Once upon a time we embarked in the journey of building online market space for businesses, through Maduqa.com.. Maduqa.com is now two years old in the market and with it I have come to learn a lot of things through the challenges we have faced. Maduqa model is build on the aspect of the market place, where you find many shops and as a buyer you have the option of picking the best among many. For example the Gikomba market. There are all sorts of shops in Gikomba, each of them selling different products and services. Managing market place is easy but the problem comes in with individual shops some of which are completely neglected by the owners. Some shops do not have basic info like contact details while others do not replying to inquiries from potential customers.
Unfortunately, this observation `extend to people running independent e-commerce websites in Kenya. Through my discussion with a number of people I have realized that for the e-commerce/m-commerce business to work, four things need to be perfected
1. Content Rich Website
The first step is to have a website with enough details about the products and services. When people go shopping online, they don’t have the advantage of physically inspecting the product, or window shopping…and so it is upon the seller to provide as much information about the product as possible. At the very least there should be a clear pictures of the product from all angles, the description of the product, the price, and contact. The problem at the moment, people trying to sell online take a lazy route, go online, Google for the given product’s picture and then place it on the website. Leave alone the fact that taking pictures from online without attribution to the owner is illegal, some of the pictures do not represent the given product.
2. Online Payment:
It does not make sense, having products online with the prices indicated, but no means of payment. At the moment there are a number of startups providing online payment solutions in Kenya. Top among them are Pesapal and Kopokopo. I think, I am not far off the mark to say that the online payment aspect is well sorted in Kenya. Be it through the use of mobile payment (Mpesa and others) or through credit card. If you are a developer doing e-commerce website for someone or for yourself, look for Liko of Pesapal or Ben Lyon of KopoKopo.
3. Delivery Issue.
The first two issues above are mostly well covered , the bigger problem at the moment is the delivery. This is a new territory for most Kenyans, so the trust issue is much of a factor here. The outstanding question in the heads of many buyers is, when they buy something online will it be delivered and how fast. If you are living in West side of Nairobi, the chances are the buildings are well planned and marked. If someone is to deliver something, they would probably find the house, or the gate easily. The same can not be said of the Eastlands and some other places like Kangemi, Kawangware. The unplanned nature of Nairobi’s residential areas is a big stumbling block for e-commerce or m-commerce business in Kenya. The solution to this could be the use of collection points. You can setup collection points in well known and frequented places within the estates like Sarit center for the areas around Westlands, Hurlingham, Yaya center.
For one to buy online, the option must be more appealing than going to the shop itself. It should be more convenience for the buyer to order through a website than physically going to the shop. The convenience could come in terms of time saved, money saved, energy saved among others.
Who is diving in
My roving eyes across the Kenyan internet seen found very few big names going for the space. I know Safaricom is working on a platform to start selling devices online. This was meant to be ready by around June/July but like many other things they have talked about before..Appstore, MPESA API, it remains in the kitchen.
I have been impressed with Bata Kenya, and how they have gone around using the digital space. Word out is that they are launching eCommerce/m-commerce website in the next few days. I think this could be very significant for the online business industry in Kenya.What I have observed is that, if one corporate succeeds in something, the others usually follow like sheep.
Dealfish.co.ke like kalahari.co.ke before them, came in, did a huge advertising across many platforms and attracted many people on their site but so far are unable to make money out of the effort. Since the time Moses Kemibaro, left Dealfish for InMobi, there has not been any noticeable ads going up online and even in the media. It will be interesting to see how it will fair in the coming days but at the moment the site is still ranked, 15 in Kenya by Alexa, third only to Nation.co.ke and Standardmedia.co.ke among the local sites. Something to note is the fact that many people do businesses of selling and buying on some of these sites, only that the owners themselves who are unable to make money through them. I know many people who have sold or bought especially devices through Dealfish or Kalahari. If you look at that, it should tell people something. The problem is not that people are not using the eCommerce sites, I think the problem is the strategies being deployed.
I am not sure the type of the revenue the owner of Checki.co.ke is getting but there is a lot of activities going on that site in terms of people buying and selling cars. I have to run, but I will have to look for a way to continue with this…