The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new era where it is not business as usual. Lockdowns and the hesitation of people to be outdoors have shifted the field of commerce. The new normal is that people now look for things online. Businesses are scrambling to get a piece of the online world because that is where customers now look for products and services. Locally eCommerce has always been a very fallow ground with only just a few players. This has mainly been due to the fact that most businesses have been accustomed to brick mortar models. Given this pandemic, the heightened need to adapt to the new normal has become inevitably imperative. Herein I look at how some local businesses are adapting their business models.
Fresh In A Box (FIAB)
Fresh In A Box has been one of the most iconic eCommerce businesses locally. They are going on 2 years since they started operations but they have become an inspiration for local entrepreneurs looking to start eCommerce businesses. From the onset Fresh In A Box was mainly focusing on fresh meat and farm produce (vegetables mainly). With the increased demand for grocery items online (with a need for home deliveries) FIAB has seen it expedient to scale up its product line by intensifying the grocery front. They have also added on other normally sought after delicacies such as pizza, wines and a whole assortment of beverages amongst plenty others. It is easy for them to add on virtually any products due to an already existing online business model that works.
Online Ordering And Home Deliveries Now Commonplace
Most notable businesses have not done much in as far as adaptation is concerned. Most have simply added online ordering and home delivery framework. Some have incorporated that on their websites. Plenty others have simply provided contact details e.g. emails and call or WhatsApp numbers that people can use to order. Then they have topped that off with home deliveries for added convenience. Some examples of businesses that have introduced such models are Bakers Inn, TN, Schweppes, and Amp Meats just to mention a few. This is not necessarily a preserve for the big players – any business can introduce this model. Recently I placed an order for eggs from a small scale egg producer and they arranged to drop them at my place. That is an example to show you that it need not be that sophisticated.
Thumeza, based in Bulawayo, is a logistics platform that facilitates deliveries for various enterprises. They have two key services that they provide namely, Last-Mile and Intransit. Last-Mile involves the provision of on-demand delivery services. Intransit is a data-driven platform that is used for the optimization of decision-making for enterprises handling logistics. Thumeza is all about using data to drive processes and key decision making for enterprises with respect to logistical activities such as deliveries. As I earlier stated, the demand for basic commodities online has been surging due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thumeza has thus shifted its focus towards doing deliveries of basic commodities such as groceries and LP gas, amongst others. To know more about their services kindly check out their website. Alternatively, you can contact them on +263 773 265 854.
Online Customer Care Service Has Been Increasing Also
It has become prevalent to see more and more businesses making use of online platforms to interact with customers. Traditionally most businesses have been heavily reliant and walk-ins and voice calls for interacting with customers. Due to the pandemic, we have been seeing businesses availing online options for customers to get in touch with them. It is now the norm to see most businesses having WhatsApp platforms for customer care services.
Banks, mobile networks operators (MNOs) along with their mobile money services are some of the businesses that have been increasing their online options for customers. NetOne, for example, recently availed WhatsApp customer assistance numbers namely +263 716 956 393, +263 716 956 301, +263 716 956 329, +263 716 956 378 and +263 712 980 198. Some businesses have even gone on to use digital assistants in the form of chatbots e.g. Hot Recharge service. By WhatsApping Hi to +263 772 700 990 you can be taken through a series of prompts to purchase any airtime using EcoCash. There are, of course, loopholes in using the WhatsApp platform but it is convenient because most people are on WhatsApp. Any business can explore the use of this option to keep in touch with customers, get orders and even receive payments.
Remember that businesses have culled down their physical staff at their premises due to the pandemic. Thus using online platforms such as WhatsApp (especially by using chatbots) circumvents the hurdle of having a skeletal staff for your business’ operations.
The crux of this article is not only to inform you of the newly introduced services that you might be looking for. It is also to inspire you as an entrepreneur to figure ways of keeping your business relevant even in times like these. You have got to take advantage of what you already have – no need to use lots of money. A simple leveraging of WhatsApp can actually do wonders for your business and not even feel the pinch of limitations brought about by this pandemic. All the best in your efforts as you tweak your business models to stay afloat in these uncertain times.