Food World now has an online store. Will it push down the walls & ignite e-tailing?

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Food World OnlineThe Zimbabwean e-commerce online retailing story is still far from mature and engaging, that’s hardly a secret. That’s not taking anything away from the providers that have established revenue streams online. It’s just puzzling that it is still failing to get accepted so readily.

The reasons are anybody’s guess. It’s easy though to chalk it up to Zimbabweans consumer cultural concerns, fear of the digital unknown, specific internet usage patterns (I’d point my fingers at Net Neutrality violations here) or just not having the sort of model and approach sexy enough to engage the average Zimbabwean consumer.

At some point I actually thought that logistics was the only missing piece of the puzzle but like startups like Kenya’ s Jumia have demonstrated, this is just another challenge that any serious player should be ready to solve.

As it stands it’s an open debate why this is still the case in a foreign currency economy (sans the bond coin “threat”) that has a healthy bit of the population ordering $469 million worth of cars online and committing large amounts of their cash to cellphone accounts.

My guess is that our other drawback locally is that there is still the reluctance of well known “offline” brands to jump onto the online shopping wagon. This sort of thing happening would help the public buy into the legitimacy of such services and this could turn into a Zimbabwean online retailing success.

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Now it looks like this could happen. Local retailer and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) concern Food World set up it’s own online store which has been in operation since November last year.

This is the first online store to be operated by one of the more prominent brands in retailing as Food World does occupy household name status in the local retailing space.

The privately owned chain which has 6 supermarkets, one wholesale branch and staff complement of 1000 people, has been one of the visible survivors in a contracting retailing space and economy and it managed to keep its stores open while others were calling it a day.

Could it’s presence in online retailing sway people to appreciate it as something that can be adopted? The truth is that depends on how the service is presented in the first place.

Impressions of the “new store”

Food World Online StoreThe Food World Online Store (you can check it out on www.foodworld.co.zw) is a fairly comprehensive representation of an online retail site. The guys at Web Entangled who designed this site took time to address the more important aspects like user friendliness and clear display of goods on offer.

Navigation is quite simple and the payment aspect, which can be the make or break point for entry level e-commerce, was handled through an integration with local gateway Paynow. This ropes in widely used options like Ecocash, Telecash as well as plastic money.

Prices for goods are the same as those you’d get in any of the Food World supermarkets. Essentially it means there isn’t any e-discount that would otherwise make use of the store attractive or make up for the $10 delivery charge.

This delivery service is only extended to places within a 25km radius from the Harare Main Post Office so that means areas like Chitungwiza and Norton don’t get to benefit from the facility. I found that bit rather odd though considering that residents furthest from the place of sale would be the ones more inclined to consider online orders. There is no indication of deliveries made to far flung destinations but I’m sure it would be open to negotiation.

Goods are said to be delivered within 48 hours which I hope implies in the early part of that time range especially since these products are largely consumables.

As a first attempt at online retailing there really isn’t much to either fault or applaud the Food World site. While a lot would have been expected from the retail chain as a stable entity that can experiment with several strategies, it’s worth remembering that this is a first shot from any of the retail chains.

In spite of all of this Food World is entering a market that has seen a lot of different online services pop up to address particular niches. Names like the Facebook based Zimboshopper, Storefront.co.zw, Zimall, MyZimStore 10ngah, Khaya Shopping and newbie Pazimba easily come to mind here.

Though each of this online retailers might be smaller competitors to Food World, the retail chain might want to borrow a page or two from these guys’ books because of the market validation they have managed to conduct all these years. They know, better than most including Food World, what the local market would warm to or turn down outright.

Online stores need a marketing strategy that’s also online

Food World online store

As good as the marketing gets?

In the online scheme of things it appears that Food World is dropping the ball in the marketing and promotion of their seventh store. I only got to know about this through a store banner this week yet, this shop has been operating since November 2014.

What should be an aggressive online strategy to drive customers to the store through social media platforms like Facebook, which are Zimbabwe’s internet mainstay, is only represented by two posts on the Food World page.

The offline strategy appears to be feeble as well. I can’t recall being well informed on the existence of this online store in the print and electronic media, something that contrasts with strategies adopted by chains like Pick N Pay South Africa.

No doubt other retailers will be keeping an eye on how the Food World Online Store operates. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some changes on the model adopted by the retail chain though.

This appears to be a bold attempt at figuring out the likelihood of success for a totally new type of store front so I did get the impression that this was a ready-fire approach.

Have you bought anything from Food World Online? What are your thoughts on this new store?

20 Comments

  1. fourwallsinaroom says:

    Noticed some funny things. For instance I did not realize Tinga Mira bottled water, Probrands Fruit Juice etc. are considered Liquor. Grocery section has 88 items. To long to scroll through. Pricing otherwise seems sharp. Would like the Electronics and Appliances to be updated as this is really what would drive me to purchase from them. If the price was right that is.

    1. naphiri says:

      be positive guys l would like to say well-done guys feedbacks will help you improve but cant complain coz its better we are buying groceries for people back home with no hassle.

  2. ic0n1c says:

    Kudos to Food world!

  3. Observer says:

    They are wasting their time the majority of food world’s market is in the low income bracket and as such they have not embraced the concept of e-commerce. The truth of the matter is they are just going to have to take a very long term view of this .

    1. BTN says:

      Stop shooting progress Observer, this is a step in the right direction. There are people out there who prefer to shop online and have goods delivered to their houses and if Food World can manage to do this they will capture that market yauri kugaya

      1. Ini says:

        @BTN I think Observer is right. There was no prior market research and they are doomed to fail. The location of their stores tells the story.

  4. Ashley Young says:

    Mazoe Orange Crush… lol

  5. Mhuka Huru says:

    1) Someone tell the Webentagled guys not to navigate us away from FoodWorld when we click on their link in the footer

    Good job guys, the market will eventually respond, lets nt wait for the market to demand stuff, lets give them what they want, the Ford-like thing “If I had asked people what they want, they would have said faster horses” But he didnt ask them, and madee them a car, now Zim is spending close to half a billion on USED ones

    How about a pay-on-delivery option?

    1. Observer says:

      Really never gonna work currently what is the % of the zim population that does online sales? this is a futile loss making exercise the market is far from ready in South Africa alone only 0.9% of South African retail is online versus 11% in USA its time we got away from business theories and focused on the realistic practical things.

      1. Ini says:

        @Observer, I concur with you there but majority of Zimbabweans are receptive to such technologies. The current problem is the cost of delivery. If that is addressed, its a big business. A cab from the CBD to the Avenues will cost $3 and delivery from FW is $10, I wouldn’t mind paying $3 but $10 is ridiculous especially considering the delivery times. We cannot compare Zim to SA, esp considering the uptake of mobile money locally as compared to SA.

        1. Observer says:

          I hear you on the cost aspect but to be honest with you this can only work if they are targeting the diaspora market to buy groceries for locals. Remember most Zimbabwean s prefer to walk around just to cut costs and not go online.

      2. tinm@n says:

        Its not really loss making to them as their core business is retail.

        It is an extension of their already existing business. I would imagine that the overhead of having that site up isn’t so much to warrant panic unless if the developer charged an arm and a leg and formed some kind of expensive, ongoing maintenance agreement.

        What do they seriously stand to lose?

  6. TSA - The Serial Analyst says:

    I can imagine, $10 for delivery????? One simply needs at most $2 to transport themselves into town and the remaining $8 can actually buy other very essential basic commodities. They need to work around this one

  7. Tsenny says:

    Way too expensive. For $10 I can put fuel in my car, go to town and buy kwa Mohammed Musa and go back and stilll have extra fuel. I doubt very much if this will take up locally,48 hours its too much lead time, maybe for the Diaspora it would make sense

  8. fourwallsinaroom says:

    Owning and running different establishments including a bar. i see the $10 delivery option as a positive. simply order my usual 40crates and let them do the sweating. no problem with that, they can get empties when they arrive.

    second point if i want to send groceries to someone this seems like a smart way to do it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is more Zimbabweans on mibile than on desktop and considering the site is unusable on mobile. I’d say they have a lot of to do testing wise.
    Zim companies especially those that want to participate in the e commerce space need to take their web presence seriously and thoroughly test their online platforms before releasing them to the public.

  10. Eddie says:

    thank goodness, i remember when i was trying to come up with a budget for my groceries late at night but had no price list, i googled ok zim TM and found nothing! i was shocked to find that retail markets are not taking advantage of the Internet!

  11. Nirav Sheth says:

    Elimination of an uncertain online structure and strengthening of lacking model is perhaps the key to turning up Zimbabwean online retailing success. FMCG retailing online typically the food stuffs, highly expected. Ethical approach is all required with improved legislation. Good Luck!!

  12. tania says:

    hi,
    has anyone in diaspora used this service to buy groceries for parents and families back home.

    1. Margret Chinyanganya says:

      I have used it and recommended it to my friends.Service is quick, I normally buy in the morning and delivery is around 3ish pm same day.Only complaint is there doesnt seem to be as much choice as in store.

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