For many Kenyans who have never done it, shopping online may not be as straightforward as some of us who have done so, think.
Before one can be able to go ahead and shop online, there are the trust issues that keep on showing their ugly head that one has to overcome. Will the merchant deliver? Will the item one is seeing on the e-commerce portal be exactly what gets delivered? What if the item arrives in a bad condition? Will warranty terms, if any, be honoured?
As if that is not enough, there’s also the ghost of the amount of time it takes between an item being ordered online and being delivered.
Such factors compound the online shopping process and many despair and end up doing things the way they always have: walk in to a store, pay for an item and leave with it.
Sure, there has been uptake of e-commerce services thanks to local players like Jumia Kenya, Kilimall Safaricom’s Masoko, and many others but more remains to be done to get more Kenyans shopping online.
It is even worse if the said online shopping process involves a Kenyan having to order from a merchant overseas. Platforms like Amazon, eBay and others provide an easy way for buyers from anywhere in the world to be connected to sellers located anywhere. What complicates matters for Kenyans, besides the factors already listed above, is the payments process.
You see, other countries have adopted card payments on a scale that the country can’t match.
According to the Central Bank of Kenya, only 164 million payment transactions were made through cards between January and September 2018, a time when a whopping 1.28 billion payment transactions were made through mobile money.
While it is not quite hard for one to get a card they can use for making online transactions, the option has simply not been quite as attractive as mobile money has been, over the last 5 years. Most banks have no-frills prepaid debit cards that just work. However, in an interesting paradox, even those cards’ biggest advantage is the ease of topping up using, you guessed it right, M-Pesa.
Mobile money, dominated by Safaricom’s M-Pesa, has become the go-to mode of payment for goods and services in the country both online and offline. As such, a key catalyst for the success of any e-commerce platform, local or international, is the availability of mobile money as a checkout option.
AliBaba’s international online retail platform AliExpress appears to have correctly read the Kenyan customer as part of its ambitious plan to capture Kenyan shoppers and entice them to spend money on the millions of products it enables merchants, mostly based in China, to sell to the world.
Kenyans with AliExpress accounts are now presented with an option to checkout their orders using M-Pesa when shopping via AliExpress’ Android application.
Upon selecting the M-Pesa checkout option, one is prompted to enter their local mobile phone number to make the process possible.
It is worth noting that the M-Pesa checkout option is only limited to the mobile app and is nowhere to be seen when shopping on aliexpress.com.
Given how notorious platforms such as AliExpress can be when it comes to unscrupulous merchants, buyers who buy products with a “buyer protection” that guarantees refunds in case things don’t go as expected, are able to receive refunds through M-Pesa if that is the medium they used to make their payment(s).
American retail giant Amazon, which has been looking to set up local operations (improved local deliveries and all), recently teamed up with Western Union to make it easy for its Kenyan customers to pay for goods they buy on Amazon.com, making it less necessary for one to use their card to do the same or be limited by the lack of one.
Have you bought anything on AliExpress via M-Pesa?
Hat tip: Richard