Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been a major boost to the economic, political and social empowerment especially in the empowerment of women and promotion of gender equality, but most women in business fear embracing technology or ‘technophobia’ due to lack of trust with the online community and lack of capacity building skills.
Vivo Woman CEO and Co-Founder Wandia Gichuru said that customers tend to carry out their own research from social networks before making their decision on whether to purchase the products or service. But if the e-business activity lacks consistency limits the level of reliability and trust.
“Most women, either as entrepreneurs or as customers are hesitant to engage in electronic business activities due to fears of making deliveries to ‘unknown’ customers and the constraints that come with customers asking or demanding for refunds. There are unlimited advantages on the e-commerce platforms for women including visual and creative content and the aspect of storytelling. Embracing such avenues will increase their access to sales especially during these harsh economic times,” said Gichuru.
Gichuru was among the guest speakers during an interactive virtual knowledge exchange session on Cross-Sector Partnerships in East Africa to advance women’s economic resilience through digital platforms organized by New Faces New Voices (NFNV) – Kenya in partnership with Women Win.
Kayana Creative Founder Patricia Okelo also noted that women in business lacked technology-know-how in developing e-commerce models when selling their products or services online. Other gender constraints include the cultural barriers and the scarcity mentality mindset that lead to anxiety and fear running a business online.
“There are lots of educational programs on how to effectively use online platforms in running a business on social media platforms. A lot of hybrid and virtual learning are in place specifically meant to equip women with essential knowledge on how to sell their products online. Most women in business who have taken advantage of such trainings have built a diverse online presence and are running successful businesses thanks to social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook,” said Okelo.
Okelo further noted that research is a key element in running an online business as it not only guides one on who their target market is but also makes them understand their customer preferences and strategies to consider when conducting business.
WomenWork Kenya Co-Founder Asha Mweru stressed the need to build internal and external partnerships between businesses that harness skills and knowledge in order to drive innovation and solve technology challenges. This is essential to put more focus on immediate impact and needs by understanding that content is key when selling products and services online.
“People are beginning to realize that there are a lot of benefits in selling their products online. While digital platforms are like stages, all you need to do is to establish your customer base. Always remember that a journey of a thousand steps starts with products that people love and value,” said Mweru.
A recent study on consumer spending by MasterCard reveals that nearly 79 per cent of Kenyan consumers are shopping more online since the onsite of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study further indicates that ‘Data, apparel, healthcare, banking and other FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) have seen the highest surge of online activity. An overwhelming 92% of consumers in Kenya said they had paid for data top-ups online, 67% for clothing and over 56% said they had bought computers and other equipment.’
It is clear that women in business need to embrace technology through the use of e-commerce and digital marketing channels in a bid to expand, boost and add value to their businesses and customers while establishing partnerships that will help propel them at personal and professional levels.
When seeking to venture into business partnerships, women entrepreneurs need to better understand the business ecosystem in order to showcase their strengths which in turn build vast online business networks that serve the intended purpose and goal especially in cases where resources are constrained.
Dubbed ‘Market Exchange: Interventions through digital platforms’ the virtual session is part of an ongoing knowledge exchange series aimed at building collaborations and advancing women’s resilience through cross-sector partnerships in East Africa with local government and successful women entrepreneurs. The virtual sessions are organized by New Faces New Voices (NFNV) – Kenya, (a women’s network established by Graca Machel Trust) in partnership with Women Win.