Kim Frances Lato, the founder of Kimstore.com, started her business with just P20,000 on the Multiply social media platform. Today, she has more than 250 employees and processes over 1 million online transactions per year with an omnichannel availability. Kim was awarded the Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) in 2021. In this interview, she shares her insights on opportunity-seeking and creating value.
Q1: What major changes has your business undergone over the years, and what prompted these changes?
A1: Change is inevitable in business. It’s more true for ecommerce. As an online medium, developments and trends happen really fast and you have to adapt quickly. Sometimes you are able to anticipate them, sometimes you don’t.
It happened to us before which led us to having an independent platform. it was a real learning moment and if i’m being honest, it was a call for us to take more charge of our destiny, to be even more proactive. Looking back now, I was lucky to have that happen as early as it did. it led us to having something that we have actual ownership and control of. We are still reaping the benefits of the digital transformation that kicked off from the Multiply.com closure.
Everyone has to go through change. It just happens that digitalization is what’s needed now. As a digital brand, we have benefited greatly from the mass adoption of e-wallet payments, improved credit card penetration, and better logistics infrastructure and more. These advances in ecommerce and digitalization, whether it’s because your business has evolved to have a need for it or because you needed it to survive covid, the acceptance and full-on adoption of ecommerce and digital transactions is one of the biggest transformations for the Philippine landscape.
At the end of the day, the digital transformation of business is a net positive for everyone, not just for Kimstore. The customers win, the businesses win, and we are all more globally competitive.
Q2: You are known for providing exceptional service and personalized experiences. How is your service different from others in the market, and to what extent have you gone to inconvenience yourself for the convenience of your customers?
A2: Customer service and experience are cornerstones of Kimstore. Delivering a personal shopping experience has literally been part of Kimstore’s identity from the very beginning.
We always strive for the extra mile but we wouldn’t call it an inconvenience because that’s one of our differentiators. We have learned to appreciate and value customer service and satisfaction because that’s what sets us apart from our competitors. Merging the convenience of digital and the intimacy of in-person is the Kimstore challenge. Even though we are taking things out of the traditional shopping process, we are adding to the experience and helping with brand recall.
If there’s an example of a service that’s there to round out the customer experience, it’s our mobile messaging lines. In the age of automation and chatbots, it’s very contrary. Other businesses have phone lines and messaging just for show. they might display it but you won’t get any response.
With our customer lines, especially over whatsapp and viber, our customers are really talking to one of our representatives. We’ve tried chatbots before but I think it’s cultural at this point, Filipinos just prefer human interaction even for business transactions.
Q3: Your business is now omnichannel, with a presence in other e-commerce sites. What inspired this approach, and what advantages has it brought to your business?
A3: Our mission is to provide the tech our customers need to live full lives. To empower and enable. Being omnichannel and present in major ecommerce sites allows us to provide customers with a seamless shopping journey in the most convenient way. It all boils down to personal preference, we just want our customers to have a Kimstore channel waiting for them whether they choose one site over another.
It also makes our products and services more accessible to our customers. Partnering with traditional retailers is also a big step to win customers’ trust.
Internally, being omnichannel enabled us to create affirmations for our operations, marketing, and more. It gave us more insight into what works and what doesn’t. It also allows us to test and try different setups and processes.
Q4: With the online market becoming increasingly crowded, how do you differentiate Kimstore and promote it effectively?
A4: I think it’s just so great that online markets are booming. We’ve always advocated and continue to advocate for more people to try their hand at business and have an entrepreneurial mindset.
In terms of differentiating ourselves, we have more than 16 years worth of hard work and effort behind us. It’s hard to beat the trust that we’ve built with our customers but we know that we need to continue giving our 100% every time. Consistency is one of those values that I look for in my team members and something that we cultivated in our office culture. We accept that people can’t be exceptional all the time. But, to put in the effort everyday and have a team that props you up and supports you when you aren’t at your best, that’s what Kimstore is.
Above that, we continue to create and look for innovative solutions. We are one of the country’s pioneers in ecommerce and we’ve taken that to heart as well. We maintain that pioneering spirit, the willingness to try new things, and have out of the box solutions.
Having these values internally contributed to how we communicate effectively to our customers. It helps us to have more engaging conversations with fruitful results. By having relatable content that speaks to the daily lives of our customers, we actually have been able to be more cost effective in our marketing efforts.
Q5: How have your goals and purpose changed over the years, and what were the triggers that led you to evolve?
A5: Our purpose has always been the same: to provide Filipinos with the best gadgets to help them achieve the lifestyles they want. We want to help them live fulfilling lives and go for their dreams. When they travel the world, we want them to capture those memories with the gadgets they got from Kimstore. When they start their own businesses, we want them equipped via Kimstore. When they start striking out on their own, we want them to go to Ninang Kim and get their appliances from Kimstore.
What did change are our ways of doing it and our approaches. We are more methodical now in how we approach our problems. Our goals are always to keep the business competitive and thriving. Now that Kimstore keeps growing, our resources also now enable us to do more for our community.
Kimstore is now able to participate and contribute to advocacies and organizations that align with our values. Soon, we’ll also launch our own concentrated efforts. Again, it’s just consistency. We just put in the work, move Kimstore forward, and give it our all day in, day out.
The Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) will take place on August 4, 2023. To reserve your spot, please visit www.youngmarketmasters.com
Josiah Go is the chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. He co-founded the Mansmith YMMA.
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