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Home / Career Tips

Four reasons Kenyans prefer physical shopping

Career Tips
By Peter Theuri | 5 months ago | 5 min read

 With online shoppers are unable to bargain (Photo: Courtesy)

As the world counted losses that the Covid -19 pandemic caused, players in the e-commerce industry were beaming with joy.

In-person shopping had almost halted as governments made stringent containment measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Crowds were prohibited, travel was restricted and people, fearing for their lives, chose to avoid shopping halls.

Experts quickly announced that the country was transitioning into a long-overdue digital economy. E-commerce was going to increase at unprecedented rates. Everyone in business ought to have taken advantage of the wave and start selling online.

No bargains online

But amid economic turbulence and with vaccines hitting the market, governments eased the restrictions. Suddenly, with more movement, in-person shopping returned. Shopping complexes, at some point hosting just a handful of shoppers, saw customer numbers swell again.

Were Kenyans ready to buy into the transformation into online shopping or was it a temporary, forced shift?

Lucy Ngina, a college student, was and still is, not ready for online buying yet. A true Kenyan, Ngina knows that it borders on disrespect to buy without haggling over the price.

“You cannot bargain online. There, it is fixed. That is why it is always easier to buy in person. The price goes down most of the time,” she says.

Bad experience online

For others, it is about the horrible experiences they have had with online sellers.

Phyllis Maina, who is also a student, had a nasty experience with a popular local seller just a week ago.

“I bought a portable blender which worked just fine the first day. But then that was the last I used it. It did not work the second time I tried it,” she says.

Maina returned the blender on Sunday last week and is yet to hear from the seller.

“I have not heard from them again,” she says.

“They said that they will check what went wrong with the kettle and if it satisfies them I did not contribute to the damage, they would refund me. If they thought I had damaged it myself, they would return the blender to me.”

 It is not her first experience with the seller.

“I bought a phone from them in early 2020. It crashed after six months.”

The experience with the seller has left her determined never again to procure electronics from online sellers in the future.

“I can only now buy clothes and bags from them,” she says. “I once bought a nice bag from Kilimall. I bought it at a low price but it was of great quality,” she says.

Wrong orders

High packaging fees, and lack of office and door delivery, have also made some people revert to in-person shopping.

“Why order online if I will be sent to a central collection area for the goods? What difference does it make to going to the local shop?” asks Michelle Atieno, who now shops physically.

She has also faced the now all too common problem of receiving products that look nothing like what she ordered. Sometimes substandard, other times a complete departure from her order.

“Personally I’d rather do it myself since as I shopped online there are instances where I didn’t get what I ordered,” she says. “I ordered air pods but when I received the package, there was only one. And it wasn’t working properly. I couldn’t charge it.”

Online fraud

Pravin Eazhawa, the founder of Mission Excellence Global Service Limited, says that he would rather visit the shop himself.

“There, you view the different options and make a choice. Face to face shopping builds relationships,” he says. “Sometimes when you are out of cash you can still get your goods on credit.”

Pravin also says that if one makes a purchase online and finds that the good has a defect, the return policy means that a few days could pass without an amicable solution.

Online fraud also discouraged him from buying online.

But some have embraced online buying and are happy with it, brushing aside the inconveniences. It is all on the customer to ensure they have done their due diligence, they say.

“Also, it comes with so many discounts compared to shopping in person,” says Charity Wachira. “I didn’t think of it much but I’ve done it recently and I like it. It saves time and money because the sellers are always giving discounts.”

It was her fear of crowds at the height of the pandemic that introduced her to the online space.

“You will avoid the crowds that one faces when shopping in person. When I want something that is not that urgent, I will definitely purchase it online.”

What experts say

E-commerce company AfricaSokoni CEO Ebrima Fatty says that the company has struck a fortune with the online buying tendencies of the past one and a half years, with their sales numbers soaring.

“We have seen sales increase by between 70 and 100 per cent in the last one year. On a lot of products, sales have more than doubled,” he says.

Fatty, however, admits that part of the reason is that the company is relatively new and not as big as some of the industry’s pioneers, which “might not have felt the same impact”.

According to him, the future remains bright for the online space, with a lot of people still possibly going to hold onto the benefits they accrue from buying online. 

“A lot of people are hooked on buying online, having developed that habit, and I see them carrying it into the future,” says Fatty.

The fear of being conned online has gripped Kenyans so much so that even authorities have sent warnings. “As we approach the festive season, members of the public are advised to be careful when shopping for goods online,” cautioned the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on its Twitter page.

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