10 Challenges of Selling Online in Kenya


Finance / Monday, September 11th, 2017

Selling online in Kenya is a growing trend as more people embrace online shopping. However, a number of obstacles affect the productivity of sellers. If you are planning to launch your online store soon, here are a few of the challenges you may face.

  1. Making expensive deliveries in estates and out of town.

It sounds wrong to request for KSh 350 to deliver just one item out of town but I think you should. For instance, if you are delivering a pair of trousers in Syokimau, you will spend about KSh 50 to get to town from your estate, another KSh 40-50 to get to Syokimau main stage from Nairobi, KSh 50-100 for a boda boda ride to reach the actual delivery point in Syokimau. The other option would be to eliminate deliveries to such places altogether, which may hurt your business.

  1. Customers may not show up.

Expect no shows after you have agreed on the time and meeting place. Some clients will ask you to meet them in the city centre and have you waiting for almost an hour. Others will even give you directions to their estate and you will spend an hour or so asking them where to go next. There’s another lot who will switch off their phones.

  1. Disgruntled customers posting nasty reviews on your social media page.

The customer is king but sometimes, the customer just wants to whinge. Some of the bad reviews are about the customer service, additional charges, the delivery time, the quality of the product and the packaging. When genuine complains arise, give them all the attention they deserve.

When customers complain and you are not at fault, tell your story courteously, offer a solution if possible, and then leave it at that. For example, if a client asks you to make a delivery in town, and you wait patiently for an hour, and when you reach him/her on the phone you get a series of lies, just go home.

  1. Clients will order half of your stock, and buy one item.

Expect to walk around town with a ponderous backpack going to meet a client, only to sell one pair. Some items will come back with scratches, make-up or sweat. Even in a traditional shop, you won’t allow customers to try everything on.

You will probably have just one item of each design on display. Hence, do not encourage clients to try on everything in your e-store. If a client wants one pair of shoes, take just two color variations if you must.

  1. Being arrested and charged with hawking.

As far as the council by-laws are concerned, the only selling you should do is in a shop or kiosk. Kenya doesn’t recognise online sales yet. Therefore, the kanjo askaris might whisk you off the street as soon as you take out the item for a client to see. There are also buildings with large notices on the wall ‘NO HAWKING HERE’.

Explaining you are making deliveries not hawking may not be accepted when you have a full backpack. Start with the more conducive buildings and end your day in the hostile delivery points when your backpack is almost empty. Alternatively, request your client to come for the item at the reception.

  1. Visiting the home of your client only to be accused of theft.

You might walk in with your bulky bag and as you leave, a client claims that a phone is missing and calls the neighbors to body search you.

  1. A con may reverse transactions as soon as you leave.

Therefore, get a Paybill number if you accept mobile money instead of transacting with your personal line.

  1. Business rivals will report your Facebook account because they just don’t like your progress

Expect to be locked of your account a few times after a competitor reports your posts to Facebook with all manner of lies. Some may claim your post is irrelevant or misleading despite the fact that you have posted it in a relevant group.

  1. Most of the times, you won’t get even one like or comment on your posts.

The worst is when you have paid for advertising on Facebook only to attract a plethora of “I want this”, “where are you located”, “how much”, “what other colours”, “XXX come see this”, “XXX umeona hii”, “XXX hii deal iko hot”. You may assume that such feedback is good as opposed to no comment at all, but your advertising objective is conversion not going viral.

  1. Suspicion for not having a stall.

As much as online shopping in Kenya is growing, there’s also a range of internet users who don’t trust any seller unless there’s information about location. No matter the number of times you indicate your business operates virtually, this range of internet users will never understand.

Nevertheless, there are online sellers who’ve made it online. It takes time to build a reputation. To do that, focus on engagement through your personal account or Facebook business page.

What do you think?