How does an Amazon-like Ecommerce store get 35,000+ app downloads without doing any marketing? It’s all about being in the right place and doing the right thing at the right time. LA-based founder and CEO; Roberto Jimenez recognized an opportunity in Costa Rica – went on to research to see if it would follow through and the rest was history. Today their mobile app revenue accounts for 20% of all online sales and generates an ROI of 2595%.
Many Latin American countries are still in the developing stage, likewise, Ecommerce is in it’s beginning stages and is not used as widely. Costa Rica has an internet penetration rate of 86.9%; highest in Latin America. This gave Roberto the perfect opportunity to start something new and thus Barulu was born. They started off selling technology products at affordable price points; brands like Xiaomi. A combination of good delivery service and cost-effective products leads to customers asking for more. Over time they added more brands; products and expanded to new categories.
Now a household name in Costa Rica – the company has been rebranded to Unimart to go international.
“We moved to Costa Rica and we noticed that Ecommerce here was in its very early stages and there were not enough people with experience to provide a proper Ecommerce experience. Generally speaking, the service quality was pretty poor in the country. We had the experience of dealing with US companies and we knew that the service standards were way higher than what you would typically see here in Costa Rica. We saw an opportunity where we could open up this Ecommerce company, do quick shipping, provide outstanding customer service and just be crazy about satisfying the customers. it’s worked for us, especially in this market where retailers weren’t used to providing good customer service quality. So I guess with a very straight forward mission of customer-centricity – we’ve been able to stand out”
Going mobile was an experiment. Would people shop as much from their mobile devices? Mobile phone penetration in Costa Rica is 159.23%; again, the highest in Latin America. The numbers looked promising so they started with an android app.
Roberto went on to say “We noticed that a bunch of people were talking about shopping apps but they were maybe talking about apps like Wish and Ali Express, they used uber a lot and whatnot so we kind of knew that we had to be present on mobile and we knew that if people downloaded the app then they would convert more just because it would be easier to navigate, they would be more present”
Key Goals of Building the Mobile App
With most of their focus on localizing shipping and customer experience; it was decided to observe what the mobile app would bring to the table. Here’s what happened –
- Enhanced Customer Experience
- Additional Sales Channel
- Increased Customer Retention
- Increased Revenue
“We were just so focused on improving the website or infrastructure for deliveries and marketing and everything else and we have a development team but our development team was focused on other things. In Costa Rica we don’t have shipping companies like in the US so we are our own shipping company, we had to create our own shipping company so that’s a whole other effort. In the US; you get an order, you package it and print a label with UPS or DHL and you ship it out. Here, it’s not like that, we are also our own shipping company – we have to deliver as well ourselves. Our efforts were really focused on building that entire infra-structure for deliveries and marketing and just improving the front end experience of the website and the product. We wanted the app but knew it wasn’t possible to develop the app at that point. We did not have the manpower, it was just impossible. So we did some research and we came across Plobal Apps and we’ve had a good experience so far.”
With their intentions set on a more worldwide audience – Unimart acknowledges that a mobile app is an added resource to aid their global ambitions. They are currently aiming to hit 1 million + app downloads by including their mobile app to their brand marketing strategy.
“Optimizing your desktop and mobile site is important, however, do not underestimate the value a Mobile App can add to your business. We used to think that nobody would want to have one more eCommerce app installed on their phones and we kept delaying the decision to launch an App, fortunately, we were very wrong and now our App accounts for 15%-20% of our overall revenue.” – Roberto Jimenez, Founder – Unimart