Sunday, January 25, 2015

Zoona Consumer Roadshow 2015 - Zambia

In January 2015, the first action point for the Consumer Insights team was to conduct a wide array of consumer focus groups in several different towns across Zambia. I must admit I was very excited, and a little anxious, about heading out into parts of Zambia I had yet to explore. 

This presented the perfect opportunity not only to learn more about Zoona’s consumer base, but to also develop a better understanding of what Zambia looks and feels like. So the towns were picked, and although we couldn’t fit the entire country into our one week of travel, we were about to get an in-depth introduction into Central, Copperbelt, and Northwestern provinces. 
Saviour The Mechanic

The trip began for me in Lusaka where Saviour and I would drive to Ndola (about a 5 hour trip) to pick up Megan and Fearne, who were arriving from South Africa the following day. As we drove out of Lusaka, and through Kabwe, I was struck by how beautiful the countryside is during the height of the rainy season. Everything was so green and vibrant. Once we collected Fearne and Megan from the airport, the true journey really began. I can’t think of a better (or at the very least more revealing) way to get to know your colleagues than by buckling your seatbelt and strapping in for what would be approximately 18 hours in a car together over the course of one week. If this isn’t the definition of “Making it Real” then I don’t know what is! 

Anyways, back to the important stuff: Consumer Insights!
In each of the towns we visited we did two things:
  1. We walked around the town visiting the booths.
  2. We held consumer focus groups.

So we set off from the airport, having collected Megan and Fearne, and set off for our first destination: Solwezi. Although warned before-hand by a few of our colleagues who had previously done this drive about the condition of the roads, I still don’t think any of us were prepared for what we were about to experience. Having left Kitwe late in the afternoon, we hit the part of the road that was in the worst condition just as it was getting dark! Cue Massive Thunderstorm. I have skydived, I have bungee jumped, but I must say driving this stretch of unpaved road full of potholes in the pitch black, in a downpour of rain definitely tops my list of ‘thrilling’ experiences. So just to give some context, the reason that I have spent so much time describing these first few hours of the trip is because in my mind it set the tone for the rest of the trip. It gave us massive insight into what it means to drive 50km on an unpaved road full of potholes (which even in the best of conditions would not be an easy feat) in a more rural part of Zambia. It allowed us to contemplate more realistically the challenges that face the communities located along these stretches of road many kilometres away from the nearest town, and bank. Relative to this first car ride up to Solwezi, the rest of the driving that week was a breeze!

A note about the focus groups:
They were each organised by the aggregator agent based in the area, and I am so proud of Angela, Sandra, Paul, and Misozi for doing an amazing job in bringing these events together from the location to the group of participants.
Well done Paul, Misozi, Angela and Sandra for organising top notch focus groups.
What I enjoyed most:
Great looking Zoona kiosks
I very much enjoyed getting to walk around and get a real feel for the towns we were visiting, and what doing transactions at Zoona outlets in these towns really looked like and felt like. I spoke both with Zoona consumers outside of outlets, and strangers who may have never even heard of Zoona before. The major insight I gained from conversations at the outlets is that casual consumers were relatively happy with the Zoona service and mostly used it for business purposes or to support their families, and that everyone from students to lawyers to housewives use Zoona in some way to access financial services.

Surprising insights:
Something that surprised me from my conversations with strangers (which consisted of me going up to random people asking if they knew where I could send money) was that fewer of them used or had heard of Zoona than I expected. Actually, the majority of them pointed me in the direction of Shoprite, which in their words is the cheapest and therefore best. This was a huge eye opener for me because I personally had been very unaware of how Shoprite was actually affecting our business through competition on the ground. All in all these casual conversations proved very fruitful and were a great way to meet present (and hopefully future!) Zoona consumers.

Focus group learnings:
Finally, we come to the focus groups (wasn’t this the whole point of the trip to begin with?!). I think it was great that we undertook these events for our Zoona consumers. It provided us with in-depth insights into how our top consumers interact with and use our product while also allowing us to show our appreciation to our top consumers.

In conclusion:
These sessions allowed us to understand and interact with our consumers in a way that isn't feasible over the phone or even in casual surveys outside of outlets. I really enjoyed hearing about consumers’ first experiences using Zoona and how they had heard about it. I found it enlightening to hear about how the quality of customer service from tellers was inconsistent, and how regular consumers wanted to be recognized as more than a casual consumer with promotions or discounts. It was like we got an all access pass to everything Zoona, in it’s everyday existence. We can now move forward in a productive direction and provide our consumers with exactly the products and improvements that would help them most. Zoona has built a strong foundation for itself, and is clearly appreciated by it’s consumers. I think that through the insights gained on this roadshow, Zoona has empowered itself to truly “make it real” for it’s consumers.

The crazy Zoona team with Sandra

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