Exploring Last-Mile Distribution and BoP Marketing

By Katie Hyson, Director, Thought Leadership, Business Fights Poverty

In the second article, introducing you to the experts and topics we’ll be exploring during our Business Fights Poverty, flagship conference in Oxford on 18th July, we introduce you to inclusive distribution, brought to you by BoPInc (& Every1Mobile), Hystra, and Practical Action.

In the second article, introducing you to the experts and topics we’ll be exploring during our Business Fights Poverty, flagship conference in Oxford on 18th July, we introduce you to inclusive distribution, brought to you by BoPInc (& Every1Mobile), Hystra, and Practical Action.

Founding members of the Global Distributors Collective (a partnership-based model that acts as a ‘one stop shop’ for last mile businesses, offering support, information and expertise to overcome the challenges of accessing life-changing technologies) are facilitating an event with industry leaders to share best practices and challenges in Last Mile Distribution and Marketing to the Base of the Pyramid consumer.

Somewhere in the North of Bangladesh, a woman starts to unpack a portable movie kit. She is a rural sales lady who sells nutrition and hygiene products to her surrounding community. 

Some products can be sold pretty easily, like food commodities, while others, like nutrition and hygiene products, require more demand creation. In order to generate demand in an entertaining and effective manner, the sales lady organizes movie sessions in the villages using a small beamer and speakers. The content she broadcasts is a blend of entertaining, funny videos illustrating key topics on nutrition/hygiene mixed with specific product advertisements. These interventions translated in very high sales growth (>200%) for specific products like ORS and sanitary napkins.

Marketing a product or service to low-income, risk-averse consumers can be a tricky challenge. Conducting high-touch, personal selling generally proves to be an effective approach. However, costs can become very steep and sales agents might not always feel comfortable to conduct personal door-to-door selling. In Bangladesh, BoPInc collaborated with Mobile Movies to enable rural sales ladies to organize these village movie sessions. This intervention not only made the sales ladies more popular, it also led to significant increases in sales.

Beyond convincing consumers to buy a product, finding a cost efficient way to bring those products to remote populations is also a challenge. Different models have proven effective in different situations: selling new durable goods such as improved cookstoves, solar lights or water filters (where those products are not yet well known) typically requires a direct, specialized salesforce able to convey a complex marketing message, that in addition needs to be mobile so it can sell a sufficient number of products to sustain a living. By contrast, the repeat sales of nutrition and hygiene products such as those of the Bangladesh project above can leverage more local agents for sales. And as those products become better known and spread, retail or other existing distribution channels often take over initial direct sales networks.

Are you keen to hear more practical examples of BoP marketing and last mile distribution so you can tailor or improve your own sales strategy? Please join our session at the Business Fights Poverty event in Oxford on 18th July.

During these interactive sessions, we will share our knowledge of what worked (and didn’t) from our research and work in marketing and distribution to the Base-of-the-Pyramid in Africa and Asia, together with partner practitioners.

Click here to apply for your ticket.

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