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Online shopping was created for people like me, who like nice things at a good price, but also hate window shopping and haggling. I love that from the comfort of my office desk, I can get  my body butter, duvets, shoes, even lingerie, just by sending an instant message to order, and an M Pesa text.

While I have had many positive experiences buying things from Kenyan Instagram, Facebook and Twitter shops, there are a few things I feel many shops could and should do to improve the shopping experience and also increase their sales.

1. Invest in your brand. Just like you would invest to paint and decorate your offline shop, invest some of your capital in building a brand image. This goes beyond your logo, to the graphics you use on your sites and on your product packaging. If you are into DIY, you can use apps like Canva to create interesting graphics.

Secondly, be careful about the photos you use to sell your products. This is especially for clothes sellers. I have observed that many use stock photos sent to them by their suppliers. This only works if your target market resembles the models on the photos, and the final product is exactly the same as what is photographed. Many clients have been disappointed when the delivered clothing item is nothing like what is on the page because of this. If possible, use a local model or get a mannequin to be your model for your store photographs. It might take a little effort to master this + professional photography, but it will pay off. It goes without saying, use a great camera to take photos. Blurry photos are a turn-off.

2. Deliver what the customer has ordered. I have had experiences where I order an item, say in red, and size X, only for the delivery person to bring me the item in blue, and size Y, with a note stating that that the item I ordered was not available, but even this size could fit me. Needless to say, I walk away from such sellers without a second thought, the same way I walk out of shops that try to convince me that what I want is not what I really want. If the item ordered is not available, let the client know and have them make a choice to try a different size/style or to wait. Needless to say, if the item delivered does not match up, do not ask the client to help you meet the courier costs. This is not their mistake.

3. Take communication offline. Your page is like the physical shop. Once the client has “walked in” and shared their number with you, do not keep messaging them about their order on social media, especially if you want to clarify things or confirm their address. This is lazy. Call or text them. Do not be afraid to discuss details of the order with your clients, and if the item they ordered is not available, offer them alternatives and have them pick what they want, before you dispatch the courier.  Needless to say, this communication should be professional.

4. Upsell your products: Most online shoppers are also lazy. They probably just saw the item flit across their timeline, they have not gone through all your photos. When an order is placed, use the opportunity to sell them complimentary items or other items you think they would like. Offer them a discount, or even waive delivery fees for multiple orders.

In addition to this, use social media and Whatsapp to notify them of deals that you think they will like. The catch here is you have to really customize the experience, otherwise, you will just be sending out spam. I was forced to block a shoe shop I loved to buy from because they would send me 20+ pictures of new arrivals on my Whatsapp, few were to my liking. How about getting to know what your frequent buyers like, then pushing these items to them? I loved how this restaurant in Ghana is using Whatsapp for marketing.

5. Give your courier delivery details as given. There is nothing more annoying than placing an order, giving the address details right to the door, then having the courier call you to tell you “Hii order yako ninaleta Westlands wapi (where in Westlands am I delivering your order). Most of us shop during weekdays, from the office, amidst business and meetings. It is therefore, very distracting to abandon business to direct your courier, even after we have shared address details.  Since tech savviness is a selling point for online businesses, why not ask your clients to share their Google Maps location and all other details, that way you can direct your courier as accurately as possible?

6. Offer a pick up option especially if your items are low-cost items. Because of systemic inefficiencies, the cost of delivery can be as high as 30% of the item cost, which can be a turn off for price-sensitive clients. Work on having a pick-up location in the main shopping centres (CBD, Westlands, Nairobi West etc). This could be as easy as convincing a shop owner to let your clients pick their items from the shop at a small fee + increased traffic to their business.

Overall, I have formed very good shopping relationships online and it really is exciting to see the space grow. Are you a regular online shopper? I would like to follow this post up with an appreciation post of online shops that go out of their way to give superior service. Tell me about the shop in the comments section, what they did right, and what they could improve on. Please do not recommend yours or your friends’ business just for the sake of it, talk about businesses you have done arm’s length business with.

Finally, we are on the 26th week of the #52WeekChallenge , a savings challenge that M-Shwari is supporting. This week we are adding Kshs 1,250 to our savings. Please make sure you #SaveWithMshwari and tell a friend to join you! 




  1. Angela Kamanzi June 28, 2017 at 4:12 pm Reply

    Thanks for this story Kellie. I shared with my networks of entrepreneurs.

    I shopped from Rokit and got the experience of receiving some products that didn’t look exactly like the picture. However they sent me a wide variety of items to select from, and I ended up getting something good.

    I also purchased from Grace Kanyoro (she didn’t indicate her brand on WhatsApp, just posted pictures and prices-a mistake) who had the foresight to send me different sizes. It turned out that the size I had indicated wasn’t right in that particular design and I appreciated the foresight.

  2. Liz Akuku June 28, 2017 at 4:32 pm Reply

    Very helpful thank you!

  3. bankelele July 2, 2017 at 3:25 pm Reply

    2, and especially 3 are very important. Pick up the phone, call the customer, clarify stock, payment and delivery options. That can’t be left to (back and forth) email as the customer will lose interest and drop the order

  4. theMagunga Bookstore July 31, 2017 at 1:57 pm Reply

    Noted, thanks for sharing the Kenyan perspective…

  5. An December 28, 2017 at 4:13 pm Reply

    I’m only just reading this but i’m definitely going to be implementing these for my own instagram shop in 2018.

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About the Author

When I’m not here writing, I run Lattice Training, where we offer customized training solutions for businesses of all sizes, from startup entrepreneurs all the way to large corporations.
The aim of this blog is to simplify personal finance. I write about budgeting, personal finance, management and doing business in Kenya, in a way that everyone will understand.

If you have questions or would like to get in touch with me, leave your details on the form below, and I will get in touch. Thanks for reading.

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