Take the fight

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY -

The on­line shop­ping wars are heat­ing up in South Africa, with mar­ket lead­ers Takealot and Kala­hari both eye­ing the con­ti­nent and for­tunes that await who­ever man­ages to crack African e-com­merce. Kala­hari has the weight of Naspers* be­hind it and Takealot.com re­cently re­ceived a $100m in­jec­tion from in­vestors. Kala­hari also re­cently up­dated its mo­bile apps, fo­cus­ing on the con­sumers that will make the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion when it comes to on­line or­ders.

We tested the new Kala­hari app for iPhone, which is a great im­prove­ment over pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions. For one, the new app is na­tive and feels a lot more re­spon­sive. It also makes end-to-end or­der­ing a lot friend­lier on mo­bile de­vices – to the ex­tent that I ac­tu­ally now pre­fer us­ing the app to the full desk­top Kala­hari site. There

is still some work to Value for money: be done on the other end of the con­nec­tion, how­ever.

The prob­lem, and this is somet h i n g Ka l a h a r i shares with its lo­cal ri­vals, is find­ing the items you’d like to buy amid the mil-


Also con­sider: lions of things now avail­able. With ev­ery­thing from books and kitchen uten­sils to con­sumer elec­tron­ics and gar­den­ing equip­ment, Kala­hari’s cat­a­logue is im­mense and find­ing what you need can be tricky.

This is some­thing that in­ter­na­tional mar­ket leader Ama­zon has man­aged to solve, with pow­er­ful search be­ing part of its suc­cess story. More traf­fic to an­a­lyse and use to im­prove search al­go­rithms also helps things along for the Ama­zons of the world. For Kala­hari, which has to deal with a big cat­a­logue de­spite hav­ing much smaller vol­umes, it must be an up­hill bat­tle.

Of course, this isn’t a prob­lem if you’re look­ing for a very pop­u­lar item like a Sony PS4 or a best-sell­ing novel. You’ll find these things with ease, and Kala- hari has made the check­out process very ef­fi­cient on its app, par­tic­u­larly if you opt to save your credit card de­tails for fu­ture or­ders. One cat­e­gory where Kala­hari seems to shine is chil­dren’s books.

The cracks in Kala­hari’s search start show­ing when you’re try­ing to find that spe­cific cam­era lens or vari­ant of lug­gage. Find­ing ob­scure items and be­ing able to order ex­act colours and ver­sions of prod­ucts is also what drives a great deal of on­line com­merce whereas more pop­u­lar items are read­ily avail­able at bricks-and­mor­tar re­tail­ers.

The other thing con­spic­u­ously miss­ing from the Kala­hari app is ac­cess to your wish list. This is some­thing Kala­hari has on its web­site but is miss­ing from the mo­bile app. You can’t save things to your wish list or ac­cess saved items this way, which is a missed op­por­tu­nity since I sus­pect a lot of brows­ing will hap­pen on the mo­bile app. Nonethe­less, Kala­hari has a world-class app and the com­pany’s ser­vice in terms of queries and de­liv­er­ies has been ex­cel­lent in my ex­pe­ri­ence. Things aren’t quite on the level of an Ama­zon yet, but that’s a tall order given the economies of scale Kala­hari deals with. The race is on. *Fin­week is a pub­li­ca­tion of Me­dia24, a sub­sidiary of Naspers.

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