State of Ecommerce Survey 2018: Where & Why we shop.

Long Post Notice

state of ecommerce22 million Kenyans, in one way or the other, have access to the internet. Data from Google and CCK shows a country that has population that is increasingly getting connected. How many of these 22 million Kenyans actually use the internet to make purchases – ride the e-commerce gravy train – might still be similar to the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat. Everyone wants to sound tech savvy – so when you ask them if they’ve ever purchased online, many a time the answer is in the affirmative, dig a little and you find they haven’t got a clue on how to buy online.

CCK and KNBS did a survey and informed us that about 27% of firms in Kenya sold their products online. Just a tad over 32% said their products weren’t suitable for selling online. Two issues with the above:

  1. How many of the 27% actually “SOLD” their products online. SOLD, here being the keyword. Most companies use their websites, more as catalogs than actually – shopper ready – websites. They have non-existent modes of payment and when present, the whole process is cumbersome.
  2. Saying that products are “not suitable” for selling online might lean more to a falsehood than a fact. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce sells much everything from toys, kitchen appliances, sex toys, factories – yes, prefabricated factories to the weird things like Kangaroo Meat, chicken feet, and lizard repellant. Alibaba demystifies the notion of “not suitable” for sale online. Japan runs a portion of an entire economy on the sale of cars worth millions of shillings on the web.


Mobile money players are now coming of age and opening up their API’s to the masses allowing for the integration of mobile money platforms to e-commerce sites.

After a long, mostly doomed trend of bailouts, Uchumi, has decided to join the fray and join the e-commerce bandwagon their hopes highly sailing on the waves that online shoppers might change their tide. Setting up an online shop or selling your wares through such platforms is mostly cheaper than operating a physical shop. Most entrepreneurs can avoid the crazy goodwill and not so sane rent charged within the malls.

On the other hand, there are numerous challenges that plague the budding e-commerce sector. We sought to find out from you dear Kenyans, why and why not you’d purchase goods or services online. We sent out a 13-question survey to better understand the dynamics and 261 of you graciously gave us some answers.

Of course, the subset is small, but it gives us a glimpse into the soul of ecommerce in Kenya. So here goes. We hope you enjoy the results and feel free to leave a comment and follow us @clientellec on twitter.

  • How old are you?

First things first. How old are you? Just over 57% of respondents are between the age of 25 – 34 years. This is no suprise, most of the people that fall in this age gap are more willing to take the “risks” associated with buying online, and are more likely to have a source of income, they are more adventurous.



age of respondents

  • What is your gender?

Gender gaps. They’re everywhere and always have been. And as the world becomes more complex, so too do our gender gaps grow in variety and complexity. To our suprise, there were more men shopping online than women, killing the notion that women shop more than men, or do they?

gender difference

Some research gave us the following conclusion –

  • Men are focused shoppers. They’re drawn to detailed product descriptions, these will be more available online than in physical shops. They find what they want, they make their purchase, and they’re done. Online shopping offers men a targeted shopping experience.
  • Women are social shoppers, they enjoy sifting through tons of items, maybe touch a few and ask their friends about the items. The online shopping experience for women has to appeal to their sense of emotion, more images and maybe videos will do.

During a recent entertainment event, there was segment during which a number of contestants sought to win some money by consuming the most burgers within 5 minutes. Our consumption of content and services on the internet seems to follow a similar trend, only without a clearly defined win.

Research places the average time we spend on the internet across a gamut of devices to over 6.5 hrs per day, that’s over a quarter of our day. This echoes findings from our survey where the majority of respondents – 47.9% spend between 4 – 7hrs on the internet, with over 25% saying they spend more than ¹/₃rd of their day on the internet.


time spent on the internet

ecommerce website speed, ecommerce site design, product reviews, coupons and deals, shipping, payments and security. All these factors play a major role and influence if visitors to your website will go on to make a purchase. From our survey, over 80% of the respondents have made a purchase online. The latter factors definitely played a role in their decision making process.

ever made an online purchase

What sites did you make the purchase from?

This question was meant to gauge the popularity of ecommerce sites both locally and and internationally. Jumia naturally topped the list courtesy of the marketing they put in – the black friday offers and such. OLX came a close second  – they have long had a shadow looming over them due to the many cons that happen to harbour there, they are however working hard to build back the lost trust.  Amazon was the most popular foreign ecommerce site. Social media platforms featured, with purchases having been made on Facebook, this could have been from a post or maybe payment for a Facebook Ad.

53% of the suggested sites that respondents listed were foreign sites – however they only accounted for 35% of online shopping activity.


How did you pay for the goods?

Paying for goods when shopping online tends to be a risk, this is especially true if the payment methods available do not have safeguards in place. This risk isn’t exclusive for payments done online, but affects physical establishments the same, the difference is that online data can be gathered for misuse.

In a country like ours, there are a list of choices to make payments, from cash to the ubiquitous mobile money providers and cards. The level of trust and security dictates how a buyer chooses to make a payment. We asked, how do you do it?

Naturally M-Pesa took the mantle… The closeness of COD (Cash On Delivery), says alot about the nature of payments online.

What prevents you from shopping online?

In the developed world, online shopping is so easy and convenient that shoppers have made dollar billionaires of the founders of ecommerce platforms. Back here at home, the story like in the rest of Africa is much different. We don’t have standardized home addresses, paying for goods online is what is known as an extreme sport, getting what you ordered is another nightmare – somehow existing online shop owners think they are at liberty to change your order.

The overwhelming reason by consumers avoiding shopping online was – how hard it is to actually find what you want online! The bad, mostly misinformed press given to consumers about online shopping was also a very big barrier. Below is the list of reasons, from the biggest barrier to online shopping:

  • Finding goods on the site
  • Payment for the goods
  • Bad press on how risky it is to buy online ( much of it is misinformation)
  • Fraud and Security (Or lack of it)
  • Site navigation (Complex/fancy layouts)
  • Adding goods to cart for checkout
  • Too much jargon to describe actions
  • Shipping and Delivery
  • Mismatched products (You order a Lion, you get a cat)
  • No clear “Return policies”
  • Out of stock items

Most popular items bought online in Kenya

As demystified earlier, there are probably very few items that can’t be sold online. Narrowing your choices to what kind of products to sell in your online shop can be quite the job. From the survey we discovered a list of item popularly bought online. They mostly echo the global trend in what items sell the most online. Here goes:

  • Electronics and Gadgets
  • Clothing and Fashion
  • Books and Magazines
  • Transport services (flights & buses)
  • Gifts and Collectibles
  • Furniture and Home equipment/accessories
  • Health and Beauty
  • Entertainment – Music, Movies and videos
  • Food and Drink
  • Toys and Games
  • Art and Photography
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Stationery and Office Supplies
  • Vehicles and spare parts
  • Groceries
  • Kitchen stuff, Kitchen ware and household items.
  • Flower seeds and related inventory.

This list isn’t exhaustive and is in no way a limiting factor to what kind of business to set up online. It however gives valuable insight.

Why would you or do you, buy things online?

  • Convenience
  • To save time
  • Wide range of choices, variety
  • Cost, flexible pricing, cheaper
  • Security (I did not understand this one)
  • To purchase hard to find items or those not available locally


Ecommerce in Kenya is far away from being perfect and being widely accepted. Our sample size is quite small but the source of the sample – Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Email, IM) – means that most of the respondents are in a position to have made an online purchase or have toyed with the idea. If most of the challenges noted in the responses above can be addressed, there is a very nascent market for growth in this area.

None of the respondents were paid and neither did we advertise the survey, traffic was purely organic over a period of one week.

We finally thank all that took the time to answer our survey, your responses shine a light in what needs to be done for ecommerce to grow in this market.

With thanks from the Clientelle team.

….and below some of your comments. Please take the time to comment and share this post.

Shopping online is way easy and convenient. However the challenge often lies in delivery, at times delivery takes longer than anticipated.

The biggest problem I have with online shops is what is displayed versus what is delivered. In most cases it is like day and night.

Would appreciate good reliable and affordable online stores.

It would be nice to have a 3D look on devices and electronics so that iI am sure of what iI am buying…

Sites should give very clear instructions and costs on item taxes, so that one is able to quantity the cost of goods as well as the tax cost

Online trading is way more convenient if we end the scams. Just a guarantee i wont lose my cash.

I do not buy any clothing items online because pictures are often misleading.

Online shops need to make it possible for buyers to track the items they have ordered, in such a way that they can see where the delivery man is or simply have a system that shows the progress made. an example would be a notification system that shows that the item has been ordered (in the case of drop-shipment), that the item has arrived at the warehouse/pickup point, that the delivery man has been sent to deliver the item and the estimated time of arrival. Currently, there is too much uncertainty. Some online shops like Jumia also need to add more pickup points, for instance, they closed the Nyeri point at G4S. The pickup point at Kampus Mall on University Way is always crowded, sometimes with queues stretching from the first floor to the ground floor. It’s very discouraging. I actually left items i had ordered and went to buy from a supermarket after finding the long queue.

Online shopping for electronics especially from a source I don’t know the credibility is hard. Also buying items of clothing is also difficult as I seem to always get the wrong size!

Just hope one day, we could be able to negotiate prices

There is still great potential in bringing integration to smoothen this great advancement

I shop online based on necessity. The spam mail from the shopping sites can be very annoying

Sites have better layouts now , easy on the eyes , need a yellow pages of e-sites

Online shopping is great on some stuff but for others i just have to be there.

This is where future of business is…thus there is opportunity for new entrants

Poor quality products that sucks

At times what you see is not what you get & luck of following up doesn’t make it better

Conveniences and time saving

Online business should be based on trust

An idea whose time has come can not be stopped even by the strongest armies, so online shopping is inevitable.

If there was a way to make sure what you order is what you get then it would be great business

Consolidate my purchase once a month coz of shipping costs.

%d bloggers like this: