The city of online shops - Nairobi

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The brisk lifestyle, convenience and easy availability of quality products have pushed the Nairobian to shop online.

The increasingly techno-savvy young population weaving through the streets is spurring the growth of internet shopping sites, stocking a variety of goods including clothing, utensils, jewellery, cosmetics, electronics, furniture and cellphones.

Anthony Onyango, a university student, says he does not remember the last time he went to a shop to buy clothes.

“I usually make online orders and my clothes are delivered on my doorstep,” he says.

He is not alone. Many online stores make hundreds of deliveries each day to working clientele in the city and its surrounding.

The latest global online shopping site, Jumia, has already become a hit in the retail market.

“There is a lot of potential here for electronic commerce. We believe it will follow development of the mobile telephony and take up a large part of the retail market on the continent,” says Jumia’s global venture development manager Oscar Boré.

He says the firm is leveraging on its high quality imported products as well as enhancing the customer experience through delivering goods and multiple payment options such as M-Pesa and online banking.

It sells electronics, shoes, apparel, furniture and home accessories which are delivered at the doorstep of the buyer, with the option of cash on delivery.

Others are N-Soko, Pigiame, OLX and DealFish which have heavy online presence in the market.

Strangely enough, many foreign e-business firms have failed to crack the Kenyan online marketplace.

They include Kalahari, an e-commerce portal, which exited the Kenyan market in 2011 after failing to turn a profit after close to two years of operation. Mocality, an online marketing firm, collapsed in February this year after failing to break even.

Smart phones

Kenya’s expanding middle class, high Internet penetration, widespread use of mobile phone cash transfer services, increased usage of smartphones and a vibrant merchandising market are pointers to its readiness for an e-commerce take-off.

The number of Kenyans accessing the Internet has grown five-fold to 16.4 million users as at March this year according to data from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

Nairobians make up a huge chunk of this number. Many also use their home and office PCs and laptops.