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Emma Macharia

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How Cause Marketing Can Boost Your Brand

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With the last quarter of the year upon us, companies are pulling out all the stops to achieve a winning 2017. For retailers and brands, the stakes are especially high, as the holiday season can make or break the entire financial year.

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Collaboration and Cooperatives for business development

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REPOST: We have avenues for business growth and development if we collaborate and cooperate. The answer for growth and development lies in working together (the Kenyan Harambee spirit).

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The Art of Business Story Telling for Small Businesses

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How to build a knock-out brand

By Richard Branson

There are so many important decisions to make when starting out in business – where to base your company, whom to hire, and very importantly how to brand your product or service. Wanting to give entrepreneurs a leg up, not just in financing, but also to help make these decisions easier, we launched Virgin StartUp in England and Scotland in 2013.

Believing that every successful business leader should give back, and that business doesn’t have to be a game where some win and others lose, I like to drop in on our mentoring sessions from time to time. Which is exactly what I did, when Virgin StartUp recently ran a masterclass about how to build a knock-out brand. Watch the video below to see what happened when I made a surprise visit to talk with some of our promising entrepreneurs.

Coming up with a good name is the first curial step in creating a knock-out brand. In my experience, there are four important things to consider when deciding on a name. One: Know your audience – there’s no point in naming your business something that doesn’t appeal to the type of people you want to attract. Two: Keep it simple – Virgin wasn’t self-explanatory, but it was strikingly simple, so much so that the word has become synonymous with the brand. Three: Make sure it has legs – if you hope to grow your business into other industries then it’s important to come up with a name that can be used far and wide. Four: Have fun – by naming our brand Virgin we challenged the status quo and had a hell of a lot of fun doing it… and wow, did it serve us well for generating publicity!

The ability to create a stir is what sets highly successful brands apart from the rest. To get your brand out there, you need to present your business differently than your competition does. My mentor – Sir Freddie Laker, the owner of Laker Airways – gave me this advice in Virgin’s early days, and it eventually defined our marketing strategy, helping to make Virgin internationally famous. When we launched Virgin Atlantic, we were entering an industry rife with big players. “Make sure you appear on the front page and not the back pages,” Sir Freddie told me. “You are going to have to get out there and sell yourself. Make a fool of yourself — whatever it takes. Otherwise you won’t survive.” We’ve been doing incredibly outlandish things over the years and gone places other companies would never dream to venture. And it’s served us well; writing our unique but encompassing story, which people feel part of.

As well as storytelling, another great way to create a brand that resonates is to make sure your business truly makes a difference, and benefits others. Being purpose driven will align your brand better with your customers, and give you a competitive edge that knocks out the competition.

In a nutshell, my three fundamental tips for creating a knockout brand are to: focus on you business name, tell great stories that help people associate to your brand values, and make purpose part of your plan from the very beginning.


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3 Things Russia’s Largest Fashion Retailer Can Teach You

Credit: Getty Images

By Lisa Morgan | Journalist and content strategist

Gloria Jeans, Russia’s largest retailer, has a secret: It can predict the future.

More precisely, the company can predict probable outcomes using predictive analytics.

As you may have guessed, predictive analytics can predict what will likely happen in the future such as how global news and consumer buying habits will impact your business. To do that, you need a predictive analytics system that takes data you collected in the past, applies machine learning to it and presents you with a forecast.

When I talked to Timothy Kasbe, former COO of Gloria Jeans, he told me the company uses its own data, social media data and other publicly available data including weather data to improve its business. I asked him what effect that had and heard some interesting things that the company can teach the rest of us.

#1: You Can Forecast Revenue More Accurately

All businesses have some kind of data they can use to understand historical trends. Some call that “doing business through the rear-view mirror.”

Gloria Jeans used to do that exclusively. Using predictive analytics, it’s able to tell what’s happening now and what will happen next week, next month and two months from now with varying degrees of certainty.

For example, by 1 p.m., it knows what its revenue for the day will be.

#2: You Can Better Match Supply with Demand

Retailers are getting better at balancing supply and demand, but there are still back orders and clearance sales.

Imagine if you had to predict what will be popular several months from now or a year from now. Welcome to the fashion industry.

Gloria Jeans uses predictive analytics to do three things: avoid placing the wrong order, make sure it doesn’t order too much of a certain thing and avoid sellouts. To do those things more effectively, it uses lots of different sources of data including weather data and oil futures data.

#3: You Can Forecast Consumer Buying Trends

More businesses are supplementing their own data with data about competitors to compete more effectively. By doing this, Gloria Jeans avoided a huge mistake.

The company had placed an order for Winter/Fall 2015. That particular order placed a heavy emphasis on knitwear for women’s fashion. However, competitive data, verified by some sleuth work, indicated that its competitors had moved from knits to woven fabric. Luckily, it was able to change its order in time.

And That’s Not All

Predictive analytics are used by organizations in virtually every industry whether it’s predicting the next flu outbreak, preventing a security breach or predicting how many customers will walk through a mall, store, or zoo.

The advantage is taking smarter next steps because you are able to anticipate the likelihood of events more accurately than you could do if you were only using historical data or making educated guesses.

When should you consider predictive analytics? When you want to outthink your competitors or when the competitive pressure becomes so obvious (everyone else is doing it), that you have to do it to stay relevant.

Don’t worry. You’re probably not in imminent danger yet. But if your company grows the way you hope it will, your competitive landscape will change.


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Launching your marketing plan successfully in 3 phases

By Riro Jeremy

Having a concrete marketing plan therefore becomes a necessity for your business right from the onset when you are developing your start up and growth strategies. As opposed to the traditional marketing strategies which mainly involved mainstream media marketing through newspapers, radios and television; today marketers are turning online to reach their target audiences there. With high internet penetration across the world today, most people are spending more hours looking for information, news and entertainment online. It is therefore futile to invest heavily on offline advertisement while most of your customers will be found on different online platforms at any given time of the day.

Reaching out to your target customers online can however be a big challenge due to the noise found in the internet. To successfully maneuver through the noise in the internet and get your marketing messages across to your customers much effectively you will need to plan ahead and execute your marketing strategy in a systematic manner. One of the successfully proven strategies to launch your marketing plan includes three phases starting with strategic market positioning, followed by blogging and finally advertising.

Phase 1 – Strategic Positioning

To aim your guns in the right direction during an assault, you will need to be positioned in the right place and at the right time. Strategic positioning of your business within the industry therefore comes first even before you start developing your marketing content and designing your marketing materials. You first have to define who exactly your customer is and why they should buy from you and not from your competitors. Having a specific market segment that you are targeting helps you to refine your value proposition for them and customize your products for them such that you are able to deliver a compelling sales pitch to them at ease.

After establishing your strategic position, you need to accumulate enough ammunition and protective gear before you launch an assault. As a business owner, you will need to develop unique branding for your business in order to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Your business name and your business logo must all communicate the values that your business stands for. Most importantly, your business name and logo should resonate with your customer needs and the solution you are providing for them. Making both attractive and easy to remember will give you an edge over the rest of the competitors.

Finally, to ensure you are ready to start your live marketing, you will need to create an online presence by developing a website. Gone are the days when your website used to be an information centre about your business; today, your websites needs to have more functions such that your customers are able to interact with it and even transact business without your physical input in the process. The key thing to consider is having excellent user experience on your website.

Phase 2 – Blogging

Much on information, news and entertainment is found online and people are spending increasingly more hours in the internet nowadays. Having a social marketing and communication strategy will help you reach out to this online audience much faster and more efficiently than using the traditional methods of marketing. To kick off your marketing after developing your brand and online presence, you will have to invest in an excellent blog that sets you aside as a thought leader in your products, sector, industry and the markets that you operate in.

To support your blogging initiatives, you will need to launch digital PR and partnering in order to also monitor conversations about your brand, word of mouth and online reputation that your business is creating over time. Using viral videos and guerilla marketing will also drive traffic to your online site and you stand a chance to convert the traffic into customers. In addition, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and link-building will increase your visibility incredibly within the noisy and congested internet environment.

Phase 3 – Advertising

Building on the already established online presence and the growing online traffic and brand recognition through blogging, you can now venture into the final step of advertising. This will take different forms both online and offline; but you will definitely need to invest first in online advertising channels such as Google AdWords among others. Strategic PR campaigns through the mainstream media such as TVs and radio will at this point perfectly compliment your established brand name and create massive offline awareness of your brand and products. Other silent advertising strategies involve speaking at conferences or in media interviews in order to establish yourself and your brand as an authority in whatever business you are in.

Essentially developing and executing a successful marketing plan by following the above three phases should take you about 18 to 24 months; but the resulting brand loyalty will help keep you ahead of your competition and generate rising profits for your business, hence growing your wealth in the long run.

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How this Accra Restaurant Uses WhatsApp Marketing to Keep 6,000 Customers Coming Back

By Emmanuel Quartey

Burger & Relish is a popular American diner-style restaurant with two locations in Accra, Ghana — one in Osu (a commercial district), and another in East Legon (a quiet, upscale neighborhood).

In this exclusive article, Sean Burrowes, General Manager of Burger & Relish’s East Legon location, takes us deep into how his restaurant uses WhatsApp to keep his customers coming back.

Think of WhatsApp as a customer service channel for your best clients, *not* a mass advertising medium

WhatsApp is undeniably one of the most dominant forms of communication in the emerging world, and Accra is no different. Everyone uses WhatsApp — it transcends age, gender, and socio-economic status.

Because WhatsApp is so pervasive, marketers have been quick to attempt to use it to push their wares, but Burrowes recommends that a better approach is to think of the app as a direct line to your best existing customers.

“I think people are a bit fatigued with receiving marketing messages via WhatsApp,” says Burrowes. “A year or so ago, few companies were sending WhatsApp messages, but a lot businesses are doing so now, most of them badly, with the result that you’re starting to see less engagement.”

A more effective WhatsApp strategy, Sean suggests, is to think of WhatsApp as a direct line to your best, most engaged existing customers.

“When I send out a WhatsApp broadcast, I often get replies back. Sometimes they want to know if a certain dish is still on a menu, and this is a great opportunity to educate about our offerings and even upsell them on new ones. Other times, they want to flag an important issue they were uncomfortable mentioning in person, and that becomes an opportunity to address a customer service issue and improve our operations. We’ve found WhatsApp to be great as a customer support tool.”

 To get people to opt-in to receiving WhatsApp messages, tap into their FOMO (fear of missing out)

Across both restaurant locations, Burger & Relish has nearly 6000 people signed up to receive WhatsApp messages — about 4000 phone number for their Osu location collected over 2 years, and about 1,500 phone numbers for their East Legon restaurant, collected in about 4 months.

To acquire these phone numbers, Sean and his team first get a sense of whether the guest is clearly enjoying themselves. If so, they mention events that’ll be happening at the restaurant throughout the week, and ask if the guest would like to receive a reminder about future events via WhatsApp.

“We have multiple events at Burger & Relish during the week, so we use that as a hook to pique people’s interest. I train my waitstaff to collect numbers, but there’s only a light script, otherwise the delivery will be too robotic. Each team member is invited to bring their own style to it.”

Waitstaff are held accountable for growing the restaurant’s WhatsApp phone number database.

“Each waiter has a sheet where they list the numbers they’ve collected that day, and I make sure to review it so that my team knows that this is something that is important, and that’s a core part of their responsibility.”

Segment your WhatsApp Broadcast Lists

At the end of each day, the new numbers collected by the team is entered into WhatsApp Broadcast Lists on a company phone.

These lists are very intentionally organized.

“What most other companies do is that they just dump numbers into lists. What we do at Burger & Relish is that we add their number to a variety of named segments. For example, a guest who came with kids will get added to the Families Lists, young adults and college folks get added to Student Lists, etc. This helps us tailor messages to specific target groups in a way ensures that the message resonates.”

Create a distinct brand voice and tone

Every company has a personality that reflects their target audience, and Sean recommends ensuring that the WhatsApp messages are similarly on-brand.

“There’s actually a difference between how the two Burger & Relish restaurants talk to their respective WhatsApp lists. Our Osu location is very popular with expats, whereas most of our clientele in East Legon is a Ghanaian audience that usually comes to our restaurant to celebrate a specific event. This definitely influences my tone when messaging our East Legon customers, all the way down to the kinds of pop-culture references I make.”

The timing of messages is important

Sean recommends thinking carefully about when your target audience is most likely available to engage with your message.

“I send out messages at one of three times during the day: around 7 AM (so that it’s one of the first things people see when they wake up), around noon (so they see it during their lunch break), or somewhere between 5 to 7 PM (when people are deciding where to go eat out). I find that messages sent during times when people are likely to be busy result in fewer responses.”

Train your audience to respond

Businesses get the greatest return on investment when customers think of WhatsApp as a two-way communication channel. To get them there, it’s important to “train” them to respond to messages.

“Occasionally, I’ll do a small giveaway (eg. a free soft drink with any purchase) where people need to reply via WhatsApp to qualify for the deal. I find that this is a great way of getting people to reply for the first time, and after that, they start to think of the Burger & Relish WhatsApp not as mass advertiser, but a direct customer service line to their friends at the restaurant.”


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4 Ways to Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills

By Nina Bowman

If you’ve ever received feedback that you “need to be more strategic,” you know how frustrating it can feel. To add insult to injury, the feedback rarely comes with any concrete guidance on what to do about it. One of my coaching clients, Lisa, a vice president of HR, was in this situation and explains, “I was just told to think bigger picture and to be more strategic. It felt like I had been given the definition of a word by using the same word. It just wasn’t helpful.”

So what specific steps can you take to be more strategic in your current role?

Start by changing your mindset. If you believe that strategic thinking is only for senior executives, think again. It can, and must, happen at every level of the organization; it’s one of those unwritten parts of all job descriptions. Ignore this fact and you risk getting passed over for a promotion, or having your budget cut because your department’s strategic contribution is unclear.

Once you’ve accepted that it’s part of your job, focus on developing four key abilities that demonstrate your strategic prowess.

Know: Observe and Seek Trends

Lisa wasn’t seeing the big picture. Because of the amount of work she had and the pace at which she needed to get it done, she often took a “heads down” approach to her job and failed to “lift up” and observe both internal and external trends. She was missing key information that could help her focus, prioritize, and be proactive in addressing talent issues for her fast-growing company. Because Lisa approached her job in a transactional manner, simply getting the next hire, she didn’t recognize that she needed a completely new approach to recruitment and retention.

In order to be strategic, you need a solid understanding of the industry context, trends, and business drivers. An intellectual appreciation of the importance of bringing in current data and seeking trends isn’t enough. You also have to:

  • Make it a routine exercise to explore and synthesize the internal trends in your day-to-day work. For example, pay attention to the issues that get raised over and over in your organization and synthesize the common obstacles your colleagues face.
  • Be proactive about connecting with peers both in your organization and in your industry to understand their observations of the marketplace. Then, share your findings across your network.
  • Understand the unique information and perspective that your function provides and define its impact on the corporate level strategy.

Think: Ask the Tough Questions

With a fresh understanding of trends and issues, you can practice using strategic thinking by asking yourself, “How do I broaden what I consider?” Questions are the language of strategy. Lisa came to appreciate that her life and prior experience gave her a unique, yet myopic, strategic lens. So she pushed herself to ramp up her perspective-taking and inquiry skills. By becoming more curious, and looking at information from different points of view, she was able to reduce her myopia and see different possibilities, different approaches, and different potential outcomes.

For example, when working on an employee retention project she asked herself, “What does success look like in Year 1?”  “What does it look like in Year 3?” “What could impact the outcome in a negative way?” “What are the early signs of success/failure?” “What do business partners need to understand to ensure its success?” and “Do the outcomes support the broader goals of the organization?” By asking these tough questions first, she recognized that she could better engage with colleagues and senior executives early on in ways that would benefit the project — and would help shape the perception that she was thoughtful and strategic.

Speak: Sound Strategic

Strategic thinkers also know how to speak the language. They prioritize and sequence their thoughts. They structure their verbal and written communication in a way that helps their audience focus on their core message. They challenge the status quo and get people talking about underlying assumptions. Those that are really skilled walk people through the process of identifying issues, shaping common understanding, and framing strategic choices.

If this sounds complex, that’s because it is. But there are ways you can start honing these skills:

  • Add more structure to your written and verbal communication. Group and logically order your main points, and keep things as succinct as possible.
  • Prime your audience by giving them a heads up on the overarching topics you want to address so they are prepared to engage in a higher level conversation, not just the tactical details.
  • Practice giving the answer first, instead of building up to your main point.

Lisa didn’t realize that the way she spoke created the perception that she was not strategic. She set about changing that. First by focusing her one-on-ones with her CHRO on higher level discussions and leaving tactical issues to email. She chose one or two strategic areas to focus on.  and made sure to frame issues in the context of the CHRO’s and the CEO’s top priorities.

Act: Make Time for Thinking and Embrace Conflict

In the early phase of our work together, Lisa kept a jam-packed schedule, running from meeting to meeting. She found it difficult to contribute strategically without the time to reflect on the issues and to ponder options. Recognizing that she was not bringing her full value to the table, she started to evaluate her tasks based on urgency and importance as outlined in Stephen Covey’s 2 x 2 matrix. She stopped going to meetings she didn’t need to be at. She blocked out thinking time on her calendar and honored it, just as she would for other meetings. And she fought back the initial guilt of “Am I doing real work when I’m just sitting at my desk thinking?”

Lisa also practiced other key skills. She learned to embrace debate and to invite challenge, without letting it get personal so that she could ask tough questions. To do this, she focused on issues, not people, and used neutral peers to challenge her thinking. To manage the inevitable ambiguity that arises when you ask more questions, Lisa also learned to clarify her decision-making criteria, allowing her to better act in the face of imperfect information.

The quest to build your strategic skills can be uncomfortable. At first, you might feel like you’re kicking up sand in the ocean. Your vision will be blurred as you manage through the unsettling feelings that come with challenging your own assumptions and gaining comfort with conflict and curiosity. Once the dust settles, however, and you’re able to contribute at a higher level, you’ll be glad you took the risk.


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But some new entrants aren’t bound by this narrative, and are uncovering opportunities with lucrative potential. 2K Market is one of those.

Launched in January, the online retail store has cornered a niche for itself and is so far proving extremely lucrative. By offering largely household products under the price of N3000 ($9), it is managing to capture an attractive number of cost-driven online shoppers who prioritize cost whenever making shopping decisions.

In this interview, the founders of 2K Market, Kelechi Nwaozuzu and Emeka share more on the inspiration behind the brand and why they believe it will blossom into a household name.

Your motivation for being an entrepreneur

There are a million and one reasons why people become entrepreneurs. To provide a solution, to help people, to bridge existing gaps. When we decided to start, it was because we felt challenged to help create a platform for people whom we felt have great potentials but were not recognised for the lack of a platform. Being entrepreneurs put us in a better position to channel our vision of helping people live comfortably without breaking the bank. We are taking full control of the platform we have designed to impact positively on the lives of people.

Were you always certain the entrepreneurial life was for you?

Kelechi: For me, I always knew there was so much more to life than running a 9 to 5. I never pictured myself doing that for a long time. I always wanted to be my own boss but I knew that it would not be easy to attain but I was and still am willing to follow on with that dream however long it takes.

Emeka: Not really. As a child, I had dreams of having a white collar job. I envisioned myself working in an organization with an ideal environment and a mouth-watering salary. But that mindset changed later. For one, there are thousands of graduates that are unemployed, so there was no guarantee that I would get my dream job after graduation and NYSC. Secondly, I saw a need in Nigeria’s Ecommerce space, one which its solution will better the lives of many. So, rather than focus on white collar jobs, I started thinking about problem solving.

What is the story behind the 2k Market brand name?

We wanted a unique name, one that that will perfectly describe who we are and what we do. We are an online market where buyers shop for products that are only two thousand nine hundred and ninety nine naira(2999Naira) and below. Hence the name 2kMarket.

What kind of products are you focused on, and why?

When the idea of 2kMarket was birthed, we planned on having products that cut across as many sectors as possible. For now the products available on 2kmarket are products whose price range fit into the scope of our market and majority of them are household items as we are looking to meet the immediate needs of Nigerians. Since our launch on the 15th of January, we have had several people and companies reach out to us and we’re working to ensure that in the near future, we will expand our site to accommodate products that cut across many more sectors in order to meet the needs of many more people.

You seem to have launched right in the thick of Nigeria’s current economic crisis. Did this in anyway influence the brand strategy in terms of retailing largely low-cost products?

Our major goal like we mentioned earlier was/is to solve a problem, in this case the high cost of quality products especially in this period of recession. We had planned our launch much earlier but due to some unforeseen circumstances, it had to be postponed. As a matter of fact, we think it is pure coincidence that the economic situation makes our market even more appealing. We are sure many people find it comforting to still get high quality products at an affordable price especially in this period of economic crises.

If managing a business during an economic crisis is usually a struggle, then starting out should feel like hell. Has this been the case for 2k Market?

Every business faces several challenges but what distinguishes a business that is able to survive and thrive is consistency, hard work and commitment. In all sincerity, It has not been rosy at all. There are a plethora of challenges and obstacles that we have faced starting up 2kMarket. It was challenging from the onset getting sellers to trust our platform. It was a challenge deciding on the right quality of products to put up on the site. It was also a bit difficult getting some sellers to adjust their prices to fit our market price. Managing the business as a whole and keeping it running has been a herculean task. It takes a lot to gain the trust of Nigerians, to create brand awareness, as well as to get people to actually shop on 2kMarket. All of these cost time, hard work and money. All three we’re willing to give.

Currently, what would you consider your greatest daily challenge(s) in managing 2k Market?

It is quite difficult to single out one challenge as being the greatest daily challenge. Each day poses a new challenge, which most times we successfully overcome. There are challenges with processing some orders, delivery of some orders, creating awareness, building trust and managing our social media pages. For now, we could say one challenge we are hoping to overcome soon is getting word out there to millions of Nigerians that there exists a budget-friendly, pocket-friendly online store with high quality products.

What measures do you put in place from a strategic point to address these challenges?
We make it a point of duty to learn from every new experience and to ensure that in all, we satisfy our customers. For the issue of processing orders, we try to make the process as seamless as possible for both the sellers and the buyers by working with a host of competent and efficient courier service providers. We’re currently working on creating a system where we can easily process an order swiftly. The good news is that so far, we have not failed to meet the expectations or needs of any of our customers and we hope to continue to maintain such good records. As for the awareness, we’re utilising our social media pages to the best of our ability.

The ecommerce wave that stormed Nigeria, and Africa as whole, just a few years ago seem to have cooled off. Do you think this is accurate and if so what can you attribute this to?

We are of the opinion that Nigerians are slow to embrace change sometimes and when there is no more “thrill”, are also quick to let go of it. The ecommerce wave hit Nigeria real big, but due to many repeated bad experiences, people are losing faith in online shopping. Also the economic recession is not helping matters. Things are getting much more expensive to buy, so shopping online is not much of a priority for some. The fact that there has been a calm is definitely not accurate and we hope to be able to help create that excitement and excellent customer service once more.

How is 2k Market strategically positioning itself to push beyond the limits of the sector?

Like every organization that means business, 2kMarket has big plans for the near future. We are looking at expanding our business and reaching our full potential. We have plans to house many more products from many sectors of the economy (especially agriculture), we have plans of partnering with so many companies and individuals. We hope to bring them on to our platform with our carefully mapped out strategies. We are also looking to expand beyond the Nigerian borders but as we earlier highlighted, these are feats that will not happen in one day but we’re willing to and are already working towards achieving them.

What key trends do you expect to see in the ecommerce sector in the coming years?

Each day, technology all over the world is expanding and newer concepts are emerging. We anticipate that once again, the ecommerce wave will hit Nigeria and this time with much more force that will have lasting effects. Many Nigerians will embrace this and fully utilize all that the sector has to offer. Many other ecommerce sites will emerge and try to win the hearts of Nigerians. It will take something special to be a major player then and we are gearing up for this. We expect to see the reintroduction of trade by barter ecommerce style too.

What do you think the coming years hold in store for this brand?
The future of 2kMarket is a very bright one. In just two months of existence we have achieved quite a lot and we hope to achieve many more great things. We have chosen not to rest on our oars and we foresee 2kMarket being a widely recognized brand in Nigeria, Africa and hopefully, the world. We will win the hearts of Nigerians and constantly exceed expectations by offering at all times the Ultimate Customer Experience.


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