You may not recognise Citymob as the ‘group-buying’ site that originally popped up on the local radar in 2011. It wasn’t long before they took a step back and regrouped to form an unusual and stylish hybrid online-buying site that is capturing the imagination of hip city kids nationwide.
Safindit: So, who are the people behind Citymob?
Luke: Myself (group MD), Claude Hanan (CFO), Mikael Hanan (Operations Director) and a fantastic team.
S: How did the site come about?
L: We started talking amongst ourselves mid 2010. During an overseas trip Claude picked up a Fortune magazine detailing a hot new online trend called ‘group buying’. I had just finished the inaugural “Ogilvy Digital Marketing Academy” and we were both looking for a new challenge. We had a few meetings, the excitement started brewing and the rest is history.
S: Can you describe the situation/factors that led to the Citymob rebrand?
L: There were various influences. In nutshell our vision outgrew what the typical group buying site/model could offer us. We needed to pivot. We organically owned premium which resulted in the adaptation of our identity. We also wanted to showcase our merchant partners better and sell both products and experiences effortlessly. The 2 page group buying template is great for selling coupons ie experience-based deals but its no good for products ie deals that require shipping. Amongst other things we needed a cart, a catalogue page for showcasing merchants and product ranges (eg shoes) and we needed to allow for attributes like sizes (s/m/l).
S: How has the response been to the new site, since the relaunch?
L: All things considered its been fantastic. We accepted that users hate change, every time Facebook changes its layout everyone freaks out. But then they forget and fall in love with the feature adds that ultimately led to the change. I feel like we’ve reached that place now. We are seeing more traffic and more purchases than we ever had on the previous site – so it must be working. Outside of the obvious design changes, we dropped the fundamental heuristics of a group buying site – no more huge discount percentage and ‘buy’ button. It wasn’t for everyone but that’s ok. In an effort to attract a more premium consumer we sell the merchant’s quality via great copy and imagery rather than a huge percentage off. We’ve also become members only.
S: Were there any other similar sites (not locally) that influenced the flavour and concept of Citymob ?
L: Too many to mention! We obsessively research global best practice. Our site combines all our favourite elements and should be considered the gold standard for UX within the flash sales sector. South Africa does also bring its own unique challenges, eg. our market like to pay with credit card, debit card and EFT but in the states its credit card or nothing. Our concept is a group buying – flash sales hybrid. I’m not sure of any other site in the world that allows you to add coupons or products to one cart and checkout so effortlessly.
S: How would you describe your target market?
L: We curate the city cool and so we aim to attract like-minded individuals. People looking for great deals on genuinely exciting things to do, see and try. People are looking for quality – not just discounts.There isnt a whole lot of ‘cool’ online in SA. It tends to be the classic – books, gadgets, electronics and more recently, group buying-type experiences. We offer much more flavour – exclusive experiences, premium products and hand-selected styles. Think South Indian cooking courses to local jewelry designers and Brazilian couture footwear.
S: What are your thoughts on the group buying trend in SA? Obviously you guys have changed the local landscape quite a bit. Do you think that South Africans are tired of the traditional model already?
L: Yes and no. People are definitely tired of the same unimaginative, B-grade offers. But run an amazing, inspired, exciting sale – it flies and so there is still massive potential. For us the shift lies in creating value beyond the discount – the idea, the timing, the package, the story. Inspire people. Simply pushing discounts for discount-sake is not sustainable and a quality drop is inevitable. Consumers love discounts and merchants hate to give them – so traditional group buying sites are fighting on two fronts. We think the future lies in creating a curated online retail destination where our members are guaranteed to always find something they love and our merchants feel celebrated (not exploited). SA needs shopping online to be safe, fun and inspired.
S: What are some of the challenges Citymob faces currently/ daily?
L: Mainstream ecommerce is still a very new concept in SA. It’s a constant challenge bringing merchants and consumers online. As a business we are committed to quality. That’s always a challenge – quality HR, quality partners, quality sales, a quality web experience. But its a good challenge.
S: Which local suppliers/brands would you most like to work with?
L: Wow, so many. We are loving working with independent creatives; designers, artists etc. We also love working with iconic brands & organizations – Table Mountain, the Cape Town Aquarium. South Africa is alive with opportunity.