BLOG

Your SME deserves new year resolutions

January 4, 2012

We hope you had a blessed festive season.

As usual, when it reaches Jan.1, many people make resolutions such as to quit smoking, eat healthier, save more money, etc.  Whatever your personal 2012 resolutions, don’t forget to also do the same for your business, particularly if it’s a Kenyan-based SME.

One challenge Kenyan SMEs face is how to cost-effectively increase their visibility. The available platforms such as TV, billboards, radio, competitions, etc require big budgets that SMEs obviously lack. That leaves SMEs with the option of going online. Not only is the medium cheaper, any internet marketing efforts you embark on are measurable. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work hard at it. Below are some internet marketing tips that you should apply to your SME this year.

Get a website

A website is no longer a bragging asset only corporates can list on their marketing materials. Thanks to initiatives like Google’s KBO, SMEs can no longer claim unaffordability as THE reason why they don’t practise E-commerce in Kenya.  In last year’s Business Daily top 100 SMEs, 67 of them had built websites.  In the next edition of the rankings, all participating small and medium enterprises in Kenya should have websites. Don’t forget to also create a mobile site (mobisite) to target potential customers because according to a November 2011 report by the Kenya ICT Board, there were over 24 million mobile phone subscribers compared with just approximately 4.5 million internet subscribers.

In addition, your business should have a Facebook page. According to internetworldstats.com, slightly over 1.1 million Kenyans were Facebook users by June 30, 2011.

Show and tell

Take advantage of free, local classifieds sites to complement your publicity tactics. Capitalfm, Dealfish and Google Trader are popular sites where you can list your SME. If you run a fast food business, go further by signing up to a location-based application and collaborate with it to run offers, encourage loyalty, etc. Nikohapa is an example of a Kenyan, location-based application.

Words, pictures and videos

Now that you have a website and Facebook page, what’s next? Content. Create content that’s related to your business and we don’t mean sales copy. Write regular opinions regarding your industry, make how-to videos and post them on Youtube, take photographs of seminars that you attend and upload them on your Facebook page. Content creation is a great, indirect marketing tactic to complement your product/service descriptions.

To increase your SME website’s chances of appearing highly in search engines, include keywords that relate to your business/industry in the content. This is called search engine optimisation.

Finger on the pulse

The internet is too wide a space for you to constantly monitor your reputation. In addition to the obvious excellent customer service that you should engage in, there are tools to help you spot potential mines. Google alerts and trackur are some of them.

When it comes to measuring your SEO and Adwords efforts, Google Analytics is the most widely used tool, though Facebook also provides you with metrics regarding how people are engaging with your page via Facebook Insights. If you do a paid campaign, then Facebook Ads Reports is the go-to application to measure its performance.

There you have it, a firm foundation upon which to build a strong, internet marketing palace for your SME.

Posted in: Advertising in Africa,internet marketing

Why online transactions in Kenya are still crawling

December 21, 2011

image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com

Evidence that Kenya is a cash obese economy is overwhelming: notices in cafés instruct you to pay first before you place your order and also remind you that they don’t provide credit, matatu conductors place currency notes between their index and middle fingers, banks resemble war zones when armed policemen escort cash carrying vans to deposit before July 1991 Kenyan importers needed Central Bank of Kenya’s approval before they bought foreign exchange.

As Joshua Wanyama, Pamoja Media CEO, observed in this recent interview, e-commerce in Kenya is growing, but a lack a nationally acceptable and valid electronic payment system and a ubiquitous culture that shuns buying goods and services online are in the list of obstacles preventing e-commerce in Kenya from fully taking off.

Card issuers and mobile phone companies collaborate

However, firms are rolling out different solutions to reduce the gulf between payments and e-commerce. In February this year, Safaricom launched the M-Pesa prepay safari card which allows its users to transact business online. In September Airtel and MasterCard launched payonline, a platform that enables the former’s subscribers to buy and pay for goods and services online using the latter’s cards. And down South, MTN launched payd, a system that facilitates South Africans to pay for goods and services online using a pin-based debit card.

These efforts are commendable, but insufficient if they are not complemented by measures to persuade Kenyan online shoppers to consider shopping and paying for goods using these cards. This festive season is a great opportunity about to vanish for Kenyan businesses to do that. They are offering an abundance of Christmas offers and even advertising them on their websites, but there’s neither information nor incentives to encourage customers to shop and pay for these offers online.

Champagne launches, flat follow ups

On December 16 2011, Safaricom concluded a nationwide tour to promote its products/services. These events attracted crowds similar to those who attend political rallies. They were not only entertained by comedians and musicians, they also won freebies such as tee shirts, hats and umbrellas. Why can’t Safaricom conduct a similar initiative to persuade (and reward) its subscribers with internet connection in their homes to use its safari card? Why hasn’t Airtel Kenya added information regarding its payonline

solution to its website? Both mobile phone service providers account for approximately 80% of Kenya’s 25 million subscribers. Imagine the effect their efforts to convince a substantial number of these subscribers to sign up to their respective offerings would have on online transactions in Kenya. One result is that the number of cards (Visa) will increase from the current 2 million. In addition, none of these companies have displayed the energy to update the public on the successes and challenges of these initiatives, compared with the enthusiasm they exhibit when they regularly update us on the progress of their other promotions, particularly those that have to do with winning cash.

Online transactions in Kenya will run on steroids once card issuers, mobile phone service providers and e-commerce sites actively woo, retain and reward potential card holders.

Posted in: Digital,Information and Communications Technology,internet marketing

E-Commerce in Kenya State of Mind:(Part 2)

December 15, 2011

Joshua Wanyama, CEO, Pamoja Media
Today’s post finalises Joshua Wanyama’s views on the state of e-commerce in Kenya. It’s a continuation of where Part 1 ended. Read on.

  • Google recently launched the Kenyan Business Online initiative to encourage Kenyan companies to build their own free websites.  Does this mean that without such initiatives from multi-nationals like Google, e-commerce in Kenya won’t take off?

It doesn’t mean that. People always gravitate towards ways that make doing business easy. E-commerce sites already exist in Kenya and Google has nothing to do with that. KBO’s primary aim is to show Kenyan businesses the value of going online and competing against each other, and competition creates opportunities for Google to make money through advertising on their Adwords platform.  Digital processes and systems are growing, but what’s drastically needed for E-commerce to take off in Kenya is behaviour change by shoppers from over-the-counter to online shopping.

There exist industry standards and software to protect the private sector against cyber attacks. The problem is that these systems are marketed and sold outside Africa. We can’t have E-commerce sites without secure servers, otherwise customers won’t pitch.

  • Even though the Kenyan e-commerce market is too small for promotions such as Cyber Monday, what promotions can the existing Kenyan e-commerce businesses do to generate a buzz about ecommerce?

Cyber Monday is an obvious attempt by American online stores to sell more after Thanksgiving Day leading to the holiday season because this period contributes to 75% of their annual sales. But we can’t replicate Cyber Monday in Kenya, we need to create unique shopping days similar to the market days in villages. When more Kenyans will shop online, then we will spot opportunities to create our own Cyber Monday. For now, e-commerce sites should ask themselves: “How can we tap the psyche of the Kenyan consumer offline to turn it into an online experience?”

  • How can Kenyan businesses take advantage of East African cooperation to extend their e-commerce tentacles?

Both e-commerce as a service and the individual East African markets are small, meaning the huge opportunities either lie regionally or continentally. However, each government has specific rules regarding online transactions and payments and combined with the few Africans buying online, make things tricky. Despite these obstacles, digital purchases have the best chance of scaling quickly if you already run regional operations and logistics. For example, Nakumatt, which currently has 35 outlets across Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, can sell Tanzanian rice online from their Moshi store to a Kenyan consumer who can collect it the next day.
Kenyan businesses will benefit from regional integration when legislation changes to suit e-commerce needs and consumers become more online savvy.

  • When you look at Kenya’s economy, what sectors should already be practising e-commerce?

Music, events, news and mobile apps.

  • Any other thoughts about e-commerce in Kenya?

First, Kenyan and African entrepreneurs need to localise e-commerce. They can’t use Western models because they are unsuitable for our unique environment.  Kenya has proved that mobile phone-based transactions work. So, how can we change the psyche of the Kenyan/African consumer from paying over the counter for goods and services to paying for them using their mobile phones? How can we enlighten them about the benefits of e-commerce?
Ponder this. Recently, a friend of mine opted to go to the Junction shopping mall, withdrew money from her M-Pesa account and paid for tickets to an event over the counter even after I had recommended she avoids the hassle by paying for them and later printing them using the same M-Pesa account on ticketsasa.

Posted in: Digital,Information and Communications Technology,internet marketing

E-commerce in Kenya state of mind

December 2, 2011

  • Joshua Wanyama, CEO, Pamoja Media East Africa

Joshua Wanyama, CEO of Pamoja Media, sketches his views on the current state of E-commerce in Kenya. We will publish part 2 of the interview next week.

  • What ecommerce virtues and traits have you noticed in Kenya’s e-commerce environment since you founded Pamoja Media in 2008?

E-commerce is picking up, but it’s still hampered from releasing its full potential by these obstacles: A lack of a valid electronic payment system that is nationally accepted, haphazard physical addressing that stymies delivery of goods ordered online and we haven’t cultivated a culture of purchasing goods and services online.

I have also noticed that businesses are using social media spaces such as Facebook to generate sales instead of using structured, traditional e-commerce stores such as ebay.com. If these businesses succeed on social media, then the entrepreneurs build a website.

Going back to payments, M-Pesa’s success (25% of Kenya’s GDP runs through M-Pesa) proves that we can electronically do transactions. We should use M-Pesa and other mobile payment platforms to buy goods and services from electronic stores.

  • Kenya still hasn’t gotten basics like food security, education and healthcare right, for example. Isn’t e-commerce a mirage?

E-commerce is not a mirage because it has nothing to do with these things. E-commerce is a different way of transacting business. What matters is that human beings have to buy and sell goods and services.  Commerce is a social phenomenon and the question should be, “Can we do this electronically or not?” And that’s where e-commerce comes in.

  • The Kenyan government has placed incentives such as zero rating ICT equipment and encouraging the laying of undersea cables to increase bandwidth speeds. Are these measures good enough to grow e-commerce? What more can the government do to accelerate the adoption of e-commerce?

It’s a good thing the government is addressing the infrastructure side of things, but it’s not enough.

I see two areas that need urgent intervention. First, it’s cost prohibitive to consume and download digital content. For example, most Kenyans consume Youtube videos at offices during working hours because their employers have good internet bandwidth. Internet access fees should drop drastically for the 4 million Kenyans who have Internet access at home.

Second, local authorities should institute better street address systems that will make it easy for courier services to deliver goods ordered online to customers living across the country. Our streets haven’t been numbered or follow any specific order thus making it hard to find most properties.

If the government solves the above challenges, then Kenya will be in a much better position to scale up e-commerce and enjoy the benefits such as increased job opportunities.

  • Kenya has a vibrant mobile apps ecosystem and mobile payment platforms as evidenced by the iHub incubator and M-Pesa respectively. How can we leverage these advantages to improve e-commerce transactions because credit cards are still out of reach to most Kenyans?

Currently, M-Pesa is key to enhancing e-commerce because it can make Kenyans change their attitudes towards e-commerce. For example, why shouldn’t I pay for my drinks at a pub using M-Pesa?

Second, mobile services providers should provide open access to their payment systems’ application programming interfaces (APIs) that will enable developers to build applications that solve e-commerce challenges and make online shopping fun. Additionally, telecoms companies should allow consumers to link the former’s payment systems to the latter’s bank accounts. Finally, mobile services providers should enable their consumers to seamlessly do business with one another through their various mobile payment platforms.

  • A substantial number of Kenyan e-commerce websites lack updated content, are hard to navigate and are poorly designed, among other flaws. Isn’t this more evidence that Kenyan businesses despise e-commerce?

No, they don’t. Just like any thing accepted in society, e-commerce needs good storytelling. Local businesses haven’t heard a story of successful, local web-based businesses they can look up to. For example, the rest of the telecoms companies in Kenya are trying to replicate M-Pesa’s success once Safaricom cracked the money transfer code.

Secondly, these businesses do not understand the value of a well-designed and updated site in the growth of their online business. Pamoja Media is currently partnering with firms which want to win and win BIG in e-commerce, and which realise that a well-designed website is a prerequisite.

  • How can Kenyan businesses use both e-commerce and social media spaces to succeed online?

Social media platforms are great areas for businesses to test their online markets and audiences and determine if their ideas resonate with their target audiences. This is especially true in the fashion and beauty industries where small shops are getting set up as side gigs and people building a successful social presence before venturing into the operation of a full e-commerce Web store. By the time these companies have their sites, they have proved their business model, iterated and gotten the necessary core customer base that will support their businesses and help them grow.

Posted in: Advertising in Africa

How Kenyan e-commerce sites can successfully tie business and social media

November 30, 2011

image: www.africaknows.com

It’s now become a badge of cool for Kenyan companies to include their social media contacts in their publicity materials, never mind the fact that some of them rarely update their content! Anyway, a social media presence is an acknowledgement of the importance of these spaces for long-term brand awareness, building and customer engagement.

Unfortunately, for most businesses establishing social media sites to complement their ecommerce websites, it’s been hard for them to shed the notion that the former are NOT marketing communication servants’ quarters adjacent to the latter. Two recent articles in the Business Daily and in http://www.sunwords.com/2011/11/27/organizations-be-very-afraid-of-social-media/highlighted the dangers of this approach.

Karibu mapambo.com

However, there are some Kenyan Internet-based businesses that have successfully tied together their ecommerce and social media laces. One example is http://www.mapambo.com/, a site that sells hand-made jewellery, handbags, accessories, etc.  The homepage makes you feel at ease thanks to its welcome messages in both English and Swahili languages. The sections are well marked and easy to navigate through. On the right hand size of the page are invitations to join the brand on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Kachumbari

And these sections are where Kenyan companies on social media should observe and take notes.  Mapambo’s Facebook page is not all about the brand. Look at this welcome note: “Call …. to order…or just to say hi.” There is a ‘kachumbari’ of content that includes a video on what is still good about Kenya and a photo of a jogoo with its head held high imploring fans to keep going despite the difficulties they are experiencing.  Fans interact with the brand by posting their comments, and the brand responds quickly to people’s queries.

Hi tweeps

Mapambo’s Twitter page is no different. Among its tweets are links to the world’s ‘funniest’ joke and a greeting to its ‘tweeps’ asking them how their weekend was.  Just like Facebook, fans tweet and post links to other content.

Big numbers

If Mapambo’s current 30,847 Facebook fans and 929 Twitter followers are any indicator, the business has already acquired a black belt in e-commerce and social media integration.

However, the business should sort out a few irritants on its website for example: there are no watches despite them being listed on the catalogue. Second, there is no image of a table lamp, yet it’s on sale.

Posted in: Digital,Information and Communications Technology,internet marketing

We are in this together

November 18, 2011

Building virtual loyalty programmes dos and don’ts

image:www.africaknows.com

It would be short-sighted of you to only plan for your business’ festive season success and forget to strategise how to keep as many new customers captured by your season’s offers as possible for 2012 and beyond.

In Kenyan brick and mortar businesses, particularly major supermarkets such as Nakumatt, and Uchumi, loyalty cards are the best example of persuasion instruments used to encourage customers to continue shopping there. You enjoy benefits such as points for a particular amount spent (Nakumatt and Uchumi calculate 1 point for every Kshs 100 spent currently), that can then be later redeemed for discounted goods or school fees (Nakumatt),and Safaricom airtime (Uchumi), etc.

If your website delivers a beautiful return on your marketing investment during the festive season, you should consider building a post- festive season virtual loyalty programme. How do you do this?

Do

  • Ensure you have an opt-in form which requests your consumers for their email addresses (and add a privacy policy) so that you can send them not just about special offers, but news as well. If your company is involved in trying to solve a big challenge, include such news in your emails. It’s proof that at least your company is spending its consumers’ money to be part of a solution.
  • Inform your consumers that they can redeem their virtual points online so that when they visit your store, they just come to pick their goods or they are delivered to them hassle-free. This means your IT infrastructure and home delivery platforms have to be pothole-free. Also include an option of availing virtual gift vouchers.
  • Add other gifts such as online games to the basket of benefits that your customers can enjoy. You may be surprised to find out that some of your customers get a kick out of such ‘childish’ pastimes.
  • Promote your loyalty programme on your social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t

  • Build a virtual loyalty programme if your website can’t handle online payments and points redemption processes.
  • Assume all your potential loyal customers want a uniform set of rewards. Survey them to find out what excites them.
  • Promise your loyal followers specific rewards and then you don’t fulfill them. If you run out of stock, inform your customers in advance and provide alternatives.

Election years are normally slow for Kenyan businesses because of post-election  uncertainties and 2012 won’t be any different. Building online loyalty programmes is one tactic of giving your business a fighting chance to survive and thrive.

Posted in: internet marketing