In today’s article, we are talking about how to start an ecommerce business in Kenya.
And more importantly how beginners can make money online selling products.
Actually, I have been interested in eCommerce for some time now because I want to find a way to create freedom for myself.
I have heard all kinds of stories of people making money online in Kenya.
So I thought, okay well, if a lot of people are buying from Jumia Kenya, maybe they could also buy physical products for me.
The only problem is, I don’t know where to start.
Just a heads up, I will be referring to some really cool examples I found online.
They are motivating and I think we can learn some lessons from them.
To be specific, I want to share with you lessons on learning what happened when you model billion-dollar businesses like GymShark.
This is one of the incredible eCommerce success stories of the 21st Century.
Steps to start an eCommerce business in Kenya
Looking at the example I mentioned earlier, GymShark.
It is one of the biggest fitness brands right now that started off as a very tiny small e-commerce business.
And it is actually very good to understand how they were able to work to $1.45 billion.
When they first started off, they were just two kids and just like a couple of hundred bucks.
That points out the coolest thing about e-commerce.
If you do it the right way, kind of like modeling what happened to them, then you don’t have to take a lot of risk upfront and you can actually hit your financial goals later on.
What they did back in the day before they were worth over a billion dollars, is they first started off very simply.
They started as a simple dropshipping site.
Step #1 – Figure out what people want
The first step is figuring out what people actually want and then employing a drop-shipping business model.
So, here is what they did;
They created a simple Shopify website.
This site takes less than five minutes to create your own e-commerce store in Kenya.
Additionally, Shopify comes with these done-for-you templates.
So you don’t have to be a web designer or have any tech skills.
To figure out what people want, you must do some digging.
You can conduct a survey where you ask a specific group of people what they want.
Alternatively, look at the gaps in the current market and identify a need.
Now, one of the best ways I have learned for identifying what people want is using Google.
You can literally go to Google.com right and spend some time researching.
There is a free tool called Google Keyword Planner you can use.
With it, you can type a keyword and see what people search for when they are on Google.
Let’s say I am interested in selling ladies’ shoes, so I type ladies shoes as the keyword and hit get results.
This tool will give a bunch of related searches to my main keyword.
From the ideas provided, take note of the search volume and competition (low, medium, or high).
Ladies sneakers are really ripe!
It has a search volume of above 1K per month and low competition.
This means that more people are searching for this product, but fewer websites are ranking for it.
That is one way to find what people want but are not getting enough of it.
Step #2 – Find the right product
Now that you have figured out what people want, your next step is finding the right product that is actually going to sell.
Of course, starting an e-commerce business in Kenya can be very expensive when done the wrong way.
Looking at our case study, GymShark, imagine how hard it is when you need to get different sizes of shorts or different colors or different genders or different lengths.
I mean, there are so much different variations that you would literally need thousands of shillings to get started with an e-commerce business in Kenya.
But if you do the dropshipping model, it’s a lot easier for market research.
This is how dropshipping in Kenya works;
You have your own little website, right?
Here you could put it on Shopify and then what happens is a customer will come to your store
They are like, wow this store is amazing, I want to go buy these sneakers.
I want it in this color and this size.
So they pay the 2K for the shoes and then you go and buy the shoes from the supplier for like 1K.
Then the supplier ships it to the customer and then pocket 1K profit.
That is essentially what dropshipping in Kenya is.
You are literally the middleman and you just take the money of the customer and you just get it from the supplier at a cheaper rate.
A cheaper way to market research
Now, that is what GymShark did when they were starting.
They had their e-commerce store and they would put a bunch of designs of t-shirts and supplements on their store until they would actually find products that sell.
The moment they were able to find products that sell well, they are like oh wow, we are getting all these colors and all these sizes and all of these, that is what we are going to order in bulk from China.
And then they just start dropshipping the products.
Thing is, they wouldn’t do this forever.
They just did this to get market research because it is the most cost-effective.
You know, a way to figure out just what people are buying.
This is genius.
Because if you were to go to China and buy like a hundred different units of the products with variations, you would literally need thousands of shillings to actually get started.
But when you dropship, your only overhead cost is the cost of hosting your e-commerce store in Kenya.
Step #3 – Find a supplier
Finding a dropship supplier is so easy.
I found two ways you can use, but there are others.
The first one is contacting the manufacturers.
All you have to do is locate legitimate wholesale suppliers.
Once you already know the product(s) you want to dropship, call the manufacturer and ask for a list of its wholesale distributors.
And then contact these wholesalers to see if they dropship and inquire about setting up an account.
The second way is using Oberlo.
Oberlo is a dropshipping platform that makes it easy to find awesome products to sell online.
This tool allows you to sort through a huge list of products and add them to your store in just a few clicks.
Other tools you can check out is;
- Printful – a print on demand dropshipping service that lets you sell custom products worldwide
- DropnShop – is a dropshipping app designed to serve online stores dealing in French products
- PlusBuyer – is a dropshipping wholesaler targeting businesses that sell electronics online
Once you have your supplier, time to move to the next of creating your eCommerce business in Kenya.
Step #4 – Create your store
This is the easiest part of starting an online store business in Kenya.
There are many ways to create an eCommerce website;
One, use marketplaces like SkyGarden, Jumia, or Kilimall as a merchant.
That is easy, but they will limit you in terms of control.
The second way is using tools like Shopify to build a store in Kenya.
All you have to do is sign up, pick a store template, and set up shop.
Also, consider getting a domain name that matches your business.
Lastly, the best option is to create your own online store.
- Pick a domain matching your business
- Get a web hosting account in Kenya
- Install shopping carts like Woocomerce
- Integrate with MPESA checkout
- Start adding product images from your supplier
With the store up and running, time for the final step to starting an eCommerce business in Kenya.
Step #5 – Start selling
This is a really big question, how can I start getting sales?
Well, it’s pretty simple actually.
Here is what GymShark did.
They would take their products and would partner with influencers by giving them promo codes.
Lucky for you, Shopify supports promo codes.
If you are hosting your own store, there are add-ons you can integrate with your site to support these discount codes.
All you have to do is generate these codes and identify these influencers.
The codes allow you to see the top influencers that are making you the most money.
If you are selling ladies’ sneakers, you can find influencers on YouTube with an engaged audience.
To avoid spending more, find those with a growing audience, say, 3K subscribers.
Give them a unique code and ask them to review your product.
How to scale your online store in Kenya to make more money
In order to scale your eCommerce business in Kenya, you need to control the supply chain.
Purchase in bulk
To do that, you need to purchase the product in bulk.
Here is how you can do that.
The moment you have learned what is selling well, consider getting things in bulk from china and then branding them.
So you can leave the wholesalers and go directly to the manufacturer.
If I just type in ladies’ sneakers on Alibaba (a place where it consolidates all the top suppliers in China), you can see all these other sneakers you can now buy in bulk for really really cheap.
Except when you go from Alibaba, you know you can get your own designs and stuff.
That is what Gymshark did.
Now that they have got the analysis of what people actually want, they didn’t have to go through all the hardships of picking out what sells.
Now, the moment you buy things in bulk from china, you can brand them.
This way, you can start building your brand.
And you didn’t have to go through hardships and taking risks to reach here.
The next thing you can do is add multiple upsells in your store.
Upselling is a sales technique aimed at persuading customers to purchase a more expensive, upgraded, or premium version of the chosen item or other add-ons.
Essentially, you are trying to make her purchase size larger.
This way, once people buy, you could increase their average order value (AOV).
Because when that goes up you could actually spend more money hiring more influencers and scaling your eCommerce business in Kenya, right?
How can you implement this?
Well, one simple way is to collect customers’ email addresses so you can keep marketing to the products related to what they bought from you.
Additionally, emails help you recover abandoned carts.
80% of shoppers leave before completing the checkout process.
As a store owner, you need a way to reach and bring them back.
I have written an article on some of the most effective and proven marketing strategies you can use to promote your online store in Kenya.
You have learned the exact steps you can take now to start an eCommerce business in Kenya.
If you skimmed to this end, here is what you missed;
- How to find what people want
- Finding the right product that will sell
- Sourcing for the product
- How to create a store fast
- How to scale your online store in Kenya
Let me know what you think about these in the comments below.