How To Start A Online Shop In Kenya – Ideas That Will Blow Your Mind 

 March 7, 2018

By  mainaalex

Please raise your hand if you’ve ever thought of starting an online shop in Kenya.

When you open your Facebook stream, you’re hit with the number of Kenyans selling online. Making you wonder if you start selling online. Every website you go to is filled with ads from the Kilimall’s and the Jumia’s of this world.

Never mind the stories from your competitors. They are bound to tell you successful they are online.

You do have to wonder if the “online shop in Kenya” fad has passed you. What can you do? How do you even begin? How much will it cost?

Let me walk you through the step by step process of starting your online shop. I’ll explain the processes behind some of the stores I’ve created. Some were successful, others failed. But, we learned a lot.

I’ll guide you through 5 processes:

  1. Coming up with the idea
  2. Setting up your website
  3. Develop Your Store
  4. Creating your first marketing campaigns
  5. Press Go

It’s important to note that the basis of all internet marketing business is to automate. Automate as much as you can. Only then can you live a free life. The idea of setting up online shops then becoming a slave to them doesn’t sound too cool.

I’ve had the misfortune of working in some online stores. Unfortunately, the time it took to post on the sites was more than reasonable.While others took up to 3 months to set up. But, after that, it was autopilot. The client was happy!

Your aim should be to sell as much as possible with as little effort as possible. Not own another Kenyan online shop.


How to Come up with Online Shop Ideas in Kenya

That is supposed to be the easy part but is it? When we first wrote about e-commerce in Kenya, it was still something new. You could come up with any idea and chances were you would succeed.

But, things are a bit different now. Companies such as Jumia and Kilimall have a stable footing online. Whether you like it or not, they are your competitor.

That is not a bad thing either. It took a long time for Kenyans to get started shopping online. Even now, some people would never buy anything online because of the fear of being conned. Smh!

What Jumia did for you, the new online entrepreneur was educating the market. The cost of educating a market is something that you do not want to do.

So even when picking your products, avoid anything where you have to educate the market. It doesn’t make sense to sell dog food to Kenyans.You would have to tell them why they have a dog in the first place.


Go to Facebook.

There are hundreds of groups on Facebook where people sell all manner of items. Take a weekend or two and start looking for products that are popular.

Look for simple products that your mother can understand. Even things like cake can become complicated. If it’s a black-forest cake avoid making a black-forest cake layered with vanilla cake. Simplicity wins. Amazon started selling books because it was simple. It was a book. Nothing complicated.

Look for things with a reasonable profit margin. Profit margin is critical. You would rather sell tomatoes which make more than 50% profit than run an electronics store. You wonder why mama mbogas never leave their spots? It’s the profit margin stupid!

Don’t bother with things like phones and electronics. They look cool, but their profit margins suck. 5-10% profit margin will not make you an online behemoth. The only people who enjoy selling phones online are brokers. They don’t spend any capital but sell your phone. You are stuck with high-priced inventory.

You also have your own product to sell. In this case, I can’t tell you not to sell your product online. But, the same argument applies. The harder it is to explain your product, the harder it is to sell it.

Which brings us to the next thing you must consider. Your website!


develop online shop in Kenya
Steps to Set Up Your Online Store in Kenya

It’s always great when more people want to set up websites. At least from a marketer’s perspective.

But, for business, it should not be taken lightly. There is one rule of thumb. You must make it as easy as possible for people to buy.

It’s not about your design though some need help. It’s about you explaining to a customer all about your product. In less than 3 minutes.

There are three stages

  1. Choose a domain name
  2. Choose an eCommerce platform
  3. Develop your website


Mwangiandacholadesigns.co.ke will not work for eCommerce. In fact, keep away from keyword-based domain names for your store. Unless you are an affiliate marketer, you should brand your store.

The rules are simple:

  1. Keep it short
  2. Focus on branding
  3. Use .COM’s – think about this.
  4. Let your creative side shine

Take a look at this great article by Volusion. It should take you step by step towards your branded store name.

I cannot tell you enough about short, catchy domain names. Compare Jumia to Kenyaonlineshops.com.


I’m a big fan of WordPress. The Woo-commerce platform runs quite a lot of online shops and rightly so. I see no reason to pay for eCommerce stores like Big Commerce or Shopify.

These other platforms and especially Shopify are simple to use. I was happy to see that they now allow you to use Kenya shillings as a currency. If I were starting out and on a budget, Shopify would be on top of my list.

So, if you plan to go big, then nothing compares to Magento. It’s the best eCommerce platform. Woo-commerce is catching up. But, don’t try it unless you have a big budget.

Whatever you do, don’t forget that the reason you are setting up the store is SALES. Take your time, read this excellent guide on the eCommerce platforms. Again simplicity matters.


Now to the nuts and bolts of your shop. Once you decide on the platform, you need to do the following

  1. Choose a Designer or Design
  2. Upload your products
  3. Create Content


Start Designing Your Final Shop and Uploading Products


It’s always great when you have a beautiful design. But, you can spend too much time on the design. Choose your designer wisely. Experience has shown that it’s best to pay for a quality design.

There’s enough of this ksh. 5000 websites going around. If you can’t make a decision on your designer, why not have them compete for your money.

Instead of sweating it out visit a site like Design Hill. You will find hundreds of artists willing to compete for your job. You only have to pick the best. The cost, less than you can imagine. I always use them for my projects.

You are blessed if you get a web designer who is also conversant with SEO. More blessed if they know how to work with your chosen platform. So take your time and choose wisely.


You have your products ready for the shop. There are few things to consider

  1. Pictures sell more than words
  2. Quality product descriptions sell more product
  3. SEO for your products is essential


I know you want to use the same pictures that you downloaded from the internet. That’s not only lazy but also bad for you in the long run.

Products with many pictures sell very well. You should invest in great photography. If you could get videos, that would be better.

Again, do not copy and paste other people’s pictures. It’s not only illegal, but it’s a bit annoying to see the watermark of your competitor on your site.


Invest some effort in creating product descriptions that sell. Imagine a shop with a salesperson who’s always ready with answers. Very knowledgeable and willing to offer more information. Sales rocket!

Now, do the same for your online store. Stop writing boring copy and instead concentrate on the sale. If you have difficulty writing product descriptions, go to iWriter and get content. Make sure your writers follow the advice given in this article.


Proper pictures and description should lead to SEO optimized stores. The kind of stores that rank first in search engines. The kind of stores that sell when you are asleep.

If you are planning on going the e-commerce way, you had better have a budget for SEO. Otherwise………


ecommerce content
Google confirms content is key even in ecommerce stores

The next step is to create content that sells your product. If you’re selling women’s natural hair products, blog about it. You could blog about “how to choose the best wigs,” “how to choose the best hair salons” etc. The idea is to start content marketing at an early stage.

Ranking a shop with good content than one without is easy. Consider the articles as part of your marketing budget. Or brochures to your shop.

The rule of thumb is: The more content on your shop, the more the traffic. According to Google

Retailers that provide relevant, local information via search and online presence (mobile app and site) will increase both reach and engagement. While helping to drive shoppers in-store, such information will also improve customers’ experience once there.


Now that your first products are online and the content is ready, let’s sell!

There are three major things you need to set up even as you set up the shop:

  1. Search Engine Optimisation
  2. Social Media Marketing
  3. Email Marketing


We’ve talked a lot about the quality of SEO in Kenya. The truth is you’d rather have poor quality SEO than no SEO at all. Of course there are limits to that rule.

According to this report in Yotpo’s database,  30.5% of all traffic was coming from organic searches on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines.

For any business, 30% is a big number. It can make or break any business. The bad news is that SEO for Ecommerce stores is harder than most. The good news is that even the big companies have a problem with ecommerce SEO. Therein lies your opportunity.

Get a good SEO company and you should see your site ranking in the top within no time. We tried and tested this concept in Kenya and Tanzania with remarkable results.


Let’s take a look at a few statistics

  1. 60 percent of all e-commerce referrals in 2014 came from Facebook
  2. 15 percent of all e-commerce referrals in 2014 came from Pinterest
  3. 50 percent of social media driven purchases happen within one week of the product being posted

In other words, if you are not social, you are not going to sell. This data is without the Instagram

First set up all your social media networks. With your BRAND! It is very easy to do. Go to Knowem and create accounts in your brand name in as many accounts as you can. This is not only great for your brand, but it also helps you later when those pesky spammers show up.

Make sure all your social media pages are branded. It is highly recommended to get a good designer for this. Design Hill are perfect for this.

Create a social marketing schedule for your business. Buffer is a little tool that can help you organize your social media marketing for weeks in advance.

Remember we are trying to automate your marketing. At only $10 a month, it sure is cheaper than hiring a social media company in Kenya.

Lastly, do not forget Instagram. There are many reasons why Instagram is ideal for online shops; this article explains it better.

There’s a lot in social media marketing for online stores. We will be discussing it at length in another article


Ecommerce email marketing is the art and science of using email to generate sales for your store. Source

With the best products, pricing, and designs, people buy from people they like. Email marketing is your only chance to create a lasting relationship with your customers. It is about relationship building.

Here’s why your company needs an email marketing strategy:

  1. Email now accounts for 7% of all eCommerce user acquisitions. This makes it the second most effective customer acquisition channel (behind search at 15.9%) for online retailers.

  2. The customer lifetime value (CLV) of customers acquired through email is 12% higher than average (to put that into perspective, Twitter’s CLV is 23% lower than average).

  3. The average return on email marketing investment is $44.25 for every dollar spent.

You are leaving money on the table if you do not consider email marketing in your marketing plan. You can read a few case studies here to guide you.

Many tools can help you automate email marketing. Please do not go for the cheap options. I like Aweber and sometimes use MailChimp.

However, the best option for email marketing right now is ConvertKit. It is important that I repeat that. If you are serious about managing your email marketing campaigns like a pro, get ConvertKit.


It may seem daunting at first, but the truth is it is not as complicated as it sounds. Starting an online shop in Kenya is all about making the first steps. I have to warn you though that it takes time and dedication. What you should aim for is doing everything right from the very beginning.

There’s nothing more frustrating than an ecommerce store that has to keep on changing simply because your avoided some steps. But of all the online businesses out there, selling your own products or others is extremely rewarding. If you need help starting your online shop in Kenya, just send me an email.


Its all about me only

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