Feature: Kenyan supermarkets embrace e-stores amid stiff competition, changing lifestyles

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-01 20:23:21|Editor: xuxin
Video PlayerClose

NAIROBI, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Nairobi resident Beatrice Salahi loves shopping, and she likes doing it at a particular supermarket not far from her house in southern Nairobi, Kenya's capital.

Over the years, Salahi, a banker, was driving to the outlet located inside a mall every week to shop for various goods that include clothes, foodstuff, electronics and even books for two children.

However, it is now three weeks since she stepped into the branch of the supermarket, where she is a recognized loyal shopper.

Salahi has not shifted her loyalty to a rival, but has adapted to a new way of shopping after the retailer started an e-commerce portal.

"These days I visit the online supermarket of the retailer, take my pick and pay via mobile money then the goods are delivered to my house. I have done it four times and I think it is the best thing to have happened to my shopping experience," she recounted on Friday, noting the new method saves her money and time.

As they expand their brick and mortar outlets across the East African nation, Kenyan supermarkets are also turning to the cyberspace, with all the major retailers opening online stores amid lifestyle changes among consumers, boom in mobile money use and increased competition.

The online stores are not only a response to consumer demands and a strategy to grow business, but are also helping them fend off rising competition from exclusive internet shops, which have eaten into their market.

Tuskys and Naivas, two of Kenya's leading retailers, are some of the supermarkets that have opened online stores, even as they increase their physical branches.

Just like the physical branches, the online stores have various departments that include furniture, electronics, clothes, crockery, baby products, groceries and home appliances.

"We launched the online store to enable our customers have an easy shopping experience as they can buy goods from the comfort of their cars or homes," said Dan Githua, chief executive of Tuskys during the recent launch.

Upcountry customers can also shop on the platform and the goods, some which are available in Nairobi only, are shipped to customers via courier services.

For Naivas, the supermarket says it offers over 60,000 items, including groceries, that are delivered to buyers across the Kenyan capital under three hours once they are shopped.

In physical branches, supermarkets allowed customers to buy goods like fridges and couches through installments. The same has been transferred on the online platforms as they seek to attract and retain customers.

Foreign supermarkets in Kenya that include South Africa's Game, which serves the middle-income and high-end market, have also joined the bandwagon, running online stores as they seek to appeal to tech-savvy Kenyans.

"Supermarkets have no choice but to innovate and fend off the increased competition that has intensified both online and in the physical business. For Kenyan retailers, competition is two-pronged, from foreign retailers that have entered the market and from exclusive online stores some run by telecoms like Safaricom," said Ernest Manuyo, a business management lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi.

There are dozens of independent online stores in Kenya which are always offering 'crazy deals', depending on seasons.

This month, the shops have already started announcing Valentine Day deals, just as they did with Christmas.

The online shops include Kilimall, Jumia, Masoko and Alladin, with the stores selling from electronics like mobile phones and TVs to household goods like margarine and maize flour.

Kenya has 40 million mobile phone subscribers, over 30 million mobile money users who transacted 39 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Central Bank of Kenya. The rising numbers point to better times for e-commerce ahead.