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How Amped Innovation Lights Up Africa with Magento
for the First Time
They switched onto Magento
Off-grid solar energy is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. The 130 million solar products already sold have generated nearly $4 billion in revenue, and reached 73 million households. It’s no wonder that in the last couple of years, the off-grid solar energy market has raised over $500 million. One of the industry’s leading names is Amped Innovation. The San Jose, California-based startup has created an affordable solar home power center, the WOWSolar, and a business solution that encompasses design, distribution, and finance.
Designed in stand-out orange, Amped Innovation products combine off-grid solar power with mobile payments to enable cost-effective energy access for the 1.2 billion low-income people who lack access to electricity. Around 80 percent of Amped Innovation customers earn less than $2.50 per day. Their challenge was to sell to customers who don’t have credit cards, checks, or banks, but do have a mobile phone. They needed a platform to allow families to pay for electricity access in utility-like installments, using pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) financing through their mobile devices. The answer was Magento.
The Magento platform provided us with a unique and innovative method to get products to market in Africa and Asia. We couldn’t have done it without Magento.Andi Kleissner
Co-Founder and CEO, Amped Innovation
Leading the charge
Amped Innovation’ unique business model empowers sales agents in the field to sell loan plans for each of their solar products. Together with their partner Crimson Agility, Amped Innovation created a unique eCommerce solution with no traditional Magento front-end. Instead they created a custom-built Android application, using Magento Commerce 2 Open Source. This stand-alone Magento solution provides PIM, CRM, and reporting capabilities, creating a one-stop shopping system. The app empowers salespeople to sell WOWSolar devices in impoverished parts of Africa, including Uganda and Senegal. Customers can make loan repayments via mobile payments. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, mobile payments are widely adopted, and mobile money vendors are easily integrated into Magento Commerce 2. “By building a pay-as-you-go solution on Magento, our customers can now afford previously unattainable products using micro-payments,” said Andi Kleissner, Co-Founder and CEO, Amped Innovation.
Magento records payment data and applies it to the customers’ selected loan plan. Once these mobile payments are validated, the customer receives a token via SMS that enables their product to function for a specified-time, and suddenly they have affordable energy to power their lights or even a TV. If no payments are made, the product sold will no longer operate. Payments work via a proprietary token generator that creates digital tokens.
On the backend, Magento tracks sales and utilization by customer, allowing Amped Innovation to later market additional products, like offering the owners of a solar system a new LED light system or fan. Magento allows the company to create custom loan plans selectable by product. They also created a multi-site architecture, allowing Amped Innovation to roll out the system to a growing number of distributors, while giving each distributor access to only their own customers, catalog, and order data. The app connects to Magento via REST to receive product and inventory, giving sales agents a simple and effective way to retrieve data on a daily basis from a single source. Sales data is saved in offline mode when internet signal is weak or non-existent, and as soon as the agent reaches an area with signal, the app syncs orders to the Magento order API. From this point, customers can now begin making mobile payments towards their loan plan.
The true innovation of this solution is its scalability and analytics. New mobile money payment vendors can be added with relative ease. New solar products, customer payment plans, orders, and payments can be created without stopping or slowing down the sales agents or impeding their ability to place orders in the system. Amped Innovation can track customer hours consumed up to the hour, and retrieve customer payments with a single click. This analytical data is available for customer loan status, customer product utilization, and SMS messages status and content. When combined, a distributor can easily see a complete picture of their customer base and their overall reliability as a lender.
Lighting up the developing world
After about eight months of development, Amped Innovation’ new eCommerce platform launched in March of 2018. Today the system provides inexpensive means to bring solar power and electricity to places where it was not previously possible. The Amped Innovation mobile payment system allows customers living in remote and impoverished villages in Africa to purchase relatively expensive portable solar power systems over time, making micro-payments. Failure to pay makes the system inoperable, while payment in full delivers an unlock token, and the customer fully owns their system.
This solution, powered by Magento Commerce 2 Open Source, has been rolled out to seven distributors throughout Uganda and Senegal. There, Amped products enable their customers to climb the energy ladder from basic solar lighting to TVs, refrigeration, irrigation, and other Amped products that can even increase earned income. One customer uses his Amped Innovation solar product to power electric clippers, and sells haircuts in his village, creating a career.
When it started, Amped Innovation had a vision, patents, and investors, but it was Magento that provided the vehicle to get their product to market, manage it, and make it easy for local distributors to sell. The launch of the platform created more investor interest and delivered a huge boost in sales. The company quickly rose from $0 in revenue to $2 million in the first 12 months alone. Just one quarter later, they reached $3 million. “Magento enabled us to experience triple-digit growth launching a life-changing line of products in emerging markets,” added Kleissner. Today, Amped Innovation is proud to be providing electricity for the first time to 33,000 homes in over 20 countries across Africa and Southeast Asia.
By working together with Crimson Agility to incorporate micro-payments into the Magento platform, we tapped into emerging markets in Africa and Asia, selling solar energy products to off-grid communities, and making these products even more accessible to the poorest customers.Andi Kleissner
Co-Founder and CEO, Amped Innovation