If you think about it closely then you could say that nowadays, most if not all business is e-commerce. More and more enterprises are selling their goods and services over the internet. Having a website is more the rule than the exception now. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, online transactions made up more than six per cent of all purchases in Kenya. Although this far behind Western Europe, where 75 per cent of all purchases are online, we are rapidly catching up.
A report by the Communication Authority of Kenya and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that 27 per cent of all Kenyan companies sell their products online. Multiple online marketplaces such as Sky Garden has come up to serve the growing demand.
Smaller retailers also exist in this space. E-commerce is a very alluring business model. First, e-commerce is cheaper than your conventional brick and mortar store. There is no rent to pay. You can minimize the inventory you keep. You need fewer employees to man the store. Selling online gives you access to more customers. In Kenya, there are more than 36 million data subscriptions. There are 300 million smartphones across Africa. All these people can get to your store by simply using your URL. Advertising is cheaper than on traditional media such as TV. You can access thousands of people on Facebook and Google using just tens or hundreds of dollars.
There are also a number of free tools you can use to improve your eCommerce platform. Here are some examples.
Perhaps the most underrated advantage of the internet that smaller eCommerce overlook is data. Never has it been possible to understand your consumers better than in the present day. User share data on the internet, often oblivious of who has it and how they are going to use it. Google, the world’s largest search engine and one of its most valuable companies capitalizes on this. Google Analytics is arguably the most powerful data collection tool for business. At its simplest, it allows you to measure how many visitors are coming to your website and what they are doing on it.
Google Analytics is free and easy to deploy. You just have to copy paste a piece of code into all your website pages. There are even plugins that can help with this.
In 2017, Google made its Optimize service freely available. Optimize is a website experimentation tool. It enables you to change parts of your website and measure the effect of using analytics. It employs split testing, which is a fancy way of saying randomly chosen people see different versions of your website to see which one works best.
It is an incredibly easy tool to use and you need little knowledge of programming. Google optimize allows you to drag and drop elements of your website and change as you please. It also handles the mathematical side of things ensuring the results you see are statistically significant.
Hubspot is one of the leading customer relationship management solutions in the world. It helps you keep track of your marketing campaigns and potential customers as they move through the purchase process. It is especially helpful when your sales cycle is long. The best part is it is entirely free. You can add unlimited users, build lead collection forms and templates for email and manage up to one million contacts. As you scale, however, you might find it necessary to use other Hubspot software such as its marketing and sales hubs.
As social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp have grown, they have created the opportunity for businesses to talk to more people. Contrary to popular belief, social media is not free. Facebook and Twitter limit the number of your own followers who can see your content. According to both, there is just too much content. In 2018, Facebook also announced that it would limit the visibility of brands on people’s newsfeeds. Increasingly, you have to ‘boost’ your content for it to get seen. The advantage is that advertising on social media is cheap. You get data on your followers. It is also possible to target customers based on their interests, location and demographics.
The biggest challenge to developing e-commerce in Africa is logistics. There is no public addressing system in East Africa for instance. The sector is mostly informal and expensive. Most businesses find it hard to get their products to customers making it less viable to sell things online.
Sendy’s platform connects thousands of drivers to businesses and enables your users to request deliveries at the touch of a button. Once you integrate the API on to your eCommerce website, a user can simply indicate where there want goods delivered and the cost appears as part of the receipt. A Drivers comes to automatically pick up the goods from you.