The greatest hurdle to E-Commerce in Kenya is the retailers inability to surmount the trust threshold which is the deep, dark abyss that exists between sales inventory and purchase intent. The West cut their teeth on the mail order retail system which exists in many countries, and it was this system that laid the foundation and infrastructure to usher in online retail successfully.
When we approach the journey through the lens of the Brand Asset Valuator model then the marketing solutions required become clear to us. The Brand Asset Valuator is arguable the most extensive research ever done around brand equity and it is based on 4 key pillars, namely differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge.
As you wrap your mind around this sophisticated marketing jargon, remember that the first port of call for all marketing programmes is the customer, whom you must firmly place at the front and centre of all your strategies. Currently, customers are weary of the online retail infrastructure and doubt the ability of the vendors to meet their needs.
Negative stories about credit card fraud, incomprehensible product catalogues, hidden fees, unexplainable delays and dubious delivery men tend to fuel their fear. Don’t imaging for one minute that there will be a paradigm shift and massive uptake of internet shopping without a 180 degree swing of the present narrative.
Aspiring brands and new concepts need to be founded on differentiation in order to make headway into the market because look-alike products deliver mediocre financial performance. In this case differentiation means that the shopping experience should encompass the razzmatazz afforded by new communication technology through web solutions, mobile applications and intuitive user interfaces.
The online platform that you employ is possibly the greatest factor in the shopping experience as it is practically the first stop that the customer will make. They will not return to your shop if browsing your inventory catalogue compares to solving a Rubik’s Cube or if they require computer science qualifications to review the product specifications and make a simple purchase.
Relevance plays a very important role and this refers to the options and variations that you offer to the customer as well as the logistics systems that are put in place. For heaven’s sake don’t be like the Ford Model T which came in any colour as long as it was black, or limit door-to-door deliveries to Nairobi and Mombasa, covering only 10% of the population as if the rest of the country is just chopped liver.
If your foray into murky waters of online retail is at all to be successful then you must touch the hearts and minds of your customers and nurture them to become brand advocates, and this is where esteem comes in. Nothing kills the self esteem of any self respecting individual than having their integrity questioned… nothing.
So when an order or delivery goes wrong, drop the blame game and promptly replace the product and send them a discount voucher for their next purchase. Remember it is this customer who will pen your internet shop’s review and thus make or break your reputation, so be nice and don’t break their heart.
With those 3 critical pillars in place its only remains to inform the market of your presence and scale up the knowledge of you product among your target audiences. A heavy advertising programme with expansive reach as the objective will get you there. Bare in mind that if it can’t be seen, then it doesn’t exist.