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Econet launches mobile grocery facility using its mobile wallet EcoCash

Friday 27 March 2015 | 15:01 CET | Background

Zimbabwean operator Econet has added a new feature to its EcoCash wallet: grocery shopping. In association with National Foods EcoCash customers can use their mobile wallet to order predesigned grocery baskets, for example for their families in rural areas, but also for themselves.

Econet started EcoCash in 2011 and has so far managed to attract around 4 million users (out of its 9 million subscribers). According to the regulator there were 4.9 million mobile money users in Zimbabwe at the end of Q3 2014, so Econet clearly is the largest mobile money provider in the country. It is also the largest mobile provider in Zimbabwe, with around 60 percent market share.

The grocery facility offers customers the choice of six food baskets, ranging from EUR 18 for the Quick Meal basket to EUR 137 for the food baskets and  EUR 272 for the Grow Your Own basket. This most expensive basket is meant for poultry rearing and includes 100 day old chicks plus stock feed, equipment and a guide book on poultry production.

As Econet is a mobile operator and not a retailer it has teamed up with National Foods, and its products feature heavily amongst the food baskets. Customers can choose from 46 National Foods locations across the country as their pick-up point. An EcoCash customer buying the groceries for someone else has to enter the person’s name, phone number and ID number and can leave a short message too (on the website version, as Telecompaper cannot verify the other order options). The recipient can pick up the groceries without any extra costs.

Econet is offering the grocery ordering facility via apps (currently Android, soon also iOS), its website and USSD code. According to Econet the smartphone penetration on its network has just risen above the 15 percent. The latest quarterly report from the regulator dates from Q3 2014, but indicates that there are around 6 million mobile users accessing the internet via GPRS or higher technologies. Econet is the first operator to have started rolling out LTE in Zimbabwe, but the number of LTE base stations is still very limited. Fixed broadband is barely used so the most of the mobile internet usage will happen via GPRS, EDGE and 3G. It can therefore be expected that most of the orders will initially go via USSD and the website, instead of the apps.

According to Econet, it is exploring partnerships with other producers to expand the number of products on offer. This useful new service is the first in Zimbabwe to go beyond the more established uses of a mobile wallet: money transfer and bill payments. It seems to be the first real effort to drive e-commerce/m-commerce, which of course should benefit Econet through increased data usage on its mobile network.



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