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Selling on social media? Don’t frustrate customers, display your prices

Informal Market in Harare, prices

To say Zimbabweans have responded well to the pressures of the pandemic would be an understatement. The adoption of online stores, sellers peddling their wares on social media and WhatsApp are fantastic examples of how adaptable Zimbos are. On top of that, we have seen a number of new e-commerce marketplaces that have sprung up with a litany of services for both sellers and buyers. However as good as this is, there has been one glaring problem that I have encountered while surfing the interwebs looking for deals. There is a collection of sellers who, for whatever reason, refuse to display prices. The compromise they offer is the infamous “inbox for details” or simply have their contact information listed on a page or group.

Now, I understand why sellers might not want to display prices. Zimbabwe is not a conventional operating environment by any stretch of the imagination. One of the key problems has been the Oprah Winfrey style Statutory Instruments we have seen being dolled out. I am sure that SI 127 of 2021 is still fresh in the memory and its cryptic withdrawal from the general market and only applying to entities that trade on the forex auction further exacerbates the nature of operators when it comes to the issue of price.

No one wants to scramble and change a website overnight or alter social media posts to make sure that they comply with the prevailing law. At this point, I can imagine that there are those who are going to protest and you are most welcome to but before you begin hear me out.

Who wants their time wasted?

The most common comment I have seen on social media advertisements for a service or product with no price is unsurprisingly, “How much?“. Before I go on I have to say I am looking at this from the customer’s perspective and as a prospective patron, I want to know as much information about the product at a glance. There are so many other stores competing for my attention and if you don’t have your price listed, I and I’m sure others, will move on.

It doesn’t matter how good the deal you are offering is, because the nature of social media is for content to be as ephemeral or quick to consume as possible. If your potential customers can’t make a decision or use the information you have provided to make a decision then it does no one any good. And there is no piece of information more critical than the price in influencing a purchase decision.

Even if someone is broke and they desire that product or service, they will save the post or contact detail for a time when they will be flush to finally make a move.

Why force your customers to chase you down?

If I was selling anything, I would make it as easy as possible for anyone to be able to access whatever it is they need to buy or move on. If you are asking your customers to DM you for the price or further details and that proves to be a complete waste of their time, what are the chances that any individual will return?

You aren’t the only one selling that thing in the city or country. And even the obscure or niche things are becoming easier to find.

Do you want to haggle prices with all your customers?

There is an assumption I make whenever I see someone who doesn’t list their price be it in a Facebook Group/Marketplace or on WhatsApp is that “the price is negotiable”. Setting your price upfront to me and many others I have spoken to reflects that the store or seller is unlikely to budge. If there is some wiggle room then that’s a bonus but those instances are very rare.

The point I am trying to make is that you might be cluttering your communication channels with people who are testing the waters. They are most probably looking to lowball you.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather let the price be the barrier to entry and deal with customers who are serious about making a purchase or are simply asking to know more about the product’s specifications.

You are decreasing sharability

Sharing ads for goods and services is a time-honoured tradition everywhere but Zimbabwe is a peculiar case. What I mean by this is that most people live within a WhatsApp bundle and if you don’t offer enough information chances are very few people will want to share that post.

Data may be expensive but time is even more precious and contemplating having to pry information out of a seller is an unappetising prospect. Worse still is the rate of response. If you are the sole operator of a business, you will be keeping money waiting as you wade through people who are asking you about things they should already know from your post or advertisement.

Moreover, in Zimbabwe, things go viral on WhatsApp and you are more likely going to attract attention if your advertisement/post, be it text or an image, includes price(s).

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11 thoughts on “Selling on social media? Don’t frustrate customers, display your prices

  1. I read this article and laughed to myself a bit. So let me break it down for you. Remember the following 3 points.
    (1) Competition in Zimbabwe is VICIOUS!
    (2) Zimbabwean people are Cheap but they are also IMPULSE BUYERS!
    (3) The ETERNAL CYCLE!

    VICIOUS COMPETITION….
    The playing field is not level some people can dodge duty/taxes for that product you trying to sell so their price can/will be cheaper than yours
    Others are willing to wage a price war because they have the financial muscle to absorb losses.
    So one of the worst things you can ever do is to openly set a hard price. This is basically giving your competitors free information and worse might even create competitor’s in a market that you basically started.

    1. Zimbabwean people are CHEAP but they also are IMPULSE buyers!

      If you set a hard price you can/will scare away all potential customers. So the first order of business is to get them to enter into a conversation with you.
      The next order of business is to hype up your product.
      And then be prepared to haggle. OMG! can some Zimbabweans haggle.🙁
      7 out of 10 people will walk away. Of the 3 that stay two of them are customers that have haggled the price to a point both of you can accept. The third was so impressed by the hype that they didn’t bother to haggle and bought the product at the original price.

      1. The guys that are in a certain tax bracket are the ones that usually stay and it’s like the traders can sense which location you come from even over the phone lol but I hear you.

      2. The ETERNAL CYCLE
        Then we come to the eternal cycle.
        The price of any product will wildly flactuate depending on which point of the cycle the seller is at.
        And it goes like this

        At the beginning of the cycle I got aspirations and dreams that I have found the road that will lead me prosperity.
        This is my price and there is no room for negotiation.

        Middle of the cycle.
        Maybe I have made a mistake? Nah I just need to put in more effort this is good plan/idea
        Hype up the product more, send out more posts on social media.
        End of the cycle.
        Reality has hit. And it has hit hard. Now the seller now understands that…..
        … “Oh, there ain’t no rest for the wicked
        Money don’t grow on trees
        I got bills to pay
        I got mouths to feed
        There ain’t nothing in this world for free
        I know I can’t slow down
        I can’t hold back
        Though you know
        I wish I could
        Oh, no there ain’t no rest for the wicked
        Until we close our eyes for good”…. Lyrics by Cage the Elephant – Ain’t no rest for the wicked
        Seller now willing to accept almost any price, bills are due nd food is running out
        The cycle repeats again and again forever.

        1. Oh yes let’s not forget the part that most sellers on social media have at most 10 different product categories that they selling so they are really under pressure from point number one.

    2. You can never really run away from competition, whether they are of your own making or are doing their own thing. There are other things like promotions and discounts to create traction and customer loyalty. A number of traders on social media have been using them in Zimbabwe to good effect.

      1. Promotions and discounts? Lol remember my point of there being no level playing field?
        These people are not running a charity. They are after profit so how can they give discounts and promotions if the price is equal for everyone for a given product? Or maybe they are at the last point of the Eternal cycle. Or maybe it’s a case of fake it till you make it?

  2. I definitely agree with the writer.lets simplify things JUST QUOTE YOUR PRICE.if you are open for negotiations,mention that as well

  3. Empress, I understand your perspective. It is valid. I’m going to assume, with the energy you put in explaining your answer in excruciating detail, that, you maybe a business owner yourself-particularly one that isn’t so keen on sharing prices with their customers. You’ve explained yourself well and I totally understand you. That’s very convenient for the business owner.

    But there’ll always be the other side, the opposite perspective. In this case, I’ll say that it’s that of the shopper. See, I also agree with the perspective of the article. I believe it’s been written from the perspective of the shopper/buyer. When business advice is being dished out, at times it’s said Customer is King. I believe that extends to mean let’s conduct business in a way that’s most convenient for the Customer. I, as a prospective customer in many a case, will tell you this straight. I will 100% trust and will prefer more a seller who comes upfront with a price first without the need to offer the ‘inbox for deals’ thing. It’s convenient for me – a customer. But I understand in Zimbabwe, where things are topsy turvy, the expectation is opposite in most cases: Seller is King, us Customers are meant to be subject tothe Seller, to do whatever is convenient to the seller. Again, I totally understand and agree to accept what I can’t change, and keep on going to the Seller who’ll tell me the price upfront and not have to invite me ‘kuseri’ so that I can just know how much a product is. At most times, people are so bisy they’re not even online to attend to you query.

  4. Usually if you DM, or call, you are given a set price. It is silly to hide this price, even from your competition, because competitors will just DM you to ask your latest price.

    If anything is negotiable, usually it the “rate” otherwise I’ve found prices to be rigid. Even where haggling is possible, the margin is too narrow to justify concealing prices.

    Personally, I prefer an upfront price, it allows quick decision making, especially if I’m just curious or making comparisons.

    I also get peace of mind, anyone who has had prices change on arrival understands what I mean. When you call you get price A, then when you arrive you start being told that was a mistake, it’s actually A + something (never is the price been lower than initially stated). Putting your price upfront avoids these “communication errors”.

    Anyone claiming the market is vicious and competitive, doesn’t understand that they are losing a lot of business. Getting queries via DMs and calls all day may fool you into thinking your product is generating a lot of buzz, when in fact those queries do not actually convert into sales. You could actually be doing other productive tasks, instead of typing all day on social media.

    1. It’s also annoying to both the seller and the buyer, to ask for each and every price. How much are the Nikes? What about the Timbalands? And, the blue ones? And, the blacks ones? Oh, sorry, I called earlier, just noticed you have tan ones, how much are those?

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