will be able to do all of these processes from the app. We have taken the first step and we are working towards providing more convenience for our customers using technology.
TE: How well are you preparing for the shopping surge coming with the Christmas season? And how long would it take after making payment to receive the goods?
Dr. Ocholi Etu: The first stage of shopping is the first mile. The customer places an order and the supplier brings the items to our experience centre in China.
Though we are in constant interaction with the supplier, we have to wait till the items get to our centre and the time it takes is not always specified. However, once the items arrive at our centre, we are in full control of the delivery timeline to Nigeria and the promised time is within 5 to 7 days.
Because of the forthcoming high season, there’s a lot of pressure, so we are going to advise customers on what our transit time is because the transit time will have to reflect the demand and supply.
During low seasons, getting items here in China can take up to 3 days but during the high season, it might be a little bit longer than that.
As I mentioned earlier, the first mile is what we need to perfect. In most cases, customers’ items get to our location within 24 to 72 hours depending on where the Chinese factory is and the nature of the item. As for the middle to last mile, we can do it in days because we have the fastest delivery processes and reliable Chinese partners with over 20 years of experience in shipping from China to Nigeria.
So, anyone who wants to make orders for Christmas should ensure they do it early because even the manufacturers will have a backlog of orders before it gets to us.
TE: What has been your experience with payments in the US and UK in terms of failed payments like we have in Nigeria sometimes?
Dr. Ocholi Etu: Unlike shopping from the UK and US, customers are paying into a local bank here in Nigeria.
Though there are common payment issues within Nigeria like transfer payments that do not reflect on time, such issues will be immediately communicated to our bankers to see how we can also correct that, while also keeping our customers in the loop.
Once payment is confirmed, we conclude the transaction and the customer is happy. We have a different way of settling our partners in RMB and the customers do not need to go through that stress. Once you make naira payments to us, we confirm and proceed with the transaction. The rest of the fund movement and exchange is done at the backend with our office in China.
Remember that the office in China is also a GIGL office, we have built a system such that they can carry out that transaction and later on, we can do the settlement. Customers have nothing to fear and if there is any banking issue, it will be a minor issue that would be resolved locally.
TE: How can customers shop in China through GIG Logistics?
Dr. Ocholi Etu: Customers can chat with Kim on WhatsApp & WeChat on 09139346234 for any questions they might have. These enquiries are conveyed to partners in China who are equipped with details of suppliers or stores that have what you want. KIM then relays their responses to the customer in real-time and also guides them through the shopping and shipping process.
We chose to make the process simple for our customers because we expect that almost 90% of mobile phone users are comfortable with WhatsApp, and telling people to download an app at this early stage might be too laborious.
Another thing I must say is the time difference between Nigeria and China. Sometimes, if the office in China is not open and KIM cannot make these enquiries, there might be a delayed response.
This does not mean that GIGL is not responsive because the time difference between both countries is over 7 hours.
To avoid delays like this, we encourage Nigerians to place orders before noon because 12 pm in Nigeria is like 7 pm there and you can’t get any response at that time.
Since customers are shopping from stores with fixed closing time, enquiries like getting your order, getting the price and other information, has to be when it is daytime in China. This is one thing customers need to know.
Besides that, every other process is smooth for now. As the festive season approaches, we will be creating more awareness on social media so that customers will not be limited to a few Chinese websites, but also open to other websites that our China office has verified as trusted and affordable.
Dr. Ocholi Etu as a strategist and a catalyst adepts at enhancing organizational performance through growth acceleration, inspiring leadership and robust business optimizations. He is a tenacious “Corporate Entrepreneur” that thrives at granular and Board level, and his structured thought process distils complex challenges into clearly extrapolated solutions that bridge the fundamental components of People, Prosperity and Posterity; effectively establishing organizational Service, Success and Sustainability.
Etu’s persuasive interpersonal skills have allowed him to build high-performance teams aligned with improved organizational accomplishments and effective succession strategies.
This, coupled with his ability to straddle the macro and the micro in an agile manner; has enabled effective working relationships and significantly enhanced commercial results. Read more about Dr. Ocholi Etu here.