Two-year-old Moroccan ecommerce search engine Vendo.ma has raised 2.7 million dirhams (US$267,000) from a business angel based in England.
"We are planning on monetizing our startup using a CPC bidding model similar to Google Adwords, where our customers can choose their desired products to sponsor and highlight, bearing in mind that the sponsored products and offers have to be relevant to the customer’s search input," said growth marketer Rezki El Mokaddam.
He said the site received nearly 100,000 visitors per month. It lists nearly 200,000 products from around 110 local ecommerce sites and redirects buyers to the store they want to buy from, much like Yaoota in Egypt. Unlike Yaoota, which takes a commission on sales directed from their site, Vendo’s revenue comes solely from advertising.
It’s ecommerce but not ecommerce
Rather than creating yet another online shopping site, Moroccan engineering students Ibrahim Chraibi, 25, and Salah Eddine Cherkaoui, 24, flipped the idea around and build instead an ecommerce search engine.
Vendo.ma enables people to find the specific online shop for their needs, and geolocate offline stores in Morocco.
"At first, the idea was to enable people to access information as quickly as possible, we have close to 700 ecommerce sites in Morocco, [and another] 500 that are created every year so we wanted to bring something which simplifies the search," cofounder Eddine Cherkaoui said.
Vendo is growing in a blooming Moroccan ecommerce sector.
"Ecommerce in Morocco began to take a very important turn in 2016. During its first years in 2012, shopping on the internet attracted the most geeky people by being focused on the one shot (deals and favorites) with very interesting prices,” Zakaria Elmahfoudi, CIO of Jumia in Morocco, told Wamda.
“Today, more and more aware customers are also opting for purchases of first needs, thoughtful purchases, while keeping an eye on promotions. So the online market is starting to take a market share of the ‘offline’ market.”
Furthermore, the local market is somewhat protected from foreign competitors by controls on how much Moroccans can spend using credit cards on international purchases and a shortage of online payment options, meaning most transactions are paid with cash.
Adapting Google to Morocco’s e-shoppers
Chraibi said they wanted to create an added-value version of Google search for Moroccan ecommerce.
"The search engine is really specialized on Morocco with a precise geolocation system and enables the consumer to filter and compare the different offers, whereas on Google, the user has to do this manually and go through several steps,” he said.
Eddine said the other side of site development was technical.
“We want the artificial intelligence of the engine to be pushed as far as possible so that the result of the research is as relevant as possible, our goal is to modernize online sales,” he said.
The site offers labels near each product to indicate whether it is available by online payment, cash and delivery or not before the redirection to the purchase site.
Vendo still faces a challenge in that ecommerce culture is not cemented in the country yet, but they are trying to change this by providing a search engine specifically for Moroccans.
Jumia Morocco’s Elmahfoudi said Vendo also had a unique feature going for it, in that they were attracting via a “pull not by push” method.
“Customers visiting the site are already pre-converted and come in relation to a specific need to buy or compare. This makes them naturally attracted to the ecommerce site if they find what they are looking for. This could potentially create a kind of customer follow-up, which is one of the major goals of every actor in ecommerce today in Morocco and Africa,” he said.