Zimbabwe went into the first lockdown in the wake of coronavirus a little over a year ago. Restrictions have since been relaxed. Lockdown did leave its mark on the nation and some of the changes will be with us for a very long time if not forever. As people interested in business we should have a look at some of these changes with a view to how we can use the knowledge to our benefit. This applies if you have a business idea, are currently running a business or have simply been toying with the idea of getting into the business. The information we will discuss here should be part of your decision-making process.
eCommerce getting a serious go
Let’s be frank, eCommerce hasn’t worked in Zimbabwe. At least on the large scale and in the pure sense of completely online transactions. eCommerce has worked in smaller hybrid contexts such as selling via WhatsApp. Our cashless by force financial system has aided in making that easier. When lockdown descended upon us big businesses had to start thinking about eCommerce adoption seriously. And a lot of businesses took the route of using what has worked, Whatsapp based selling. We still have a long way to go but perhaps the lockdown was the kick that essential parts of the eCommerce chain needed. Zimbabwe’s problem isn’t internet access or payments, though they could certainly be improved. Logistics are the biggest problem with a lack of trust in the postal system and expensive and inefficient alternatives. With big businesses in the shape of Rainbow Tourism group, OK and Edgars walking down this path the numbers may support improve logistics solutions.
The investments that people made in home improvements were perhaps one of the better surprises we experienced during the lockdown. There will always be debate whether this will stick and how long but it is certainly a trend that is with us now. The opportunities going forward are plenty for businesses whether you are supplying furniture, home decor supplies or other household items. We need to bear in mind that while we are taking the first steps to get out of lockdown nothing is guaranteed. So this may only be the head of a trend that has a very long tail to it.
As millennials move to dominate the productive sectors of the population their buying power is impacting industry like never before. Millennials have a massive appreciation for the simplification of things. They live more complicated lives than the generation before them and that is before we throw in specifically Zimbabwean issues. One thing millennials across the world have shown a preference to is having food delivered and that both ready to eat food and groceries. So it’s safe to say lockdown wasn’t the reason for this trend but certainly amplified it. As we go through the teething problems Zimbabwe will experience a boom in food delivery eCommerce.
Zimbabwean artists have in recent years had a decent grasp on the power of online media for entertainment. There’s so much you can do online to entice the audience beyond countdowns to album launches. Of course, we as a nation were not ready for lockdown and what it meant. People needed entertainment more than ever and the entertainers did not disappoint. As things normalise we should see a trend where artists especially in music continue to push online entertainment and perhaps a step further. Film and TV have not been so fortunate as lockdown really affected production where music has a much easier time in the production process.
Cooking in the home
We’ve always cooked at home. Well, I hope we have always cooked at home. However when lockdown hit it brought out the inner chef in many people. With restaurants closed and people, yearning for some delicious food cooking in the home was the only way. And it really took root. This is perhaps one of the less sticky changes that lockdown created but there’s reason to believe it will stick with enough people. Speciality ingredients sellers were certainly enjoying their pick of business during the hard lockdown and even now as lockdown has softened and we start to open up.
Health and hygiene
Finally, going forward the impact of lockdown on our thinking about health and hygiene in public spaces is another trend that I feel will be with us for the medium term at least. I for one would be happy if they kept sanitising our hands upon entry until Kingdom come. I’m sure I’m not alone. From a business point of view, those in health and hygiene supplies are only seeing the beginning of what will be a very lucrative period in the business. This also has implications for businesses that entertain large numbers of the public, hygiene will matter to customers more. This will certainly impact costs.
There are many other ways lockdown has changed the business environment but these in my estimation will change the way we do business for some time to come. Which others can you think of?