Sunday, May 29, 2022

Botswana’s shoppers among least sophisticated in SADC

Alongside Mozambique, Botswana shoppers are the least sophisticated in Southern Africa, making them easy prey for businesspeople who never turn down an opportunity to turn a shoppers’ pockets inside out.

In its 2013/14 Global Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum uses less forthright language but essentially conveys the same message.

The WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index measures the microeconomic and macroeconomic foundations of national competitiveness and one quite interesting indicator under the “goods market efficiency” pillar is “buyer sophistication” which considers how buyers make purchasing decisions.

“Market efficiency … depends on demand conditions such as customer orientation and buyer sophistication. For cultural or historical reasons, customers may be more demanding in some countries than in others. This can create an important competitive advantage, as it forces companies to be more innovative and customer-oriented and thus imposes the discipline necessary for efficiency to be achieved in the market,” the Competitiveness Report says.

The buyer sophistication measure is based on a scale that ranges from “based solely on the lowest price” to “based on a sophisticated analysis of performance attributes.”

WEF has partner institutes ranged around the globe and in Botswana, works with the Botswana National Productivity Centre. The latter conducts interviews with a select group of respondents and one of the questions asked is: “In your country, how do buyers make purchasing decisions? [1 = based solely on the lowest price; 7 = based on a sophisticated analysis of performance attributes.” For a mean of 3.4, Botswana scored 2.8 and was placed at position 118 from a total of 148 countries that were surveyed. This is among the lowest rankings for a Southern African Development Community country. Also languishing at the bottom are Mozambique (122) and Angola (127). If it is any consolation, the least sophisticated shoppers among the countries that were surveyed are those in Guinea.

In Botswana, how might this lack of sophistication manifest itself? All too often, food sold at low prices is a health hazard because it would have gone bad.

At least in the case of some retailers, low prices are used for a scam. These retailers advertise low-price sales but actually increase the prices on the gamble that buyers – who will turn out in large numbers, would not cross-check.

On the opposite end is a price scam that involves hiking prices on the gamble that buyers would associate high prices with quality.
However, some of the report’s findings will confound readers. Those who have been to Zimbabwe will attest to the superiority of customer service standards in that country and expect it to score above Botswana in this particular area.

A few years ago, a fast-food worker at South Ring mall in Gaborone was heard to remark: “Customers make me sick!” While a majority of other service providers may not actually verbalise their feelings, they generally have a customers-make-me-sick attitude.

This notwithstanding, the “degree of customer orientation” indicator, which measures how well companies treat customers on a scale ranging from “indifferent to customer satisfaction” to “highly responsive to customers and seeking customer retention”, places Botswana (121) above Zimbabwe (133).

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