Shoemaker, Bata, and Nakumatt Supermarkerts are the most recent retailers to set up online portals that allow their consumers to get access to their merchandise from the convenience of their homes or offices 24 hours a day.
Bata has made the new service available to customers in Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret towns with a maximum waiting period of 72 hours for processing and delivery of orders.
Speaking during the launch, Bataâ€™s Managing Director Fernando Garcia said that the move to take shoe retailing online has been necessitated by developments in the field of consumer tech.
â€œThe world has changed and with the emergence of gadgets such as computers and iPads, Africa has to embrace E-Commerce to that effectâ€, he said.
Experts now state that by going it alone, retailers are bound to disrupt online shopping that has been dominated by intermediary portals that connect consumers to retailers.
â€œAlthough there has been a lot of hype around e-commerce in Kenya it is only now that we are seeing established brands getting really serious about transacting online,â€ says Mr Moses Kemibaro, the sales manager for InMobi.
â€œOne of the greatest challenges to e-commerce is the issue of trust especially among new users who are often reluctant to send their money through third party providersâ€, he says.
â€œWith stores like Bata and Nakumatt establishing their own infrastructure, consumers who have already developed some loyalty to these stores will find it easy to go online and make a purchase because they know who they are dealing with.â€
Mr Kemibaro further states that since most retail stores in the country already have a well-developed countrywide networks, going online will give them a wider reach and maintain the loyalty with their consumers.
The operational costs will also go down since online transactions are generally cheaper to execute and appeal more to consumers for the convenience.
Goods sold through third party online stores on the other hand are considered to be marginally expensive because the site operators have to cover the costs of listing, transaction and delivery which are often passed down to consumers.
The greatest downside of the increased activity in e-commerce is security. With the woes that have beset banks in online banking, retailers launching online portals will have to ensure their consumers that their online transactions are secure.
In addition to this, more stores need to make their portals wap enabled to allow consumers access their services through mobile phones which are considered the next growth frontier in e-commerce in Africa.
The country ranks top in East and Central Africa in the volumes of goods sold online.
MasterCard places Kenyan consumers as the fourth largest online lot in Africa after South Africa, Nigeria and Morocco and the second fastest growing in mobile shopping in the entire continent.
In the past few months, several large retailers have launched online portals to market their products and widen their market share in the competitive retail market.
However, the growth in online retail has been characterised by third party portals and websites that act as intermediaries between retailers and consumers.
Stores like maduqa.com, mamamikes.com, dukawala.com and beiyangu.co.ke have gained a lot of traction over the years by matching up online consumers with their goods or service needs.
Similarly, group buying websites like zetu.co.ke and rupu.co.ke create an arrangement with service providers to offer discounted deals to consumers as long as a specific number of consumers sign up for the deal.
This variety of interactive tech solutions to shopping has led to intense competition online with consumers spoilt for choice for the large number of offerings from laptops to weekend getaways.
As retail stores throw their hats into the ring, the competition for market share in the lucrative online market is set to heat up even more.