This is the most potent ecommerce model in Africa at the moment; Copia is on a mission. The company raised $26m Series B funding round few weeks ago and investors are congregating because it has something that is evidently amazing. Largely, Copia is a consumer goods catalog and delivery service for Base of the Pyramid consumers in the developing world. It leverages mobile technologies and a network of agents serving as distribution points of aggregation to make a wide range of quality goods accessible to rural and peri-urban consumers. Through this mechanism, Copia has fixed the marginal cost problem, and that makes its model supreme. It does everything through aggregation which means it can pursue a near-zero marginal cost in its scaling. When the “postal system” is aggregated agents, good things happen!
Copia’s model is hinged on a 5,000-strong agent network comprising mainly of local, small shopkeepers who earn commissions by serving as “points of aggregation of orders and delivery distribution.” Essentially, rather than make purchases online via a website or consumer-facing mobile app, Copia customers walk into stores of partnered agents who place orders on their behalf, take payments and serve as delivery points. Beyond the strategic benefit of solving postal address problems associated with deliveries in some African cities and rural areas, these agents also serve another purpose: “We established relationships with agents in these areas because those agents are trusted members of the community and through them we build a direct relationship with the consumer,” Steel says.
Users can also make orders through USSD codes—the 20-year old mobile technology that’s become widely adopted on the continent as a workaround to boost financial inclusion via simple feature phones.
While the average value of orders placed on Jumia over the past year stood at $66, Copia records average order values of around $10, Steel says.