When you want to book a bus ticket online what do you expect?
Last Techzim wrote about National Tickets, a Zimbabwean online booking and ticketing service was in 2015. Back then, plastic money wasn’t as much of a thing as it is now – cash crisis did that. Also, not too many local buses were available for booking online. Since then, things have changed and so have our expectations.
So now back to the question: What do you expect?
Since I can only see those expectations in the comments section later, I’ll go ahead and assume on your behalf for now.
Firstly, you’d expect an easy to use or navigate website. No one (exceptions always exist of course) wants to have to waste time figuring out which button to click or where to find a certain function. Booking a bus should just be an easy and fast process which you can do in 5 minutes tops (also depending on your internet speed).
Secondly, you’d expect an interface in which you can easily compare prices. See the point of coming to a platform that merely deals with bus booking instead of just going to a specific bus website is so you can go for the cheapest alternative. Otherwise booking from a different website than of the bus company website itself might actually be expensive, no?
Thirdly, you’d obviously expect a secure and reliable website. I know of a friend who booked and paid for an air ticket online only to discover it was a scam. So you need a site which is legit aaaand cannot be easily hacked.
Fourthly, the site needs to have various payment options. In Zimbabwe I’d say whatever you do, do not leave EcoCash out considering over 6 million people actively use EcoCash.
Fifth and finally, you’d need a clearly defined site in terms of which routes and buses are available. I say that because you want to know what the ‘unavailable’ notification actually means. Does it mean that route is not available on that day or at all? Or if the bus(es) doesn’t travel on that specific day or route if at all.
Now the question is how well does National Tickets tick those boxes?
The first box (simple User Interface) is ticked, apart from how beautiful the site looks it was fairly easy to figure out what to do next. The next box it ticked was how flexible it is to use any payment method. The platform is integrated with Paynow, so you can use any of the major payment services i.e mobile money, ZimSwitch, Mastercard and Visa. However, the problem I found with the platform is that the initial price shown is not the actual price you will pay for the ticket.
So, there’s a price before you book and a price once you proceed to payment. I understand there’s a Paynow markup, but the problem I have with that is that it can be deceptive when comparing prices. You can potentially ditch a cheaper platform thinking it’s more expensive (yes even by a dollar) because of that.
However, interestingly, I tried booking the Harare to Johannesburg route on National Tickets vs. Intercape and I realised it was cheaper on National Ticket. Not sure why, but it could be a way of getting people on board.
My other problem was it was difficult to figure which routes are available on the platform. I tried a number of destinations and kept getting the oops message. It didn’t make sense because of the number of buses I noticed to be signed onto the platform. However, once you fail to find a bus going to your intended destination on your day of choice, you can leave your details (email etc.) so they can get back to you when something is available.
Lastly, I noticed how I couldn’t enter my date of birth. The DOB criteria were determined by the criteria prior to that which had children, students, adults and senior citizens. The years available for each were 2004 -2014, 1927 – 2004, 1927 – 1987 and 1927 – 1957 respectively. So when I tried a booking, I naturally chose ‘adult’ only to realise I didn’t fall into the adult’s criteria! The only other option I had was that of being a student which I could have gladly picked since it has a discount, unfortunately, I’d have to prove I am one with a student ID that I don’t have.
So now, since those boxes were pretty much mine, let’s hear from you: does this startup tick yours?
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Paynow is Zimbabwe's most popular online payments service. The platform is popular for allowing Zimbabweans to pay for things online using Mobile Money (EcoCash and Telecash). Read More About Paynow
The Republic of Zimbabwe is a country located in the Southern Africa region. Its capital city is :Harare and the country has 10 provinces. Zimbabwe is 390,580 sq km and is bordered on all sides by other countries (Zambia in the north, South Africa in... Read More About Zimbabwe