The past few years have seen several malls come up in suburbs in Nairobi, Kenya's capital as Kenyans' love for shopping soars.
Both low-income and high-ends suburbs have not been spared, with developers competing to construct the facilities that have taken the East African nation by storm. And as the malls take over Nairobi, the trend is slowly switching to the internet, where on-line malls are gaining space and currency.
According to operators of Kilimall, Kenya's premier on-line shopping mall, Kenyans are frequenting the virtual shop as much as they are going to the physical malls.
"We are a premier on-line shopping mall, not only in Kenya but across Africa. Through us, local merchants can distribute their products throughout the region. In this way, their businesses are able to grow exponentially because demand for their products rise due to a wide brand presence," Kilimall's marketing director Kariuki Maina said on Friday.
Through the platform which started in July 2014 and hosts hundreds of different goods from more than 50 merchants, added Maina, users are able to access the widest variety of products, both from local and international merchants, at fair prices.
He noted the on-line mall was started to offer Kenyans the benefits of e-commerce. "Prices of goods and commodities are rising. E-commerce greatly reduces the product chain, keeping prices competitive. Technology is advancing in Kenya at a high rate, and so Kenyans are looking for shopping convenience. We came in to offer this quality and convenience," said the director.
He said the on-line mall has a vision to empower 40 million Kenyans with high quality, affordable products and services, support 100,000 local businesses and provide employment opportunities to 500,000 Kenyans through their systems.
"Other e-commerce players are basically retailers, that is, they source for products from traders then sell at a profit. We're a platform that gives traders professional service where they can manage their shops. Each merchant has his own unique back-end where they can be able to track their shops' activities in real- time." said Maina on the difference of Kilimall from other e- commerce platforms in the country.
"The other key difference is that we have a series of off-line locations where customers can interact with our team and our products," he added. To shop at the mall, one visits the site then chooses what he or she needs from an array of different products displayed. They include dryers, kitchen appliances, spectacles and electronic items like mobile phones and tablets.
"Each merchant ensures we have some of their stock on our site. Once a customer makes an order, our support team verifies it and the preferred drop-off location. Then the product is picked by our logistics team from the warehouse and delivered to customer drop- off location. The standard delivery time is from 15 minutes to a maximum of 48 hours anywhere in Kenya," explained Titus Kisangau, Kilimall's public relations and communications manager.
Kisangau said Kenya remains green as far as e-commerce is concerned. "A lot remains to be exploited though there are dozens of e-commerce players presently. However, in around two years, the industry will reach the competitive point. We are ready for the growth because we have a unique business model. We're a platform that supports an ecosystem."
Maina and Kisangau noted with many Kenyans turning to the internet to perform various functions, on-line shopping will soon become the way to shop.
"One day on-line shopping will overtake the conventional shopping in Kenya. In the developed countries, we have seen traditional retailers being brought down by e-commerce based companies. The trend won't be any different in Kenya and Africa. Traditional shopping is still fun but it's getting more and more uncomfortable with longer working hours, traffic jams and insecurity,"said Maina.
There are over 15 million internet subscriptions in the East African nation, according to the Communication Authority of Kenya, with the number rising by about 5 percent every quarter. Some of the companies in Kenya selling their products on Kilimall are Baus Optical, Panasonic, LG, Mobile World, Techno, Solar-way, Clarins Barbershop and Spa, among others.
Kilimall is working on a system that will see customers' goods and services delivered almost in real-time. According to Collins Okatch, Kilimall's Platform and IT Director, the mall will soon introduce an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Quadcopter to serve customers.
"The project is a research on how we can use the gadgets to respond to emergency, deliver products and do security surveillance. We've already developed prototypes capable of delivering 3 kg packages to up to 10 km," said Maina. "Legislation on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is, however, still a bit vague, but we're working closely with all stakeholders to ensure our project operates within the law," he added.
Source: China Economic Net