5 Lessons from OLX Nigeria every Startup must try to replicate

September 5, 2015
10 min read

I had a handshake with Lola Masha and she convinced me to open my OLX account and I did. In fact, I have created my first “for-sale item” on the platform.

We met last month at the LTV studios, where she, along with her team, Tayo Abrahams and I were guest to @abimbolafash for pre-recordings of Info.com on LTV.

 From Greetings….to remarks……and this review

It was a nice “please-to-meet-you” handshake with Masha.

It gave me the opportunity to congratulate the team of OLX for incredible achievements; including the recent partnership with Mandilas Autos.


One of my other quick remarks is their remarkable progress despite the slow adoption of the service which I attributed to the “unAfrican* way of life for disposing used stuff”. This is even more remarkable when you consider that many startups in the space have bitten the dust.

*Many of us grew up to learn the culture that we are supposed to pass on our used stuffs to younger ones.

But it seems they are beating the odds; even there is a new competition in the space which confirms that a lucrative business is booming. As a matter of knowledge, Nigeria’s eCommerce space is worth 10 billion and OLX earns a good share of that pie.

I did not have to mention the “OLX Nanny Saga” as the dust has settled on that. I believe the response of the CEO was good enough to lay the case to a rest.

Against this background, OLX has gotten itself some impressive numbers .

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Let’s see……..

Olx Nigeria is a scam ? Analytics See Traffic Ranking Stats

I relied on SimilarWeb for this data as it is a good indicator of website traffic. (The data is only for desktop traffic. OLX’s mobile traffic and app were not accounted for, hence it is expected that the total figure will higher than above)

 Where OLX got it right

I think OLX got the following (and more) right in their strategy execution.

Celebrity Endorsements

OLX campaigns have been driven primarily by events and celebrity endorsements. Yaw, SeyiLaw and Manney are few of the OAPs and comedians they recruited to promote the brand. A look at their YouTube page showed significant engagements with the brand. The OLX Sell It Show with SeyiLaw  and OLX Give Back Campaigns were good initiatives while they lasted.

Lesson for You: You can leverage celebrity endorsement to instantly promote your brand. A classic example is how a game studio had massive PR and downloads using Kim Kardashian as the face of the game. It is important to be sure that the brand you want to leverage on appeals to your target audience.


YouTube is fast becoming a viable channel in Nigeria despite low internet penetration. I enjoyed several high-quality 3-5 minutes bite-sized videos on OLX YouTube page. In addition, YouTube is a major search engine and this is expected to increase the SEO status of the brand.

Video seems to be the only content format for OLX, they can explore blogging, infographic etc. as channels of engagement with their audience. (See my thoughts at the section on content strategy)

Lessons for You: create mini-size videos that can be consumed easily. You can use your phone to do this. Make good use of YouTube annotations to add call to action to your message and tag your videos appropriately to optimize their visibility. In order to increase the distribution of your videos, you should distribute your videos on other platforms by embedding the YouTube code on your website too.

Advertising/Re-targeting Technology

There has been so much of Ad exposure until recently; both online and offline. One can guess OLX is allowing the dust to settle on their ad spending. A behind-the-hood look of OLX clearly indicates that performance is duly evaluated.

Lesson for You: At the early startup stage, a bootstrapping company will rather focus on direct selling (marketing that leads to sale, and not branding) there are various options to consider in marketing but you should be guided by ROI and set appropriate metrics to guide your spending decision.

Website Design

The design of OLX meets my website checklist. It has an excellent speed when I subjected it to page speed test using GTMetrix and Google Page Insight. The results are in showing where OLX should improve

Lesson for You: Simply follow the test above with your website. You will be surprised how your website ranks.

Customer Support and Feedback Loop

OLX has an amazing customer support picture which scrolls with you along the page and it is an incredibly good idea. It speaks re-assurance along the way as you create your ad. You know if anything breaks; there is someone to fix this. Also, I noticed that my Ad was displayed promptly on their website and there was an email notification sent to notify me.

OLX Nigeria customer support picture

If you are interested in helping OLX serve you better, you can also take their 30 seconds survey. Survey actually took 30 seconds (4 minutes 30 seconds lesser than how long I thought). I expect this to be accurately communicated on their website. The reason is because people respect the use of their time. Also, find a way to compensate people for taking your survey so you can have a lot of database to work with.

OLX Nigeria takes survey to improve classified ad services in Nigeria

Lesson for You: Supporting your customer should be one of your top priorities. GrooveHQ and HelpScout are great places to find informative articles on how to provide 7-star support for your users. While taking survey as a feedback mechanism is good, Derek Halpern suggests what can work better than surveys

My Laundry List of Recommendations for OLX Nigeria

This is a laundry list of improvements for OLX. Obviously it should apply to most startups.

Caveat: It will be safe to take all this as personal sentiments; I believe they are guided by a corporate playbook in their business. But sure, I will be happy to see OLX “adapt” some of my recommendations.

User On-boarding

I am yet to see a clear on-boarding plan for new users. When I registered my account on OLX, I simply got an account confirmation email. So far, that is all the communication.

A typical user on-boarding email puts into consideration how a potentially new user can easily adopt a new service. For example, this customer onboarding plan is focused on getting the user to take the first actions that leads to success. In the case of Twitter, the goal is to get users to follow up to 10 people to adopt the product. OLX should review their playbook to onboard customers to their first successful use case of their platform, either as a buyer or a seller. Onboarding can be delivered through series of emails or in-app using tools like intercom.io (see the section on Email Marketing)

Build a Community

The online classified ads and marketplace need a lot of user education. There is room for OLX to improve advocacy in this area. It can be as simple as creating a LinkedIn Group to foster discussions; building a community like American Express (an online payment company) did with the creation of Open FORUM; a global community for small businesses or publishing resources for your target markets like PalHub, a platform owned by a Nigerian insurance company.

Email Marketing

As at today, my guesstimate is that OLX should have over 50,000 emails in its database. Statistics showed that $1 spent on email yields over $44 dollar in ROI. This is where OLX can invest resources.

Email marketing is where SuperMart has excelled in Nigeria ecommerce space. Email can be used to send curated deals to users. An easy example is curating ideas of how the deals can actually be helpful to the potential buyer. Gidimall (@gidimall) experimented this in one of their newsletters. Here is the full webversion of the newsletter

Good Emails like GidiMall

Another massive opportunity with email is behaviorally targeted email and in-app messaging using tools like Intercom.io  to send push notifications. Transactional emails also offer opportunity to get people to take actions.

Content Strategy

As much as I like videos (and OLX videos are amazing, professionally edited clips), there should be more on the side of textual and graphics to share user stories and present case studies on the website. For example; an A-Z Guide of selling your used item on OLX within 24hours of listing will be a good read. White papers, case studies and customer success stories will be good highlights.

You will also notice that blog is conspicuously absent on the OLX website. From personal experience, blogging resulted to No.2 traffic source after paid traffic for this startup. With a good content strategy team, OLX can become the ecosystem to discuss and educate its teeming users.

User Experience

One of the critical areas to optimize is the user experience. On a scale of 1 to 10; I will score OLX 6 and JiJi 9. JiJi probably anticipates the user experience better than OLX.

Let’s take a look at JiJi’s playbook.

JiJi added more juice to their user admin area: notably the “setting” and the “premium service” sections.

On the setting page; all the notification options default to ON which implies that JiJi can maximize the amount of email communications they send to users. However, these can be turned off.

JiJi. NG Email notification setting efault for notification SKITCH

Even popular social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter  use email notifications to users back to their platform.

Premium services: JiJi is upfront with this option for sellers who are interested in upgrading to its paid service and getting more exposure for their Ads. This is smartly integrated into the user admin area with a clear call to action for its two premium services viz Boost your ad pageand Top of Page. In turn, each of these pages has clear value propositions and pricing structure that is well anchored.

Take for example the Boost your ad page.

JiJI vs OLX Nigeria Boost your ad page

OLX Exchange Points

This recommendation was made by Daniel Orubo in his rookie analysis post.

I’d love to put my iPad and PS3 up for sale on OLX right now – I’d literally been praying to God for a service like this for years now – so why haven’t I? Well, because I know about 3 people that have been robbed on meeting for the exchange, after getting hits off their OLX ads. Don’t get me wrong, the idea behind the service is wonderful, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Granted, they’re not obligated to ensure our safety, but I think if they want to scale in Nigeria, they either consider integrating a vetting and delivery service, or providing meeting points where safe exchanges are guaranteed

This concern came way before the Nanny saga and I believe it is a good point worth consideration. One of OLX competitor is trying to respond to this with its delivery service.

Your Low-hanging Fruit as the VP, User Growth

Just kidding!

Let us assume you are the new VP of Growth at OLX Nigeria. How will you improve user growth?

If I were you, here are my two low hanging fruits. I will optimize these two experiences.

Segment User Acquisition and drive adoption using "Voice of Customer"

I will create multiple landing pages that address the need of each potential site user (This will rely on custom audience data; if such data exist)

Then I will set up adverts on Facebook and Google using information I have about my buyer persona  to drive traffic to a dedicated page where I will capture email address. The secondary goal of the landing page is to get an idea of what the person likely want to sell or a quick survey can be administered. Based on this, I will segment them in my email service and send them a series of pre-scheduled email (via Autoresponder) over a period of days. The emails will include links to testimonials, user stories and how- to-guides etc.

Also, I will appropriately optimize each stage of the conversion funnel by adding pixels/cookies and retargeting visitors appropriately to increase conversion rate.

UPDATE: The survey they are running on the website can be used to achieve this. The survey can be administered site-wide or via email

Optimize for Conversion

Another low-hanging fruit is to optimize the conversion funnel right from the homepage. When someone clicks on the a banner image, the landing page will be fully optimized to improve their selling impulse.

UPDATE: The new banner image that leads to the auto category on the website in part can achieved this goal.

To complete actions 1 and 2, I included a link to a free tutorial (valued at $297) on creating specific landing pages to acquire users with Facebook Advertising. Click here to Access it


Keep in mind that OLX Nigeria has its own playbook, run by amiable Lola (read this interview ) and the global brand has replicated its success in over 106 countries doing exactly what I want them to improve on.  But maybe, the Nigeria audience is really different and deserves a special treat, especially with the advent of JiJi and Efritin.

Just saying:

Should OLX go shopping for a competent conversion optimization or funnel specialist, I will happily recommend @ionitiju or they can check this link

How do you think OLX Nigeria website (or yours) can be better? Send your views and please share the post.

This post originally appeared on SpokenTwice.com.

Wole Ogunlade is a business growth strategist for early-stage startups and consultants in Nigeria. As co-founder of Probityfarms.com, he is passionate about agTech platforms in Nigeria. You can download his free ebook + email course, “11 Secrets of Startup Growth” for free on his personal blog, Hackgrowth.ng
Wole Ogunlade is a business growth strategist for early-stage startups and consultants in Nigeria. As co-founder of Probityfarms.com, he is passionate about agTech platforms in Nigeria. You can download his free ebook + email course, “11 Secrets of Startup Growth” for free on his personal blog, Hackgrowth.ng
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Wole Ogunlade is a business growth strategist for early-stage startups and consultants in Nigeria. As co-founder of Probityfarms.com, he is passionate about agTech platforms in Nigeria. You can download his free ebook + email course, “11 Secrets of Startup Growth” for free on his personal blog, Hackgrowth.ng

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