Book readers in Zimbabwe can now shop for books online on Innov8’s newly launched online bookshop. The launch of the new site was announced by Innov8 founder, Milton Kamwendo, on Twitter and can be visited on the address www.innov8bookshop.biz.
We held an interview with Milton Kamwendo to discuss Innov8’s new service, its chances of success in a country of low internet penetration and payment processing for the online bookshop. We post below the questions and answer we had with him.
1. Tell us about the online bookshop.
Innov8 Online Bookshop is a cutting edge and innovative channel recently launched by Zimbabwe’s fast growing Innov8 Bookshop chain. The service allows customers to shop for books, stationery and writing instruments using their cellphone or computer so long as they have internet access.
Through Innov8’s online bookshop customers can directly purchase products using their Mastercard and Visa cards. They can also opt to effect a bank transfer. Their purchase is then delivered to their home or office. They can also choose to collect from the nearest Innov8 Bookshop.
2. Why has Innov8 launched an online bookshop?
Innov8 Bookshop is always striving to increase customer service and to offer its customers world class service and convenience. The need to reach customers without the restrictions of time and distance is the main reason for launching an online bookshop.
The online bookshop provides a convenient, safe and effective channel to reach our customers. Now customers can access the store when they choose and that puts new power into the hands of the customers and changes the rules of book selling.
As a market leader and innovator, it was natural for Innov8 bookshop to be the first bookshop in Zimbabwe to launch this service.
3. With internet penetration in Zimbabwe still less than 20%, what is your target market and what’s its size?
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) internet penetration for Zimbabwe by December 2009 stood at 11.9% which meant that approximately 1,481,000 people were using the internet. The number of internet users in Zimbabwe grew by 2602% from the year 2000 to the year 2009.
Internet penetration has since continued to increase buoyed by the increasing using of the cellular phones many more people can transact online in Zimbabwe.
One needs to also factor in the fact that once you have an online store, your market ceases to be local but becomes global. There are many Zimbabwean books and products that can only be sourced locally. We have received inquiries for Shona, Ndebele and other local books in the past but had no channel that was easy, convenient and sure that customers could use. With the launch of Innov8 Online Bookshop, that channel is here and Internet use is growing globally by the second. This means our growth and appeal to the world is now uncapped.
4. What are the payment methods available for customers and how convenient are they for the bulk of Zimbabweans?
There are two payment methods currently available, online payment and offline payment. With online payment a customer pays using a MasterCard or Visa card. With offline payment, a client makes a transfer or cash deposit into our local bank account. We are also considering using SMS payment options.
These payment options are accessible and convenient to the majority if not all of Zimbabweans as some do not even require a bank account. Innov8 Bookshop is also actively promoting the use of FBC Bank’s prepaid MasterCard which does not even require anyone to bank with the bank. A number of customers are already transacting using this payment method.
5. What are the challenges you foresee selling books online?
The main challenge is behavioural. Many customers have not been used to making purchases online and they may hesitate. However, as people experience our service a lot more their confidence and frequency will increase.
The service we are offering is the way of the future. Any serious retailer who does not offer an online store is depriving customers of their right. The world is changing and shopping online will just be as ordinary for most of our customers in the next few years.
6. How much traffic so far is the online bookshop getting?
Since we opened the store to the public on the 1st of October 2011 the number of daily visitors has been on the increase and now averages 50 people every day. Like all things Internet the traffic is set to explode as the awareness increases and as we put into motion our marketing plan.
7. What are the major successes milestones that have been registered by Innov8 in the bookselling business in the recent months
Innov8 is now the clear market leader in Zimbabwe’s book selling industry. The bookshop now has 10 outlets and is continuing to grow. Innov8 has recently opened a new bookshop at 99 Robert Mugabe Road. It’s premium brand, Insignia is Zimbabwe’s first truly world-class bookshop.