E-commerce is a topic that has been around for quite some time now. The term e-commerce has been practised best by none other than Jeff Bezos, who at the time of writing this, is among the top 10 richest people in the world, thanks to his e-commerce startup (Amazon). In Kenya, this form of selling has gained traction as it eliminates the need for physical storefronts, reducing the costs associated with traditional retail spaces. With that said, this article will guide you on all the necessary steps you need to take to set up and launch an e-commerce business in Kenya.
Let’s dive in!
What is e-commerce?
E-commerce is short for electronic commerce and refers to the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet. A good example of a small ecommerce business is the Daily Hub Shop where we sell e-books. Other more popular examples include; Kilimall, Jumia, eBay, Alibaba, aliexpress etc.
Electronic commerce involves online transactions, electronic data interchange, and various digital technologies to facilitate the exchange of products or services for money.
Now that you have grasped the meaning of e-commerce, let’s delve into the specifics of how you can start this kind of business.
Step 1 – Market Research
Any business needs a solid understanding of market dynamics, the flow of demand and supply, arising problems and potential solutions.
It is through market research that you will get to understand what is missing and how you can fill a gap through your e-commerce business in Kenya.
Do you plan on selling farm products through e-commerce? Then market research will help you identify who wants your produce, at what time they need it and the amount they are willing to pay for the product.
This is just an example of simplifying the complex landscape in the e-commerce world.
After doing your market research and due diligence, it’s now time to choose a niche that you are willing to dive into.
Step 2 – Choose a Niche
Picking a niche is like telling the world that you are a professional or industry leader in what you sell online.
Picture two websites, one selling Toyota cars only, (link here) and another selling all kinds of cars (link here). In as much as both websites are legitimate, a car buyer, seeking to make an online purchase of a Toyota Vitz will most probably trust the Toyota-specific website over the latter.
This is because niche specialization signals to both humans and search engines that you are legitimate and an industry leader. Therefore, you will most likely make more sales as a niche-specific entrepreneur, than through trading across the board.
With that said, check out our car listing platform here.
Another good example for you to compare:
Which seller has more knowledge of male clothing trends and needs than the other?
I choose A. (Varying opinions are allowed. Share them in our comments section at the end)
Step 3 – Get a Business Plan
Taking the time to develop a strong business plan is another crucial step.
Though it requires an initial investment of effort, having a plan in place can save you significant headaches down the road.
A well-crafted business plan defines your organizational structure, value proposition, target audience, product lineup, market positioning, and ideal path to profitability. It also allows you to anticipate likely challenges at each stage of growth, so you can build contingency plans to manage risk.
Whether you need to secure financing from investors, convince partners or suppliers to work with you, or simply guide your decision-making, a business plan is an indispensable tool.
Consider it the blueprint for your e-commerce endeavour – a living document that shapes the strategic foundations and day-to-day operations of your online store.
Step 4 – Fulfil all legal requirements
All businesses in Kenya need a legal certification.
You will need a KRA PIN that will enable you to pay taxes and a Business Registration Certificate. This is crucial as it will enable you to integrate online payment gateways into your business.
This e-commerce model of business eliminates the need for licenses such as the MCSK (Music Copyright Society of Kenya). However, you may need to get other certificates such as the Food Hygiene Certificate if you plan on centering your e-commerce business around edibles.
Step 5 – Get a website
This is perhaps the most important section of this post.
Yes, getting a website!
A website is what transforms your offline business into an online e-commerce business. To start your own business, you will need a domain name that reflects your brand, a hosting plan, which you can get from various platforms and a well-designed e-commerce store.
Let’s dive into each specific aspect mentioned above.
A domain is a name that your ecommerce store will be called i.e., www.example.com or www.example.co.ke.
To get your domain name, we recommend doing a domain search here.
Make sure your domain name is short, memorable and reflects your brand.
After getting a domain, you will then have to proceed to purchase a web hosting plan that will enable the installation of your website files and designs.
If you are looking to start a small store, getting shared hosting packages will be the best for you. However, if you have a lot of products with lots of images, get a VPS hosting package to prevent server overload issues.
Purchase the packages mentioned above below
5.3 Build your website
After getting your domain and purchasing a hosting plan, you will now need an expertly designed-website.
Focusing on aesthetics is important, as user experience is improved, increasing your chances of making a sale anytime a visitor gets into your website.
There are many ways of tackling this website-building task.
- Hiring us to build your website – We have been building websites for more than 2 years now and know what you need to get your e-commerce website up and running in less than a week.
We offer competitive pricing and dedicated support for up to a year after we design the site. Of course, the length of support varies according to the custom quotation we will make for you.
With that said, get your custom quotation here, or call us here.
- Building the website, yourself – If you choose to build a custom website for yourself, then you probably already know what you require to set up a website.
However, if you don’t know how, then here is a list of everything you need to do;
- Abandon using the above methods and sell through Shopify’s self-hosted platform – Start your free trial here.
Step 6 – Integrate a Payment Gateways
To sell products and services, your e-commerce site needs to be able to accept payments.
Research and integrate an appropriate payment gateway solution like PayPal, Stripe, or MPESA to enable a smooth and secure checkout process.
Consider offering multiple payment options to make the buying experience more convenient for customers.
You’ll need to set up a merchant account and implement the code snippets, plugins, or integrations provided by your payment gateway.
Test transactions thoroughly before launch. Charging handling fees, providing financing options, and integrating with fulfilment services can further optimize the buying experience.
Step 7 – Get Your Product Listings Uploaded
The core of your online business is the actual products you sell.
Spend time creating compelling listings with high-quality images, detailed descriptions, accurate pricing and inventory data, shipping/return policies, and any other relevant product information.
Make listings easy to navigate, informative, and optimized to drive conversions. Allow customers to filter or compare listings.
If you are drop-shipping, integrate inventory feeds from suppliers to easily showcase a wider range of products without overhead costs.
Prominently highlight and rotate featured/trending products. Create targeted product bundles or kits. Continually add new products to incentivize repeat purchases and site visits.
Step 8 – Work on Shipping and Logistics (For Big Businesses)
Determine how to get products from your business or dropshipping suppliers directly into the hands of customers.
Integrate shipping apps to display real-time rates, offer tracking services, print labels, and more during checkout. Consider order fulfilment companies to handle storage, packaging, and shipping on your behalf.
Further, define return and exchange policies and implement the workflows to handle them. Providing fast, affordable shipping options with reliable etas builds trust and loyalty.
Scale your logistics operations accordingly as sales volume grows to match demand while controlling overhead costs related to fulfilment and delivery.
Step 9 – Implement Security Measures
No e-commerce business can afford to neglect security. Implement SSL encryption and follow PCI compliance guidelines to safely handle sensitive customer data. Maintain up-to-date malware protection. Establish internal controls over payment processing, inventory management, and shipping procedures and restrict access only to trusted staff. Create strong password policies for internal systems and encourage customers to use secure passwords as well. Outline clear privacy policies and treat user data accordingly. In the event of a breach, have an incident response plan ready for managing disclosure, containment and ongoing protections. Ongoing testing and audits should confirm controls are working properly in the background to allow for secure scaling.
Step 10 – SEO and Marketing Strategies
No customer can buy products if they don’t visit your e-commerce site first.
That’s where marketing and SEO come into play.
- Produce targeted content that engages your audience and draws organic traffic from relevant searches.
- Leverage tools like Google Analytics to guide an effective SEO and content strategy.
- Run paid ads through channels like Google and social media to supplement organic reach.
- Send promotional email newsletters, retarget site visitors with display ads, and distribute coupons or deals to incentivize purchases.
- Partner with influencers or other brands to cross-promote.
The specifics will vary greatly depending on your products, customers and budget. But dedicating sufficient time, talent and funds towards getting your e-commerce brand in front of buyers is what transforms a nice online store into a revenue-driving business. Monitor marketing performance closely to double down on what works.
Starting an e-commerce business opens up a world of possibilities to reach customers online.
By carefully following the key steps outlined, you set yourself up for long-term success in the digital marketplace.
Focus on providing real value to consumers through great products, services and experiences. Keep innovating and improving every aspect of operations over time as technology and buyer needs evolve.
With hard work and dedication, an e-commerce store can thrive into a highly profitable enterprise over the coming years.
We wish you the very best on your ecommerce journey ahead!