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Senegal’s Yoonema connects sellers to buyers via SEO-ready marketplace

Senegalese e-commerce startup Yoonema is an SEO-ready platform that gives sellers access to a secure webstore, easy payment options, marketing tools, and an established database of more than 1,000 customers. 

Founded in 2019 and recently selected to take part in the ASIP accelerator run by Startupbootcamp AfriTech, Yoonema has created a digital marketplace that offers a simplified and reliable e-commerce experience for global shoppers and merchants in emerging markets,  with Africa as the primary target geography.

“We targeted the African market, specifically West Africa, because of its enormous potential for economic growth fuelled by demographics, growing middle class, and flourishing digital economy,” Mame Fatou Ba, general manager of Yoonema, told Disrupt Africa.

“We believe the digital experience and customer care Yoonema offers will address unmet demand. Our strategy consisted of building an online store that could later be expanded into a digital marketplace for physical goods or services. We carefully formulated Yoonema’s competitive advantage around these key differentiators – frictionless shopping experience on a secure e-commerce platform, value-added services, and curation of the platform’s selection.”

For three years, the startup has been learning from its users and adapting to its environment. 

“Part of our learning was observing the budding digital entrepreneurship phenomena that was pervasive throughout Africa, and emerging markets in general. In West Africa, we’ve witnessed that social media users are not just spectators, but rather active value creators that use social media to conduct their side businesses. This practice, aptly called social commerce, is a commerce revolution that has presented us with the opportunity to pivot faster to meet our market’s demand.”

Yoonema has fully converted into a digital marketplace that serves as an intermediary for buyers and sellers to carry out their transactions. This shift into a transaction platform holds several benefits for vendors and buyers alike, Ba said.

“For our digital entrepreneurs, most of whom are moonlighters, integrating our platform provides them first and foremost with simplicity. As outlined earlier, merchants are the creator, the marketer, the catalogue manager, the salesman, the customer representative, the delivery person, and more. These operational complexities are consuming tasks even for a full time entrepreneur, let alone a moonlight entrepreneur who holds a 9-5 job, full-time,” she said.  

“Yoonema aggregates the different stages of the merchant-buyer journey from first contact to the completion of a transaction and beyond, through continued marketing and customer outreach. We simplify the experience for both the seller and the customer by closing the transaction facilitation gap. Furthermore, Yoonema offers a secured payment platform that builds and reinforces trust in the buyer-seller journey, while mimicking the day-to-day payment landscape known to customers, and also providing payments with major credit cards to suit our already established international customer base.”

That customer base numbers more than 1,000, and having secured private funding in 2022 Yoonema is ready to expand. 

“Our target market is ECOWAS, starting with the eight WAEMU countries that share the same  Customs and Monetary Union,” said Ba.

“Our base offering for our sellers is access to the basic features of the platform for free. As we continue to develop additional features based on what we have learned from the customers, and are still learning, we will be able to enhance and augment our product.” 

The additional features attached to the “augmented product” will be the startup’s monetisation  opportunity. 

“These features need to be extensions or amplifiers of the core benefit that made the user – buyer or seller – join the ecosystem. Further monetisation opportunities will unlock as we learn more from our users’ preferences,” Ba said.

“In the first quarter of 2020, we already started experimenting with providing a digital storefront to local sellers. For the past two years, we’ve experimented, learned, optimised the process of onboarding sellers, and learned how to further monetise our symbiotic exchange. From all the learnings, we are set on an accelerated roadmap to expand our product to best serve the needs of our customers and capitalise on our investments.”

Source : Disrupt Africa