Sitting in her small shop along Madaraka Road in Mombasa, Wahida Mohamed noticed that the people who walkedin were not getting what they wanted because she lacked space to display her wares effectively.
This led to the decision to launch a website, styleconnection.co.ke , that would give her customers a chance to see what she sold from the comfort of their homes, offices or from cyber cafes. But most importantly, she wanted to expand her reach.
“I wanted the website to reach new customers in Nairobi,” she says.
Ms Mohamed is among clothing entrepreneurs and fashion designers who have headed for the internet and set up web-based shops to woo customers. The businesses are cashing in on the success of mobile money transfer services; Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Zain’s Zap and Yu’s YuCash and the increased access of internet services.
Apart from the ease of transaction ,the entrepreneurs find it cheaper too.
Katchyclothing.co.ke was launched in February, 2009 by a young designer, Mr Peter Okatch. It was cheaper to run an e-shop too.
He had seen the woes of established designers who were unable to open outlets because of the heavy capital required.
Today he says he made the right choice. “I am very busy. It is a Monday to Monday job,” he says.
Mr Okatch operates the business from his house with sales executives doing the deliveries.
At the beginning, it was cash on delivery but some clients are now paying via their mobile phones.
“I initially had my doubts, but not any more. The dress I ordered is just sensational. And I did not even have to leave the office to fit it. Keep up the good work,” writes one of Katcyclothing.co.ke customers.
Shopping online also makes the clothes more affordable, says Quentin Faulkner, who runs the shopping site totallytoto.com which opened two years ago and the new addition bagalicious.co.ke which opened in June, 2009.
Previously, the major stumbling block for e-commerce in Kenya was the payment system because there were no laws governing it.
But the online shopping business is built on trust, when a merchant gets paid, the buyer trust that he or she will send the goods.
But Kenyans are yet to build that trust Sometimes people who run these sites find themselves answering numerous questions by phone or through emails.
Customers swamp Mr Faulkner with inquiries about the location of his shop. But he knows that if he sets up a physical location, the website will become useless.
“I do not have the overheads which makes my clothes more affordable than those in shops,” he says.
He uses a Kenyan website, a version of Paypal, called Pesapal.