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The rise (and fall) of online services in Mauritius

By Ashley Ittoo
Managing Director & Founder at Diizz Interactive

There is this meme going viral on the internet. Who drove digital transformation in your company: the CEO, the CTO or COVID-19? In Mauritius, maybe more than everywhere else, we can say it’s the latter.

As part of our business offerings, in the past, I have proposed mobile apps to several businesses who didn’t show interest in it at that time. Barriers were that it was a big investment and they could not see any added value.

For example, the local bar did not see why it should invest in an app when every Friday, it was packed with people. Same for the theater that says Facebook advertising is working well.

Engaging on the digital journey is all about extending the relationship you have with your customers while adding value that is complementary to your regular offer.

In Mauritius, during the last 5 years, there has fortunately been a shift towards the 2.0 economy.

The best and most successful example is MariDeal. We also have other retailers like PriceGuru361.mu, courts.mu, etc. who are gaining more or less traction. Winner’s and MedActiv came up with interesting offers that added value for customers.

 

But awareness and use of the digital economy was really brought by our little monster COVID-19. Because it was a question of survival.

How did it start?

On March 20th, the country went on lockdown. People were panic-buying a few days prior and after. On March 24th, complete lockdown was imposed, with all stores closed. Distributors with special permits were allowed to deliver basic necessities. People had to order either by phone or WhatsApp. But very rapidly, they moved to online platforms, and those started sprouting everywhere.

Customers were offered 2 or 3 basic packs, with no choice as to individual items. This was most probably done for logistic and supply reasons.

However, in this time of crisis, many best practices like user experience or server capacity were left aside, which led to many frustrations from the client’s side. Servers were down, there was no visibility on payments & delivery…. At that point, customers did not care about what was in the pack or what brands were composing their cart.

 

After complete lockdown

After the lockdown was lifted, things changed a bit…distributors of “comfort food” started operating : biscuits, chocolates, alcohol… Customers started questioning the price – was the pack value for money? People started questioning the service as well. Was it delivered on time? Was the delivery person well protected? Was it contactless delivery? To this, distributors needed to react. For example, Scott limited orders to 200 per day, so that delivery could be made within 72 hours, hence enhancing customer experience.

Post-COVID

We can inevitably say that COVID-19 has catalysed the island’s digital transformation. Mauritians have tasted the digital economy and are keen to adopt it, but not in its current state. Offers will evolve so that it brings value to the customer as competition will also arise.

During COVID-19, distributors have been more in the limelight compared to supermarkets. This was because they were logistically ready to handle orders and delivery. What will happen post-lockdown is that supermarkets will take over once more, for several obvious reasons:

  1. People will go back to doing their grocery shopping in 2 or 3 places, not 10. They go to these places as they know they will get all their necessities there.
  2. People will not want to replicate delivery fees for the same family of goods.
  3. When everybody is at home, it’s easy to receive deliveries. When work resumes, it will be more complicated unless there is someone always at home.

Therefore, businesses will need to be creative. They will need to bring value, a valid reason why customers will need to order online from them. Plausible reasons:

  1. The product is a niche product: organic, rare, specialised, etc.
  2. Provide value for money. Selling in packs or bulk can still be valid. Think of family events like birthdays and weddings, where buying bulk products at a discounted rate will be preferred.
  3. The product is cumbersome, like water gallons, or domestic gas.

Businesses will also need to be innovative, provide a seamless customer journey and give customers what they want.

 

The User Experience will be key. That means ease of use cross-platform (desktop/mobile). Look and feel should be trustworthy and security on data and payment should be well communicated.

The online platform is not the sole piece involved in a great user experience. Customer service is an essential component as well: respecting delivery schedule, providing an effective after-sales service and so on. Right now Emirates is selling tickets with conditions never seen before, including options that used to cost a fortune.

Responding to clients’ needs and giving them what they actually want will make a difference in the long run.

Innovation and Digital Marketing

Once the basics are tackled (UI, UX, Customer service), brands will need to invest in innovation.

In other markets where e-commerce is already mature, there is a set of tools that already exist and are in use: helping customers decide, compare prices, make wishlists, share on social media and so on.

In Mauritius, one month later, the landscape is already competitive and we see how small details will make a difference in the long run. Mauriveg will send a message saying: “Our truck is in your area tomorrow. Do you need anything?” This completely makes sense and provides a useful customer experience. Or Scott sending an SMS saying your order has been dispatched, gives visibility and enhances the experience.

More advanced features include saving best fares for a period of time or reserving your seat for a show with a minimal fee and ability to cancel if needed. Some startups like Zplintr have come up with solutions to make you share the payment among a group of people. Let’s say there is a beverage combo at Rs 3000, you can buy it along with some friends and instead of one person paying the full price, split payments are made possible for the group, so that Person A pays Rs 1500, person B Rs 500 and person C Rs 1000.

Digital marketing will also be of utmost importance. Tracking number of visits, cart abandonment, returning visitors, conversion rates, retargeting campaigns…all these will help optimise the sales process.

So what’s next?

Digital will offer a multitude of opportunities to businesses, especially the creative ones. Mauritius will see innovative solutions sprout. Innovation will not only be digital but will also occur in services. Let’s not forget we are humans and we will still need to connect with humans, especially in conflict resolving situations.

Diizz is a Creative & Digital Agency specialized in User Interfaces & Experience. Do you have a platform that needs to be optimised? Do you have an idea and want to discuss feasibility? Whatever your challenge, we’d be more than happy to discuss.

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