Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates
We are spending more of our lives online than ever before. Working, socializing, gaming, entertainment all happens online now.
The pandemic accelerated this switch and we find ourselves uncomfortable being in the same physical space as other humans.
This has necessitated a change in strategy for all businesses. They now have to contend with a customer pool that hardly leaves house.
We have seen the rise of ecommerce platforms as an answer. Here in Zimbabwe we have seen everything from fully fledged ecommerce platforms to the ever popular Facebook Marketplace hubbaloo.
There has also been activity in the in between. It now looks irresponsible not to have an online store of your own and Zimbabwean companies have been busy.
We checked out Union Hardware‘s revamped online store. The site looks okay and one can navigate well enough.
The site is still under construction though and you can tell. One of the key features of an online store, search, is still a little wonky.
For one, the site still takes a little while to return results and for some items, you may get a sprinkling of random products on the results.
I tried searching for ‘television’ after I marveled that Union Hardware was selling TVs. I got no results for ‘television’ but got some items after searching for ‘TV’ but also got some towel rails and soap holders for some reason.
So, the search functionality needs some work but it’s useable as is. Luckily, you can navigate easily without search. Extra marks for having a proper mobile site.
Union Hardware is targeting those in the diaspora and offering them a way to pay for supplies and have family and friends collect in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is being propped up by its huge diaspora. Remittances in reached US$1.4 billion in 2021. Naturally everyone wants a piece of that pie.
We know that most of our compatriots living abroad often want to build/buy houses back here.
It has always been challenging for them to do that from thousands of kilometres away. There have been many cases of relatives misusing funds sent to acquire building materials.
So, when Union Hardware comes in and gives them the opportunity to pay for the materials directly, that is a huge deal. The relatives need only collect the materials.
Union Hardware only accept VISA and Mastercard at the moment. That right there tells you who the target customer is.
The local customer has not been forgotten though. While you most likely won’t be paying using VISA/Mastercard you can place an order from within Zimbabwe and pay on collection. You won’t have to wait when you get there.
If you know how shopping at huge hardware stores like Union Hardware works you will know it takes a moment to prepare an order. So, a local customer can skip all that by placing an order online.
It’s not just time savings. There are discounts for online customers. There’s not a flat discount rate, they are applied on a product by product basis. However, some products like cement don’t have discounts at the moment.
If you are placing a large order, Union Hardware will deliver to your doorstep on a cash on delivery basis.
This is the work around ecommerce sites are resorting to in Zimbabwe. People have cash but won’t deposit it, making online payments in USD a challenge. Cash on delivery comes with its own challenges though.
Union Hardware is doing that delivery themselves right now but are in talks with FedEx for the future.
We often use those terms interchangeably but technically, there is a difference. Ecommerce encompasses all that goes into operating a business online. Online shopping on the other hand refers to just the selling and purchasing of goods and services online.
Union Hardware is building a warehouse where the online operation will be run from. Right now, logistically, there is no separation between the physical and online operations.
Ecommerce snobs often say until there is that separation, an online store leaves money on the table. The logic? Ecommerce comes with lower personnel costs among other things which allows for cost savings to be passed on to customers.
Most ecommerce sites also double as aggregators where a number of sellers sell their wares. As a result, for a buyer, aggregated platforms are more useful. You can easily compare prices and brands offered by different suppliers.
However, Union Hardware cannot wait until someone aggregates hardware stores to improve their online store.
You can try out the revamped Union Hardware online store, enjoy time and cost savings and tell us what you think about it. If you’re living abroad and looking to build back in Zimbabwe I imagine this should work out well for you.
Zim has a new online store called Kwingy and its data free
Mature local startups have struggled in the “pandemic eCommerce boom”
The state of eCommerce in Zimbabwe: Why we need our own version of Instacart
Without proper local payments API, Zim’s eCommerce & Fintech companies resort to workarounds
The sad thing is that nearly all Zimbabwe online shopping offer a tiny percentage of the inventory available in their brick and mortar stores.
For Hardware the best online store is Halsteds Hardware followed by Bhola hardware. The rest are far behind. Electrosales online store could be better if it was reliable and had better offering from their brick and mortar version.
I forgot Zimbabwe Building Materials Suppliers Zimbabwe online store could have been the best is the site more reliable availability. Sometimes the site is unusable. The online site has an excellent inventory of hardware items.
Completely disagree, the website is far ahead of the likes of their competitors and has with it the ability to navigate through products and branches efficiently – there’s literally 2500 PRODUCTS ONLINE ! It’s a good amount, perhaps more work needed – but much better than others in my view
Not a fair comment. Have you navigated through the website? products show under every category unlike the others? it shows live stocks of what the company has in store at present. which only Halsteds does. but PRICES are far far better.
It’s everything there on promo? Otherwise, their regular prices are insane.
Those are their normal prices I have shopped with them numerous times
Awesome and trustworthy website with good quality products. Have shopped online myself to find it efficient and trustworthy. Would highly recommend, especially those in the diaspora.
Awesome hardware- have shopped online from abroad on numerous occasions. MUST see hardware store. First comment is dumbfounded, Halsteds is also very excellent but their prices are nowhere near that of Union. Quality of products also much better at Union Hardware.
Great hardware store! thanks for the article – new store in Pomona seems to be a work in progress – but big tile selection and range of quality goods.
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