In the last ten years significant strides have been made in Business and the use of E-Commerce. Ten years ago you had only three methods of payment for most services, cash, cheque, or credit cards. But for most people there was only one, cash! This is because to use the other two methods of payment you had to have a fat bank account that would qualify you to get a cheque book or credit card. So when you saw somebody paying with a cheque or credit card you knew they had to have money.
For me, as a student and others like me doing foreign professional certifications it was stressful when paying for exams. You had to go get an international bank draft in which the bank gave you a very bad rate for the dollar or the pound. Then the bank draft itself was expensive. So at the end you felt conned after buying the international bank draft. The other option was for you to change your money to dollars or pounds and send somebody who was going to that country to pay for you. If you were lucky the money was paid if you weren’t then the person used your money and you had to start the cycle again. The other option was to get somebody to pay for you with their credit card then you refund them. The catch was getting somebody to agree to pay for you with their credit card then you give them the money.
As you can see the above methods are frustrating. And that is how business was also conducted. You would have to pay cash, get a cheque book, or get a credit card if you wanted to do business especially internationally. There was also international transfer of funds from one account to another but that was also expensive. There were other options like using services like Western Union or Money Gram or other international money wiring companies.
In the last couple of years E-Commerce has grown in Kenya thanks to electronic money transfer through mobile platforms. M-Pesa has blazed a trail in which others follow. Kenyans who previously did not have bank accounts are able to pay their bills easily without having to go through lengthy bank processes. Customers of banks are also able to transfer money from their bank accounts to their phones and use the money at their convenience. They are also able to do the reverse which is put money into their mobile payment platform and send the money to their bank accounts. This means that a customer does not have to go all the way to the bank in order to deposit their money.
What are the benefits of e-commerce to a business person or creative?
Businesses can use mobile payments like M-Pesa and online payment systems like PesaPal. A business person or creative can be able to set up their website and sell their goods or services online. For example, if you are selling paintings you can showcase them online and then ask for payment via mobile payment like M-Pesa or other such platforms.
You can also be able to sell your products, ideas, or services through internationally known company. Amazon.com is the biggest online seller of Books. A writer for example can sell their books on Amazon. Nowadays the trend is to create an e-book which can be downloaded after paying a couple of dollars.
It saves you time. when you are able to pay your own bills in a couple of minutes without having to leave your office then you save hours of queuing in which you could be spending getting your next customer, creating your newest masterpiece or catching up on work that needs to be done.
Using e-commerce can save you money. To do business you do not have to have a physical office. You can have a virtual office. You can showcase what you want to sell online. Then you don’t have to have so many operating costs that are unnecessary especially if you have a small business that doesn’t require staff or office space.
Using e-commerce also opens up a whole new customer base for you. If you are selling products, services, content etc through only cash payments you are limited by geographical area or other factors like bank accounts in the type of customer you would have. If you are selling through e-commerce you can sell your products anywhere in the world. You may just be a local company and maybe you do not export your products for example but you may have a Kenyan in US who wants to buy for his mother or girlfriend a present for their birthday and they can pay you through credit card or a mobile money transfer system.
As a business person you can also be able to order your goods through an e-commerce payment gateway. You don’t have to travel to china to buy certain materials or go to Japan to buy electronic equipment. You can do this from the comfort of your office or even your sofa if you work from home.
There are other benefits that I haven’t listed. Of course e-commerce has its risks. Security and credit card fraud are the biggest issue in terms of payment systems. There are ways to resolve this. Also convincing Kenyans to buy something online is abit of a challenge. If people have the option of buying tickets online, on M-Pesa or paying at the door for an event you will find most people will buy at the door. Maybe it’s because they want to have physical evidence of having bought whatever they are buying. This can be solved by having e-tickets. Kenyans perceptions about ecommerce are changing and hopefully in the future we will have E-commerce compliant businesses and creatives.