Kim Lato was an eighteen-year-old student at the De La Salle University-Manila in 2006 when she toyed with the idea of setting up an online store. Despite the rising popularity of online shops, particularly in the United States, the Philippines only had a few then.

Lato saw an opportunity to earn extra cash while working on her marketing degree. She knew the timing would be perfect given Filipinos’ growing penchant for gadgets, and very few competitors in the online space.

“It was during the peak of Multiply.com when I thought selling gadgets online would be a great idea. I already have the selling channel. I’ve always had a strong interest in gadgets so entering the tech industry was the most natural thing for me to do,” she explained.

After nine years and more than 673,000 Facebook likes, Kimstore has become an online powerhouse. Lato describes Kimstore as one of the true pioneers of e-commerce in the country. She emphasized that her company’s growth can be attributed to its mission: To make advanced mobile electronics technologies accessible to Filipinos by providing pro-consumer products and services.

With new products coming out at a dizzying pace, Kimstore constantly adds new merchandise to its website and Facebook page ranging from mobile phones, laptops, cameras, gaming consoles, tablet PCs, and different accessories and peripherals.

Bozz Awardee for Kimstore founder

At just twenty-seven years old, Lato was awarded Boss for E-Commerce Award at the first-ever Smart SME Nation Bozz Awards held October 28 at the Palace Pool Club, Bonifacio Global City.

The Smart SME Nation Bozz Awards recognizes the new breed of digital movers and shakers who have pioneered entrepreneurial innovation through technology.

The other awardees are: Carlo Calimon of MobKard, Boss for Mobile Readiness; Kristine Reyes-Lopez of Messy Bessy, Boss for Social Responsibility; Jason Magbanua, Boss for Social Media; and Chino Atilano of Timefree Innovations, Boss for Customer Service.

Kimstore Bozz awards

BOSS FOR E-COMMERCE. Kim Lato (2nd from left) bested three other finalists for the Boss for e-Commerce award at the first-ever Bozz Awards. With her in photo during the awarding are, from left, PLDT First Vice President and Head of SME Business Kat Luna-Abelarde, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, PLDT EVP and Head of Enterprise Eric R. Alberto, and IdeaSpace Foundation president and founder Earl Martin Valencia.

 

Online versus brick-and-mortar

At the start, consumers were apprehensive of shopping online, and Lato had to do a lot of convincing that Kimstore is an online shop they can trust and rely on.

“At that time, online businesses were not perceived as a legitimate option to buy products and services from. People still believed it is better buying at physical stores even when they can get the same product at a cheaper price online,” she explained.

“To overcome this challenge, I offered them a 15-day-money-back guarantee in the impossible occurrence that we sell a counterfeit gadget. To top that, we also provided very hands-on customer service.”

Convenience of online shopping

Purchasing gadgets used to be complicated and time consuming. Now, everything can be bought online.

“You can conveniently order your gadgets online and wait for the items to arrive on your doorstep, hassle-free! We also service customers far from the city and constantly look for items not readily available to them,” Lato said.

Kimstore offers its customers different payment options—using their credit cards, payment at a designated bank or pawnshop, paying the Kimstore representative during a meetup, or payment upon courier delivery.

Kimstore FB

One of the early designs of Kimstore’s Facebook page.

 

Increasing profits via digital technology

Kimstore saves a lot on overhead expenses since it doesn’t have to invest heavily on store space, employees, maintenance, and other operating costs. Instead, it invested on a website, strong social media presence, and other online platforms to showcase its products. It also has fewer employees compared to brick-and-mortar stores.

“Technology also enables us to maintain a tremendous amount of historical data economically, and employees benefit from immediate access to the documents they need,” Lato said.

“Digital marketing and advertising campaigns through social media also pushed profitability because of the wider reach. It is more cost efficient, and easier to monitor. We use digital media to make people aware of Kimstore and to entice them to purchase our products and services.”

Caring for customers

Making customers happy makes good business whether one is online or brick-and-mortar.

“I have learned that exceptional customer service is key to success. We’ve continuously improved, learning from our mistakes along the way,” said Lato.

She attests that people will keep coming back and even recommend you if you have given them a happy and memorable shopping experience.

To understand how customers behave, she makes it a habit to stay updated with market trends, and customers’ wants and needs.

“Do research, study the market, and provide great customer service. There will be challenges along the way, and you should persevere to overcome these. Stay focused on your goals and in time you’ll see your business flourish!” (Press Release)

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