There has never been a better time to start an online store in Kenya than today. The Pandemic has forced many customers to seek services and goods online and this has left business owners with no choice but to go where the customers are, online.
The Kenyan business landscape has taken a different turn and any business looking to stay competitive and make a profit must embrace the new normal. Starting an eCommerce business in Kenya will need strategic planning and getting the basics right.
If you are new to the online world of business, it may be challenging to know where to start or which direction to take. This step-by-step guide will help you get started and increase your chances of doing exceptionally well.
Before starting your online store in Kenya, you will need to get the basics right. These include:
1. Choose What Products to Sell
This is the first and most crucial step when starting an ecommerce business in Kenya. If you already have a physical store then you already have products to sell. So you can skip this step.
For those starting out you need to find your business niche by figuring who your target audience is. Determine what pain points you are going to solve. If that product already exists, can you offer it better?
Find out what people want and what they are willing to pay for. This step is crucial in helping you avoid spending your money and time on products that nobody will buy.
To do this, you will need to conduct market research. Start your market research by picking a larger market then narrow it down to your niche. Narrowing down your niche will help you know which products to focus on.
2. Name Your Store and Get a Domain
Domain registration and selecting a website host is one of the most important steps you’ll take when starting an eCommerce business in Kenya. To do this, you will need to choose a name for your business. The name should be unique and not in use by any other business.
Your business domain name should be simple, short, and catchy. A memorable domain name will ensure that a potential customer can fully internalize it, remember, and refer it to friends through a conversation, text, or email. This is a key factor in ensuring the success of your eCommerce business in Kenya.
Avoid busy and distracting things when choosing a domain name, such as abbreviations, numbers, double meanings, hyphens, and so on. It should be easy to spell and type.
When a potential customer can pronounce your domain name easily, your business will grow rapidly due to word-of-mouth marketing. Ensure that the business name identifies your business and conveys your business’s goals.
Once you get the right name for your business, it’s time to register your domain name. You will need to choose your name extension from top-level domains like .com, .co.ke, .biz, .org, .net, .brand, among others.
I normally use and highly recommend Hostpoa. Hostpoa is a reputable web hosting company in Kenya that offers various hosting options to cater to the needs of its varied customers.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a small solopreneur just starting out or an established enterprise with thousands of customers, Hostpoa has just the right web hosting option for you. You can get hosting from as little as Ksh. 3,480 per year.
3. Get a Logo
A logo has a major effect on how your customers will perceive your eCommerce business in Kenya. Therefore, it should be outstanding right from designing your brand identity, to making the right design choices.
When designing a logo for your online store in Kenya, think about your audience. Put yourself in their shoes and think like them. You can even check out your competitors’ logos for inspiration.
However, your design style should be unique and tailored to mirror your brand. To make a good logo, you can involve a logo designer, to ensure that it has captured all the details involved in creating a logo.
4. Find Wholesale Suppliers to Stock Your Store
You will need to conduct some research to determine the best wholesalers for the type of goods or services that you want to sell.
If you are starting the online store for the very first time, ensure that you choose goods or services that are marketable and in demand. Once you determine what to offer, it’s time to look for a supplier. To get the most profits out of your offering, it is advisable that you get your goods or services from wholesalers. The best wholesale supplier for your business should be able to offer all the products that your business need, offer prices you can afford, serve your geographic region, and be reliable, trustworthy, and easy to work with.
In Kenya, we have both local and international suppliers.
Some local suppliers include Shamborina enterprises. You can call them on 0715 607 076 and they will add you to a wholesale WhatsApp group. This makes it easier for you to make orders and you can give them directions to your store where they can deliver the goods.
Elkay Solutions- Elkay Solutions are local wholesalers who offer general supplies.
There’s an option to import from US, UK, Dubai, Turkey & China. China is the most preferable and you can import products from the comfort of your home without paying for a flight ticket or even worrying about KRA tax stuff. If you’re interested in importing goods from China, I have a 60-page book that explains it all in detail.
5. Build Your Online Store Website
There are multiple ways to build your website whether you do it yourself or hire a developer
- Doing it yourself
While this might sound like the most appealing option to some hands-on entrepreneurs, it’s not nearly as simple as it sounds. Building your website requires experience in coding and can cost you a lot in terms of time. If you’re determined to figure it out yourself, we recommend signing up for online courses to gain a solid base knowledge of web development. Even then, you’ll need months of practise to get your website to the professional level that you and your customers expect.
- Hiring a web developer
If you don’t have the knowledge, skill, or time to build your website, then the logical conclusion would be to hire someone who does.
Hiring a high-quality web developer can eat into your budget but this will make work easier and give you time to focus on other business matters. The going rate for an eCommerce website designer can range from Ksh. 35,000 to Ksh 75,000. If you want a stunning site that offers a seamless shopping experience, then cutting costs with an inexperienced developer is not the way to go.
6. Accept Payments via Cash on Delivery (Highly Recommended)
Once your business is up and running, decide on the payment options for your customers. Although the online payment option is quite well developed in Kenya, most Kenyans prefer the Cash on Delivery method. They will want to pay once the goods are delivered to them.
This is because of unscrupulous businessmen who have taken advantage of Kenyans and received cash before delivery, only for them to fail to deliver altogether or deliver what was not ordered.
7. Decide How You’re Going to Deliver Your Products and What Your Delivery Rates Will Be
Customers will expect you to deliver their goods at home or at a place that you will agree. This means that you have to decide how you are going to charge for the delivery.
You can charge the actual amount, a flat rate, offer free delivery, or any combination thereof. Flat rate overages and free delivery will be absorbed by your company. Chances are, you’ll add that to the cost of your product. It’s a delicate balance, so you may have to do some testing and make adjustments accordingly.
8. Start Marketing on Social Media
Your online store in Kenya will not sell unless people know that it exists. This means that you have to get it where the people are. Social media is one of the most powerful places to get customers. To get the best results, choose the most relevant channel for your products.
If your products are mostly visual. Instagram is the best channel to use. If you are selling products mostly to a very young audience, then choose Facebook. YouTube is for all age groups.
To succeed in selling your products or services on social media, you need to create the right content at the right volume. Always ensure that your content is visual. Build your network and connect it back to your business.
9. Use WhatsApp for Customer Service
WhatsApp is a great platform to include in your social media strategy. WhatsApp Business can help you connect with your customers and support them with immediate and personalized customer service.
WhatsApp Business is an app that is easily downloadable from App Store or Google Play, depending on your phone’s software.
- WhatsApp for business contains tools that make it easy for you to sell through it. When creating your profile, you will be required to include a catalog of your products or services to help your customers easily see what your offer is. Each product or service should include a title, price, description, product code, and link to the product on your website. You can upload a maximum of 500 products or services and each one of them should include an image.
- WhatsApp for Business will help you handle customer queries faster and easier. Customers can message you directly to your phone and this will help you respond quickly.
- WhatsApp for Business saves answers to the most commonly asked questions as templates and sets up shortcuts. This saves you the time you would have used typing out the answers to repeating questions. And, your customers will get their questions answered faster.
There is the option for labels that help you to organize and categorize users and messages. This will help you sort messages by urgency and recognize returning customers. You can use pre-programmed labels or create new ones that make sense for your business.
It is therefore good to add a WhatsApp chat button to your website and all other social media channels. You can even include it in your email signature if you send newsletters to your customers.
When It Comes Time to Build Your Team, Hire the Following Staff Whenever Possible
A stock manager is a person who oversees the inventory of an organization. They track and monitor inventory, and develop processes to maximize efficiency. This is the person who will create the inventory plans, organize distribution, and negotiate new contracts with suppliers.
A customer support professional communicates with customers and clients via telephone, social media, face-to-face, or via email regarding your services or products. Their work is to address customer issues and resolve them in a timely and efficient manner.
A website manager will oversee the functionality of the website, manage its performance, facilitate hosting and server management maintain and update the website content. He/she will monitor, assess, and report on website performance. He will also handle online marketing projects ranging from SEO to social media marketing.
Social Media Manager
A Social media manager, monitors, filters, contributes to, and guides the social media presence of a business, product, or brand. This is a person who may perform duties such as blogging, creating social media profiles, managing regular posts, and responding to followers.
A social media manager will help you establish a conversion strategy by learning your followers’ pain points and concerns and addressing them. He/she will offer suggestions on how to convert fans into buying customers.
An accountant is the person responsible for keeping and interpreting financial records. This is the person who will ensure the accuracy of financial documents, as well as their compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
He/She is also tasked with the responsibility of preparing and maintaining important financial reports. He/She will also prepare tax returns and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time. He/ she will conduct forecasting and risk analysis assessments.
Final thoughts on starting an eCommerce Business in Kenya
You made it all the way to the end. Give yourself a pat on the back.
The success of your online store in Kenya is dependent on many factors like the ease of navigation of your website, pricing, marketing strategy, quality of your products, and ease of transaction, among others. Ensure that you create value for your customers to increase your chances of repeat customers, hence a successful business.
If you need more advice or have any questions, I’m always ready to help whether you are interested in starting a brand new ecommerce website or redesigning your existing site. Visit my contact page and get in touch.