Yululate combines functionalities of a directory, search engine and referral system to connect customers to businesses
BY Tullah Stephen
User reviews and ratings have over time proven to be sales drivers. A majority of customers now want to see online reviews and ratings of a business before deciding to make a purchase. It is estimated that 69 per cent of consumers search for reviews online, with 88 per cent trusting them as much as they would trust personal recommendations. For long, these practices were associated with internet giants form oversees such as Tripadvisor and Yelp.
But now, more than ever, ratings and reviews are having an impact on businesses of all sizes in Africa. “Online reviews and ratings are critical in not only attracting consumers to business, but boost sales as well. It is another way for businesses to market their products to new customers,” says Imran Khan, the director and co-founder of Yululate Kenya.
Yululate is a website that combines functionalities of a directory, search engine and referral system to connect customers to businesses. According to Khan, Yululate.com is meant to consolidate feedback for businesses to build up on their product as well as empower consumers to hold service providers accountable for the services or products they offer.
The biggest impact of Yululate, he says, has been giving a voice to those consumers that have had to silently suffer for long. This it has done by harnessing the power of the mobile phone.
In addition, the site also provides a level platform for SMEs to compete with large corporates. For a long time, Khan explains, consumers have been known to only shop at places they are familiar with. If it is dining, they would probably go to a hotel simply because they know or were referred by people in their close circles. “This makes it difficult for SMEs that happen to offer exceptional services.”
Khan says having businesses reviewed opens up opportunities or prospective clients. In addition to helping consumers make their purchasing decisions, these reviews can serve as vital sales tools for brands weaving them into the overall marketing and sales process.
Signing up on Yululate is simple. Users can either sign up by filling a simple form or by using their Google, Facebook or twitter login details. Once signed in, the user can rate the business available on the site by clicking on the “write a review box” and selecting the business you want to rate. There are five categories from the site namely; Auto, Finance services, food and travel, Lifestyle, real estate and professional services.
Once selected, users can now give the business a rating and then go ahead to write about the experience. Once submitted, the reviews are then approved by the team at Yululate before being published on the site.
The review approval process explains Khan, takes three steps. The first step involves an automated process that filters offensive words. Second, the team at Yululate goes through every single review that comes in for approval. And finally, Yululate contacts the affected businesses and gives them two working days to offer a response to the damaging reviews.
Before posting the review, the customers are asked to authenticate their experience through a receipt or any other form of evidence.
Yululate charges businesses for a premium listing at KSh10,000 per year. This amount includes their map location, up to 30 key words, six images and detailed company profile. There are also advertising packages for businesses as well. “We currently have slightly over 35 companies in the premium listings and 12 companies that have advertised on the site. In total we have reviews of about 2,500 companies or businesses a majority of which are in the food and beverage industry.”
Business longevity, explains Khan, is today more than just supply of services and products. “It’s about giving the best service and great products to your consumers that keeps them coming back and more importantly gets businesses new customers, because if you can’t, there are others who can.”
Khan reveals that the website will soon roll out a plan that will see it provide market intelligence reports for business to make informed strategies in the market. “We will be able to gather data such as those on consumer buying behaviours and preferences. In return we will provide in-depth and detailed insights on market trends. Large companies are today using business intelligence to calculate the profitability of millions of customers daily, track their interaction with websites, identify hundreds if not thousands of transactions in real time, whilst giving employees a 360-degree view of every customer. “SMEs will now be able to have a level playing field with large corporates as well other competitors of the same size.”
To further scale up its services, the company is seeking investors. The additional capital to the tune of US$250,000 will be used for a new improved website, developing a new mobile app and advertising among other uses.