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Exclusive: Econet launches EcoShopper. Seeks to disrupt the supermarket

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Remember Econet Zimbabwe chief, Douglas Mboweni, hinted last year at getting into e-commerce soon? They just did. The company will be launching its first foray into e-commerce today with the introduction of – you guessed it – EcoShopper.

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It’s not your typical e-commerce. Or let me say it’s not your fully fledged e-commerce operation but there are some key things that make it interesting.

1. They are starting with basic commodities, probably because they are fast moving and therefore worth doing for a company their size. Econet would only get into this if its going to have some visible impact in the medium term, otherwise they would wait. The groceries are sold in baskets starting with a $20 one, $30, $60.

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echoshopper-baskets

2. They are partnering a manufacturer – National Foods. They are looking to disrupt the Supermarket model. Econet are not the first to try commerce on basic commodities in Zimbabwe. The others before it have faced the problem of their prices being higher than the supermarkets’ because, well, they are supplied by the supermarkets. Econet’s strategy is to take the supermarket out of the chain and get direct from the manufacturer. That way, the price may be better than the supermarkets. Those who shop , please compare and let us know in the comments.
ecoshoppper-screen2

3. Econet won’t deliver. Yet!
The customers of EcoShopper will be required to collect their groceries from a National Foods pickup point. If you’re like me, this is ofcourse a deal breaker since getting to these pickup points takes away the convenience. I wish Econet (or National Foods) had more pickup points in Harare.My guess is it’s something they are working on. For those near the points, I hope pickup is 24 hours otherwise it’s attractiveness compared to regular shopping starts to get questionable.

ecoshopper-payment

On payment, Econet is requiring the use of its mobile payment platform, EcoCash. This is ofcourse brilliant but if Econet plans to make this big they’ll have to open it up to everyone, Mastercard, Textacash, Telecash, Onewallet, and even Cash etc… Though I use EcoCash, I don’t always have money in that wallet. Sometimes its in the Mastercard, sometimes in the Telecash wallet and sometimes just cash etc… why can’t I pay on pickup. Then, yeah, it’s just a regular supermarket!

What impresses me is that Econet put some thought into this and that they were bold (as usual) to want to change the way things work. Going via the supermarkets has made the e-commerce business unviable – they are cutting out that fat. Delivery logistics are a cost nightmare that threatens feasibility – they are cutting it out for now and trying without it. Buying separate units wouldn’t work so they are bundling the groceries and doing it anyway.

The danger with the basketing ofcourse is that the customer won’t want some of things in that bundle and, in these hard times, will feel they are paying for stuff they don’t need.

My guess is that this first iteration will likely not yield any significant results and that the company will have to do some things really fast before people write EcoShopper off and forget to try it again when it improves. They’ll have to introduce more pickup points. They’ll have to make it possible for me to pack my own basket online from a limited selection of products – the same range of products yes, except I choose.

In terms of how you shop online, from what we see, it’s via the website only. We think Econet will zero rate this website on its network otherwise if I need to buy expensive data just so I can buy groceries there’s a problem. Another way to do it would be to allow me to select a basket from my EcoCash menu and just buy it from there without ever using the web.

Econet will be launching EcoShopper later today, and we hope some of these issues are already addressed.

In the e-commerce business, Econet are trailing other operators like MTN on the continent who have indicated this is a key growth area for them.


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54 thoughts on “Exclusive: Econet launches EcoShopper. Seeks to disrupt the supermarket

  1. Why would Econet Partner Natfood instead of the big retailers like TM , Ok or Spar. TN a few years implemented the same thing slightly different in that it was not web based. Buy grocery of choice and we deliver . The bigger retailers would probably implement it better not a manufacturer . Clearly not a properly conceived idea. Econet go back to the drawing board we don’t want another half baked product.!!

    1. National Foods = Wholesaler; TM, OK & Spar = Retailers. Econet partnering with Nat-foods = cuts out the middle men = more value to Ecoshopper consumer 🙂 Who doesn’t want their groceries at the most competitive prices.

  2. I respect Econet for pioneering convenience in the mobile money business but this time it has shot itself on the foot by launching a poorly thot out premature product/service. This is ECOSHOCKER!!!!!!!! Its shocking hw econet expects this service to be a gamechanger in Zim’s online shopping scene.

  3. Some are complaining that econet is taking all the business.I can see some opportunities in this eco shopping thing.one can just organise a delivery business by just taking the goods from the nat foods depot and deliver it in homes,instead of mourning lets look for loopholes in the system and utilise it.
    Who ever thought the 5110 Nokia was going to be eclipsed by newer phones with virtually everything cameras,mp4 players hd…etc its all innovation on the existing product .
    who ever thought whatsapp is going to take over in the texting business its all about identifying opportunities and utilizing them

  4. One needs to think from bottom – up , buying trends and partens of zimbos , removing brick and motor from people, minds, instead stick with the traditional shops , create a portal were traditinal shops put up their products , u become the vehicle to the consumers , which they are already doing , targeted marketing , econet customers , tm , ok package products . Create value by creating a portal site to have customers push goods in volumes u make money in 3 verticals adverts , royalties , and increase transcation on ur payment gateway e, cocash . Than creating a pararell structure to compete brick and motor,, partnet shops , they use ur site to push and promote their products at the same time u create synagy to drive traffic and target ur customers already on ur network , stick to core business of being the road to many places,,

  5. With its many foes this seems to be a great thing for e-commerce in Zimbabwe saving the small guys from having to persuade and get the ordinary guy to embrace online purchases ….

  6. This reminds me of TN. Remember TN Bank ,TN Grill TN Furniture storees TN this and that. Somehow I think the failure of TN Grill to compete with other fast food outlets (besides management issues) has to do with branding issues. Before TN was acquired by Steward it had begun to have a not so good reputation in the market. I think this spilled over to its sister companies. I fear the same could happen for Econet. I dont mind their diversifying but i think its time to drop the Eco this Eco that approach.

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