Many fashion and beauty businesses are moving online as more Kenyans embrace online shopping. Your business could also benefit from this e-commerce growth as soon as you learn how to start an online fashion business in Kenya.
An online fashion store reaches all 47 counties and extends beyond our borders. Why would you restrict yourself to your neighbourhood when you can make more money by embracing e-commerce?
This article focuses on the advantages of an online clothing store and how to start one using social media accounts and a blog. First, the most important question:
Why Start a Fashion Business Online?
1. Low operating cost
Rent is an overhead that burdens many small business owners in Kenya. Some landlords demand you pay two to six months’ rent when you move into their rentals. But online, your house is your business premise. Working from home also lets you test your business idea before you pour thousands of Shillings into your investment. For instance, you gather feedback about your products and the online shopping experience as you market your business to friends and family members. From such feedback, you seal any loopholes that may affect your business in the mass market.
2. Larger geographical reach
If you must, you can reach the entire world through paid campaigns. A paid campaign takes a few minutes to set up, and its effect is immediate when you target the right audience with the right message.
3. Audience segmentation
Online market segmentation can be geographical, related to the language of preference, economic status, or even the age group of buyers. You can narrow your audience better than in a land-based store. For instance, you can target all Nairobi residents at once with just one branch located in the city. However, when you run a physical store, you have to open several branches across the city to target all estates.
4. Experience a World Wide Web of opportunities
Your income depends on your marketing efforts and the quality of your product/service. It is not bound by location because online, you have a larger audience to influence.
5. Work from anywhere, anytime
Work during the day, at night or even over the weekends.
Have I convinced you that an online clothing store is lucrative in this digital age?
7 Things You Need to Run a Successful Online Clothing Store in Kenya
Before you launch that fashion business idea you have had in your diary for the longest time, here are some factors that an online business ought to consider.
1. Do you need a warehouse, or can you sell from home?
The size of your product, and the average number of orders you expect in a day, will determine the storage space you need. But, there is no need to worry if you are a fashion affiliate marketer because your work is lead generation only.
Some home-based business people use a spare bedroom. It can serve you, but it depends on the interaction needed between you and the delivery team or customer. For example, your clients need a changing room if you run a wedding rental business. Therefore, you might have to welcome strangers into your home.
2. How will you market your products or services?
A marketing plan is as essential as a business plan. You need to list down all the marketing strategies you have in mind. Will you hire a marketing expert, or do you have basic online marketing skills to get you started? The easiest online marketing platforms are social media networks like Facebook and Instagram. However, you can also make sales from a website through e-commerce software.
3. Where is your pick-up point?
A pick-up point should be convenient for all potential customers in a given geographical area. It eliminates the laborious delivery process and gives you a competitive advantage because customers do not have to pay delivery fees when they can pick up the item in town.
4. Will you offer free/paid or any delivery service?
If you will make deliveries, do you intend to include the cost in the price or require a customer to pay delivery fees separately? Is the delivery fee per item or for all items ordered by a customer? You can also engage a courier service for deliveries outside the city, which makes it easier for you to focus on sales.
5. Who will manage your digital assets?
Your blog, website and social media pages need attention daily. Managing social media pages is easy. For the website, get assistance until you are comfortable running the shopping cart and the blog.
6. What payment methods do you have in mind?
Cash on delivery works for most online businesses in Kenya. Nonetheless, you may need a few other options like Lipa na MPESA and Visa. Know the legal requirements for such methods and the appropriate payment methods for your target market. For instance, Visa works in high-end markets while mPesa works for everyone.
7. Do you have a stable, fast internet connection, among other resources?
An online venture needs fast internet. There are so many internet bundle packages from various internet service providers. Compare all offers from Telkom, Safaricom, ZUKU and Airtel to find out which is fast but affordable.
Now, let us find out some issues you may encounter with customers.
Challenges of Selling Online in Kenya
Let us first look at the challenges you will face when selling online and then discuss issues most customers have with online shopping.
Disadvantages of an Online Store
1. Customers may not show up
Some clients will ask you to meet them in the city centre and have you waiting for almost an hour. Others will even direct you to their estate, and you will spend an hour or so asking them where to go next. There is another lot that will switch off their phones.
2. Disgruntled customers post nasty reviews on your social media page
The customer is king, but sometimes, a customer just wants to whine. Many negative reviews are about customer service, additional charges, delivery delays, and product quality. When genuine complaints 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 they keep giving you lies, just go home.
3. Clients will order half of your stock and buy one item
That is why most Instagram sellers use pay-before-delivery terms.
4. Getting arrested for hawking
As far as the council by-laws are concerned, the only selling you should do is in a shop or kiosk. You must have seen NO HAWKING HERE signage on some buildings.
5. A con may reverse transactions as soon as you leave
Therefore, get a Paybill number for mobile money payments.
6. Business rivals may report your Facebook account
Expect to be locked out of your account a few times. Some may claim your post is irrelevant or misleading, although you have posted it in a relevant group.
7. Most of the time, you will not get even one like or comment on your posts.
8. Suspicion for not having a stall
Online shopping in Kenya is growing, but many internet users only trust sellers who indicate the location of the business. No matter the number of times you indicate you operate virtually, these internet users will not convert.
Nevertheless, some online sellers have made it. It takes time to build a reputation.
8 Annoying Things about Shopping Online in Kenya
There is nothing as magical as making a few mouse clicks to order an item online and receive it at your doorstep a few hours later.
Shopping online in Kenya is the trend, but the process needs a bit of streamlining. Visit Buyer Beware Kenya pages on Facebook and see the number of scams reported daily. In addition to scams, these are some of the most annoying things that make most people shy away from online deals in Kenya.
1. The delay
An online store may promise same-day delivery, but the item arrives two or three days later.
2. Sellers who demand payment before delivery
When a seller demands payment before delivery, it sounds scandalous. Why would I pay for what I have not seen? The worst scenario is when the item delivered is faulty, you demand a refund, and the seller claims there are no cash refunds.
3. What you see is almost always not what you get
Product descriptions and images are supposed to explain the value for money. However, some sellers brighten images, copy product images from other websites, or indicate the wrong dimensions.
4. Out-of-stock alert
Have you ever ordered an item and received feedback about a delivery, only to be informed later it is out of stock? Some sellers order items overseas and start marketing those products using stock images before they receive the shipment. That is wrong.
5. Snail pace customer service
If you want to start your day angry, call the customer service line of some e-stores.
6. Woe unto you if the product is defective
If a product is defective or damaged during delivery, an arduous process begins as you request a refund or a new item.
7. Sellers who give the wrong directions to the pick-up point
A seller can allege the location is close to the highway, yet it is kilometres away on a dirt road with no boda bodas. A customer has to walk all the way because it is an easier option than demanding a refund.
8. Sellers whose delivery team has a poor sense of direction
Sometimes, the delivery guy gets lost. The airtime and the time spent in such a treasure hunt are enough for a customer to visit a local store and forget about shopping online in Kenya.
If you can consider all of these situations as you create your fashion business plan, you will have an easy time penetrating the market. In any case, online shopping in Kenya is a few years old. It is still in its teething stage, but with the many developments in logistics and payment methods, we will have smooth online purchases soon.
How To Start An Online Fashion Business in Kenya: The Platforms to Use
You can run a fashion business on a website or social media. Therefore, we will discuss how you can start a fashion business blog/website. Also, we will focus on creating a Facebook business page as that is one of the major platforms, and you can connect it with your Instagram account.
How to Start a Fashion Business Blog
Blogging is competitive. If you do not enter this field knowing what you want and how to do it, your business will get lost in the noise. You will be competing against established brands that the market loves. Therefore, your ultimate goal will be to find a team of loyal customers who will always look forward to your next sale.
Since you want to invest wholly, choose a self-hosted blog where you get a domain and pay for hosting instead of running your blog on a free blogging platform like Blogger. One, you will have a unique website design and the freedom to customise it as much as you want.
The five most important steps towards getting your fashion blog up:
- Choose a domain
- Get web hosting
- Get website design services
- Search engine optimisation
- Content creation
What is a Domain?
A domain is an online address your audience will use to locate your fashion business blog. For example, The Fashion Parlour’s domain name is thefashionparlour.com. Each blog/website has a unique domain. A domain name has a Top-Level Domain (TLD) and a second-level domain. A TLD is to the right of the dot, and the latter is to the left. So, can you tell the TLD of thefashionparlour.com?
When choosing a domain name:
- Short is better because it is memorable.
- Short is better because it is less prone to grammatical errors.
- Avoid generic names because they say little about your brand.
- Use your name if it is a personal brand (it has worked for thousands of fashion bloggers).
- Use a keyword that says something about your brand, if possible.
- Avoid hyphens because only a few internet users will remember.
.co.ke or .com? The Best (TLD) Extension for Your Blog
To target a Kenyan audience, a .co.ke extension is ideal. However, for international appeal, get a .com extension. There are many arguments about which extension is most appropriate, and it seems more companies are opting for a .co.ke domain in Kenya.
Sometimes, the .co.ke or the .com extension of your preferred domain name may not be available. You might have to tweak your domain name slightly. For instance, add the before your domain name.
Should You Buy All the Extensions of Your Domain Name?
When looking for an ideal domain for your upcoming fashion blog, you might find that it is available in several extensions, such as .com, .co.ke, .net, and .org. Should you buy all of these extensions?
In Kenya, the most popular extensions are .com and .co.ke. But, you should consider buying other extensions when your brand grows because the entry of a competitor with a similar domain can reduce traffic to your website when your brand grows. It also gives you control of your online reputation for that domain name.
Is Your Preferred Domain Available?
Search on whois.net to know whether your domain name suggestions are available. You will also get information about the extensions available.
How to Host Your Blog
After registering a domain, you need hosting services. That is where you store website pages on the internet from where they can be accessed and made available through the World Wide Web. Web hosting companies in Kenya include Sasahost, Kenya Website Experts, and HostPinnacle. They have different payment plans and packages.
Most web hosting packages have annual payment plans. Read between the lines to avoid paying more for a package you would get at a lower price elsewhere. In addition, check reviews from customers and ask around about the quality of service and the client support system.
The best hosting packages offer a free domain name for extensions like .com, .net, .org and .biz. Also, compare features added to the hosting package. For example, will you have unlimited email accounts and unlimited sub-domains?
Here is a place for you to compare all web hosting packages offered in Kenya. The Kenya Network Information Centre ( KENIC) lists all licensed registrars. See the list.
Get the Best Web Design Services
Once you host your domain, it is time to design the website.
A mock-up helps you explain the design you want. Your mock-up does not have to be a professional layout of the website.
Make it user-friendly if you want your audience to linger in it long enough for you to sell your products.
Additionally, your website should be navigable, appealing and with an ideal loading speed. You must be cautious about loading speed for image-heavy blogs. Additionally, you need a mobile responsive website because most Kenyans access the internet from their smartphones, not desktop computers.
Search for existing fashion e-commerce websites whose designs you envy as a benchmark for your web designer. You will also provide details about your domain and hosting plan to them to upload the website files after design.
SEO Guide for a Fashion Business Website
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing task that improves the online presence of a website in organic (free) search results. When you optimize yours, it is visible in the most favourable positions on Google search results.
To break this down further, let us say you are searching for dresses in Kenya on Google. When you type this search phrase on Google, it gives you a list of websites whose content matches your search phrase. These results are the organic search engine results, and they start just below Google Ads (search engine marketing).
SEO boosts such visibility affordably. It is the best alternative to social media marketing and paid search marketing (Google Ads).
The process involves both on-site and off-site tasks. On the website, SEO tasks focus on page speed, website design, titles, META descriptions, cross-linking, originality of content, etc. Off the website, SEO involves getting links from relevant and authoritative blogs, social media marketing, forum posting, directory submission, press release submission, etc.
These tasks need expert assistance, but you can do most of the on-site optimization yourself. For example, learn how to create keyword-rich content. That brings us to:
Content Creation for Your fashion Blog
When listing your products, you need product descriptions that are SEO-friendly. They should serve the user with information about the product persuasively. Another place that will need SEO is your blog. That is where you post news about your brand, from product launches to tutorials and informational articles.
Blogging needs a creative mind; blogging is for creative minds. On top of that, you have to prepare a content creation calendar and stick to it. You can publish daily or weekly posts.
Remember, content brings traffic to a website. Your blog posts should be relevant to your audience.
When creating content:
- Set realistic deadlines
- Research before writing
- Read other blogs regularly to get fresh ideas.
- Never plagiarise content from another blog.
- Always come up with a catchy title.
- The language and grammar should suit your audience.
- Look for unique angles for your content.
Do you think you are ready to bring your fashion business blog to life? Next, let us look at social media.
How to Create a Facebook Page for Your Small Business
Facebook is arguably the most efficient social media platform for small businesses. On a Facebook page, you display items in a shop, communicate with customers through a chat function, list events like new stall openings and discounts, and promote the business through paid advertising. Here is how to create a Facebook page.
What you need before creating a Facebook Page
The prerequisites are:
• Two images (The profile picture dimensions are 170 by 170px, and if it is a logo, it should be a png file. The cover photo should be at least 820 by 321 px).
• A phone number.
• Email address (not a must if you have a phone number).
• A personal Facebook account.
• A business name
Facebook Page Tutorial (using a Desktop/laptop)
• Log into your personal Facebook account.
• Click the Quick Help tab on the upper-right end of the top bar.
• Scroll down the drop-down list and click Create Page.
• Choose a page type. The options are a local business, a company, a brand/product, an artist/public figure, entertainment or a cause/community. If you are a fashion designer, select the public figure category. If you do not have a physical store, choose the brand category. Alternatively, set it as a local business if you want a page for your land-based store. Later, you can change the business category if it does not suit your objectives. For now, we shall create a local business.
• Add the page name and the physical address of your shop.
• Add a profile picture and a cover picture.
• Click on the button with three dots just below your cover picture, and select Edit Page Info from the drop-down list.
• Change the page category, if necessary.
• Add a short description of the business. For example, XXX is a leading distributor of fitness products in Kenya. Our prices are affordable, and we have various products such as slimming and detox teas. We make deliveries around the country, and we guarantee quality products.
• Add a link to your website and your email address. Direct visitors to the homepage, not subpages (for example, thefashionparlour. com, not thefashionparlour. com/about-me).
• Add the street address, where necessary. Indicate whether you make deliveries around your area of operation.
• Set the operating hours from Monday to Sunday. Save all the changes made.
• Like your page, share it or invite your friends to like it.
It costs zero to create a Facebook business page. You can get one right now by just logging into your account. In addition, your employee can access the page as an admin and reply to the comments on your behalf if you run your business as a side hustle.
How to Increase Facebook Likes on Your Business Page
Each new page like draws you closer to your marketing goal. With each new like, you gain another potential client or brand ambassador. When you create a page, you have high hopes about how fast you will tell everyone about your brand.
However, a week or two later, all your friends like it, and there is no one else to invite.
Millions of businesses have been in a similar situation, and what they did next proved their resilience. Here are a few of the top-rated strategies that increase Facebook page likes.
1. Diversify your content
When you publish many sales posts, your followers scroll down fast, looking for more exciting content.
Diversify your content. The basic rule is 80/20. It means your content should be 80% engagement and 20% sales. Engage your audience with content that elicits various emotions and is sufficiently interesting to share with their friends.
2. Do not pay for page likes
Never pay to boost the number of likes on your page. When you pay to get more Facebook page likes, despite narrowing the target audience by age and interests, they start unliking the page as soon as the campaign is over. Almost all likers in a campaign click the like button without visiting the page first.
On the other hand, when you advertise a single item for sale, it brings hundreds of comments, more post likes, a few likes and profile views. Hence, advertising for conversion generates a variety of reactions and interest.
3. Create a great Facebook business page
A good page has a complete profile. It should have a description of the products/services in the About Us section and contact information, including directions to the land-based store.
Credibility encourages more people to share what they find with their friends. They see your posts, tag friends, and make your name grow.
4. Run a monthly sale
Every month, run a sale to clear old stock. Talk about it in advance on your page, and possibly pay to promote it through influential people in the industry (influencer marketing) and the media. Make it a regular event.
5. Run contests
Contests and giveaways boost brand awareness. It should not be a complicated contest where you must call in a panel of judges. It could be trivia about a newsworthy event.
6. Network by attending events
There are so many fashion events happening in Kenya all year round. Attend these events to mingle with the stakeholders and fashion enthusiasts. Also, sponsor events like Kenya Plus Size Fashion Weekend to get a mention in the list of partners.
There are also dozens of festivals you can join as an exhibitor.
7. Join groups of like-minded entrepreneurs
Contribute to discussions in groups of entrepreneurs and buyers in your industry. As you offer tips or discuss challenges you are facing in the business, someone will ask you what you do, and that will be one more page like earned.
8. Take care of your customers
Customers use the review feature on Facebook pages to rate their experience. Expect negative reviews when you never reply to comments or your phone etiquette is questionable.
9. Post in Facebook marketplace groups
Unlike groups of entrepreneurs, marketplaces have sales content only. Hence, post items for sale, and in the ad, tell your audience to visit your page for more details. If the marketplace does not allow you to share a post from your page, write a fresh post, copy and add the page ID so that an except (snippet) of the page appears.
Select marketplaces that are relevant to your products or location.
10. Take advantage of developments in your business to trend
For example, when you launch a new product line, preach the achievement to the masses.
For new beauty products, issue a discount code so your audience can sample your products. For a fashion store, you could make a simple post about the arrival of new stock.
To motivate you, here is a list of some of the top Facebook pages in Kenya.
Some Popular Stores on Facebook
1. La Belle Fashions
Deals in: Women’s wear
2. Oyoo Collections
Deals in: Men’s wear
3. Happy Feet Kenya
Deals in: Men’s wear
4. Backyard ShoeZ
Deals in: Shoes
5. Wedding Gowns-Abigail Bridal Boutique
Deals in: Wedding gowns and accessories
6. Lolita Shoes Kenya
Deals in: Ladies’ shoes and bridal gowns
7. City Walk Kenya
Deals in: Designer shoes, clothes and bags
8. Shoe Empire
Deals in: Shoes
9. Fab Guru
Deals in: Ladies’ shoes and handbags
10. Instyle Shoes
Deals in: Shoes
11. Wonder Kids Kenya
Deals in: Kids wear and toys
Deals in: Shoes for all age groups
13. Fortune Ladies Wear
Deals in: Deals in dresses, linen pants, khakis and blazers
14. Crown Wear Ltd
Deals in: Office and casual wear, uniforms and corporate wear
15. Everything Maternity Kenya
Deals in: Baby wear, maternity wear and gifts
See what those and other brands are doing, and you will have a few ideas to improve your Facebook page.
We have talked about the advantages of opening an online store and how to start one by creating a fashion business blog or social media platform like Facebook. We have also mentioned some annoying habits of online customers and store owners. You have the basics to flesh out your business plan and turn your idea into a business.