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Moses Kemibaro

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

Cell-phone shopping is becoming of age in Kenya, a new survey has revealed.

Research by mobile advertising network InMobi Africa shows that most Kenyan buyers now use their mobile phones and tablets to look for and purchase products online.

“The mobile phone has become the consumer’s constant companion. It is their social interface to the world and also reaches them when they are economically active unlike many other types of media,” said Moses Kemibaro, the sales director at InMobi Africa.

The consumers also use the gadgets to review product features, learn the latest trends purchases, compare prices and get references from friends through social media before making purchases online.

The revelations corroborate the latest statistics from the Communications Commission of Kenya which shows that of the 11.8 million internet users in Kenya as at the end of March this year, 98.8% access the Web through mobile phones.

Kemibaro said some users save shopping lists in the form of a draft text message and other shoppers track their expenses through mobile money solutions such as m-banking.

“Female youths are 10% more likely to conduct price comparisons and even take pictures of what they want to buy in order to get their friends’ input on products,” reads the survey report in part.


According to the research, tech savvy Kenyan consumers engage in “searchandising,” or use mobile gadgets to enhance their spending. Out of those polled, 34% were driven to make a buy based on information sourced from mobile phones.

The consumer behaviour research revealed that 65% of the shoppers polled said they engage in searchandising in supermarkets; 34% in boutique stores; 31% in shopping malls and only 29% at informal street markets. 

The survey, which was conducted between June 24 to July 7, 2012 in major urban centres and rural areas across Kenya, polled 503 respondents to establish the extent to which consumers use mobile phones to boost their shopping experience.

Results from the Inmobi Africa study seem to tally with the latest Gallup which reveals that two-thirds of Kenyans who had sent money to family members or friends did so via a mobile phone, making them the most likely to transfer money this way across several sub-Saharan countries.

The gallup study, “Payments and Money Transfer Behavior of Sub-Saharan Africans”, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also reveals that contrary to what is often believed, money in African countries is not necessarily mostly flowing from the cities to the rural areas or villages.

In Kenya mobile money transfer agents are dotted across the country and are becoming key links in Kenya’s banking system. 

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