The fear of getting stuck in traffic jams dotted with thousands of stationary vehicles in a bottleneck entry into Kenya’s capital is what has led to the shift in consumer trends as residents move to shop online.
While most of the roads in the capital city have remained in a similar state as of independence, the number of motorists has continued to increase to over 900,000 in Nairobi alone and the construction of the Thika Superhighway meant to ease traffic congestion was actually a catalyst in disguise as more people rushed to buy vehicles.
Lisa Anita an expatriate from the USA shares, “Traffic is so bad on Thika road that I have to leave the house at 5:30 AM to avoid it. If I want to buy something, I prefer to shop online at my convenience, since e-commerce companies like JUMIA also deliver to the office and payment is simply made on delivery.”
This menace attracted e-commerce companies such as JUMIA to Kenya. Promising an easy, safe and convenient shopping experience, customers are now just a mouse-click away from having their delivery right at their door.
Backed by Millicom , MTN and Rocket Internet , JUMIA set base in Kenya eighteen months ago and has grown by double digits with new hubs in Nakuru and Mombasa and a similar move expected for other cities in Kenya.
JUMIA, which is part of the Africa Internet Group , spearheads e-commerce in 9 countries across Africa: Kenya, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Parinaz Firozi, MD JUMIA Kenya, notes, “Our Nairobi hub is the biggest, the growth is fuelled by many factors but traffic is a major catalyst and the reason why most residents prefer to shop online.”
“Most people shop between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM on mobile phones and tablets, this time they are certainly stuck in traffic on their way to work. The numbers go down slightly and rise massively over lunch hour until 2:00 PM, most orders are placed via desktops and laptops at this time,” adds Firozi.
The rush hour between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM is what Firozi calls the ‘crazy hours’ when the orders and website traffic hits peak from mobile phones, tablets, desktops and laptops. However, neither is JUMIA immune to the traffic dilemma, delivery vans also get stuck in traffic, which can result in a delayed delivery, a challenge Firozi says the company solves with ‘’increased number of riders and offline pick-up points.”
“We use riders to deliver average-sized items and for same-day deliveries especially for fashion items since it’s easier for bikes to manoeuvre traffic, the vans will deliver large items like fridges and washing machines between 2-7 business days on a day the customer decides. We also had to launch pick-up points in TRM mall and Aramex centres.”
Kaymu another e-commerce company in Kenya that enables customers to buy and sell online shares similar sentiments through PR manager Olivia Moraa, “You will witness most traffic in the morning as people head to work, over lunch hour and in the evening as people head home.”
Antony Njau, a student at Multimedia University, Ongata Rongai, notes, “Online shopping helps me save a lot of time that I use for studying, I used to shop on Amazon but since JUMIA launched, am their happy customer.”
According to Firozi, “Mobile shopping is taking shape in Kenya, most people will use their mobile shopping apps to compare prices in the physical shops with those online.”
“Our android app is the most used followed by the windows app and finally the IOS app we launched a fortnight ago.”
The fear of buying counterfeit products online or products of varying quality than those on site, as well as sharing personal information and credit card safety issues remain the major challenges for online shopping in Kenya but as more e-commerce companies shift to offer cash on delivery and flexible returns and exchanges of products, the re-assurance is taking shape, upscale is inevitable.
The recent entry of Kaymu to rival OLX is a major indication that more online retailers are on their way to Kenya as the government continues to devise ways of tackling traffic jams, estimated to cost the second fastest growing commercial hub in Africa over KSh. 50 million per day.