For a country with an almost US$4 Billion deficit (basically we import a whole lot more than we export) chances are higher that we are buying imported goods when we go to Avondale and/or Sam Levy’s Flea markets.Often times these goods are brought in from China, Tanzania or South Africa.
The traders that import goods risk tooth and nail to board buses to go to these regional destinations and buy items that they hope people back home will be interested in purchasing (with the odd trader first sourcing customers and taking orders, few being given a deposit for the goods) and have to endure treacherous roads and ZIMRA officials!
Unsurprisingly, there have been a number who have lost their lives on these trips, with some even getting stranded because of running out of cash (God bless our MPs!) These foreign trips are not for the faint hearted and how many times do you want to go through such lengths to just go and buy a Television or laptop in South Africa?
I’m sure like me, you too have asked an associate who may be travelling across the Limpopo to “just get me something” and save on travel, accommodation and food expenses (in exchange for giving them a “little something” in exchange.
So what do you do when you want something but there is no one travelling? Worse still when you don’t have a friend or relative in SA who can go buy you the goods and put it on a bus to Zimbabwe? Or if there are no “runners” that you know and trust that frequent that route? Well, you get in touch with Zimbo Shopper of course!
Zimbo Shopper is a Facebook page that was founded by Justin Masiwe a South Africa based Zimbabwean who was tired of Zimbabweans being ripped off by unscrupulous traders who would buy you cheaper alternatives (usually grey products), remove the price tag and try and pass it to you as an original.
Having already bought goods for friends and family for the past 8 years, he finally decided on February 3, 2014 to use the experience that he’d gained from going shopping for them (I need to teach my wife how to do this) to open it up and start doing it for anyone.
The service works thus; you visit a host of South African websites and search for the product that you would like to buy. Once you find it, you either inbox them (he’s now recruited a team) on Facebook or you can even send a WhatsApp message with the link to the product. If they product can’t be found online, Zimbo Shopper goes further to shop in-store and find the product for you.
Once the product has been sourced, a quote is then given, that includes their “shopping fee” (10%), transport (based on how bulky the product is) and customs duty for the Zimbabwean taxman. You then make a deposit into a local FBC bank account and send them confirmation of deposit. The purchase is made and your goods are then given to a bus driver who brings it through with “all” your receipts. Simple.
Firstly, with the amount of users that are now accessing Facebook and WhatsApp bundles at a fixed rate, they have a Facebook page that is constantly updated advising customers of promotions that are taking place at places like Game, Makro, Zando and even Hi-Fi Corporation. These popular retail outlets usually have weekly specials on electronic goods running from Thursdays to Sunday.
Secondly, there is a clear pricing mechanism from the onset. I know how much the goods are going for in South Africa, what my service fees will be and when I will get the goods. As we are new to online shopping in Zimbabwe, this transparent means of doing business is a sigh of relief for many.
Then there is the saving for the customer that is being offered. Their overheads are lower (no transport – well at least not cross border, no accommodation in lodges, etc) and they charge a nominal service fee of 10%. Factoring in the “shipping” and duty, your goods still land here at prices well below what other shops (errr emm, hello Barbours, Edgars, Greatermans and Meikles) are offering them for.
Obviously with every new service there are teething problems and there are a few changes/adjustments to the service that I would recommend to Zimbo Shopper:
- As goods that are being bought are for export, it would be great if my order can be VAT refunded. SA (and a lot of first world countries for that matter) refund foreigners that buy goods that will not be consumed in their country. Last time I checked it was 14%. This should lower the cost of my goods. (Point to note however, is I’m not sure whether the driver will be able to declare these items as his own and claim the VAT refund– why shouldn’t he? Anyone with knowledge on this?)
- Create an App!!! Instead of me having to go to all those websites (some I might not even know exist) just consolidate all of the items, especially the deals, specials and promotions into one app where I can find what I’m looking for. This should make it easier for customers to find what they’ll be looking for.
- Allow me to track my order. Once I have paid for it, afford me the ability to track the purchase on the app. We’re still new at this eCommerce thing but peace of mind and knowing that I haven’t been duped or scammed means a lot for the business.
- Add better payment methods. Just having FBC as an option limits the user friendliness of the service. Banking halls are a stress. Queues, cut off times and a limited branch network make it a dread. Add EcoCash, Telecash and OneWallet (for whoever uses it) Better yet, why not integrate with Pay4App or PayNow to process their payments. PayPal might work too, seeing that South Africans can receive payments.
- Offer a credit facility. I know Zimbabwe is going through a rough time (with predictions that we might have to cancel Christmas) and this is wishing, but if not why not? If they can strike deals local banks or lending houses, where the end user here will take out a loan and be able to buy these goods could add to the uptake of the service.
I have used Zimbo Shopper before and count as one of their satisfied customers. Have you? What was your experience? How can they improve their service? Will you consider using their service, if not why?
You can find the Zimbo Shopper Facebook page here.