Online startups in Kenya are hindered by consumers’ preference for face-to-face interaction when making purchases, says Jacob Lennheden, managing director of online food delivery service Yum.
Speaking to HumanIPO, Lennheden said the biggest challenge for startups in the online sphere in Kenya is convincing consumers that online purchasing is legitimate, secure and reliable, with most people still preferring to place orders in person or over the phone.
“When it comes to online startups like Yum, the biggest difficulty has been in building up a level of trust between our customers and us. Most sales take place between people, whereas with online business you quickly get the impression you are dealing with a robot or a computer – which increases the suspicion from the customers,” Lennheden said.
“In our case in particular it has been hard to convince that if you pay online we really will deliver the food and that we are a trusted source you can do business with, despite not having a storefront office.”
Despite online purchasing being on the rise, as many sellers are expanding into the online sphere, Lennheden said consumers in Kenya still prefer to rely on their mobile phones to complete the purchasing process – even if the decision to buy has been made online.
“We still find that many people who have reliable internet access, check out what they want online and then call us to place the order instead of going through the online checkout process. People are still more comfortable with human interaction,” he said.
Meanwhile, a related challenge for online businesses is that many consumers in Kenya access the internet over their mobile device, meaning online commerces must have accessible mobi websites. Indeed, Lennheden notes that companies need to focus on improving the mobile online buying experience.
“The second challenge is that most people still go online with their phones. M-commerce is rapidly growing and is definitely something we are adjusting to accommodate, but the user experience is very different and most e-commerce still take place through regular laptops or desktops,” he said.
HumanIPO reported last week on comments by Regan Robinson, sales executive at online shopping and price comparison directory PriceCheck, that merchants in Nigeria prefer one-on-one conversations to online business discussions via email.