Nielsen, the world’s leading monitor of Internet use, reported in its world survey of Internet users for this year that more than 875 million consumers are now shopping online worldwide....As one in the crowd, small businesses always face a challenge in getting noticed. It is an achievement, on its own, to have solved the financial riddle, built a smooth operation and be in a position to deliver a strong product, but even the most beautiful business cannot thrive if no one knows about it.
Profile means business.
But profile is very, very expensive, most of the time. Few small businesses can afford hundreds of thousands of shillings for advertising. Even brochures can be a stretch, although it’s a cheaper way in. However, as the world moves online, ways are opening of capturing buyers and sales that did not exist before, and that rate as cheap by almost any standard.
Setting aside the pace at which the Internet is being adopted in Kenya, it’s a forum that has opened a massive world market, now structured and sophisticated around means of putting buyers in touch with sellers.
And buyers there are, aplenty. Nielsen, the world’s leading monitor of Internet use, reported in its world survey of Internet users for this year that more than 875 million consumers are now shopping online worldwide.
The big purchasing is around travel, books, clothes, shoes, cosmetics and jewellery. But no area of consumer goods has been left untouched. And nor is online purchasing an occasional thing. Some 97 per cent of consumers in the UK are online. Three quarters of them have bought goods over the Internet in the last four weeks, according to Nielsen.
In areas such as tourism, the alternatives are simply fading out: the British prefer to book flights and holidays online.
So, how to reach them?
The key is to know, and to go, where they go. Early days of a thousand competing online marketplaces have long ago settled into a spread where only a handful are market dominant. And most of the purchasing by the 875 million buyers is done through very few websites: websites where Kenyan SMEs can sell.
The two biggest sites, at the consumer end, are Amazon and eBay.
www.amazon.co.uk (or www.amazon.com, or www.amazon.fr, or whichever you fancy) has for years run a scheme for associate sellers. You register. And then your product is in the store. When you sell, Amazon gets a cut, and you get the rest. As you sell, you get rated by consumers for the quality of your product and delivery.
EBay similarly requires registration, and once done, you’re in as a supplier. Not an approved supplier yet to get a product on the shelves, but a supplier whose products can be put onto eBay’s “virtual” shelves from that second.
So far, your marketing costs with both moves have been zero: until you make a sell. And who have you reached? Well, in December last year, 124 million people went to eBay, and 99 million to Amazon. In one month, that’s visitors in the door equivalent to several times the entire adult population of East Africa.
Enough, perhaps, to make registration the smartest marketing move you ever made. Except if you don’t sell consumer goods. Happily, you may well find your product a suitable candidate for eBay anyway. It doesn’t stop at shoes and clothes.
But the other pay-as-you-go piece of Internet wizardry, suitable for any type of business, comes from Google, under a service they call AdWords. To really exploit this, you do ideally need a website of your own to attract sales leads.
However, with some kind of “landing” site in place, AdWords is a pay-as-you-go way of getting your name before the right buyers. The system allows you to register and create an online ad. You then decide where in the world you want your ads to appear— in front of US Internet users, or Dutch ones, British ones, or even by city.
You then allocate a marketing spend, which can be anything from $50 a month (about Sh3,000). This will be used to put your ad up beside Google searches, and on thousands of websites that have allocated space to Google ads. The really clever part is that you only pay (and the sites carrying your ads only get paid) when an Internet user clicks on your ad to open it (to see more/ go to your website).
For which reason, the Google system is designed to get your “notice” in front of the right buyers. From the beginning, you choose key words: words that when they appear in a search, or on a website, mean that this subject is close to your goods or services. If you provide Kenyan tours, you want users who are looking up Kenya and hotels, say.
Kenyan use of Adwords is already strong. Open a search yourself around Kenyan subjects, and you will spot columns, or listings from many a local business. Some of the country’s most popular hotels use the service, as do dozens of Nairobi-based service providers, offering anything from translation services to engineering. Now I’m an Internet fan, as it happens.
But even without a passion for the virtual, marketing that you only pay for when you get the sale warms my SME heart. //Business Daily