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How to build solutions with a sense of inclusion of the informal economy

Bringing your business to informal markets

There’s money on the streets, but many startups are leaving it on the table. In what unique ways can today’s entrepreneurs think about the informal economy to create value for these markets while extracting value for their startups and business ventures?

The 21st Century is still evolving and introducing new solutions to bridge the gap between informal markets and technology, especially in the area of commerce in Africa. It is obvious that we need a different psychology and approach in order to thrive and excel in informal markets. Here is why.

1. The Informal Economy is not Trusting. 

The Informal economy, due to improper regulations have been deceived one way or the other over and over again by products and solutions that did not seem to work too well for what they promised. They have learned over time to become smarter and be on the lookout for another disappointing experience. They don’t trust anyone anymore and have become rather skeptical than before. So in introducing any product or solution, your focus should be on building solutions that offer your clients no reason to doubt your business.

How to build solutions with a sense of inclusion of the informal economy

A way to deal with this is to be detailed and open as you possibly can with your product information. Be clear and concise and do not promise more than you offer.

How to build solutions with a sense of inclusion of the informal economy

For example, if you are into clothing or footwear, consider attaching or providing a size guide or size chart to your products to inform your customers about different sizes and measurements to expect, etc.

2. The Informal economy is mobile-oriented.

Another thing to consider is that the informal sector is mobile-oriented. And any solution you want to roll out there must have a Mobile first design. And this is important thinking and fundamental to the solution. For example in the design of the user experience, you basically have to have Mobile first thinking. This translates that it is important for your UI/UX team designing the solution to design mobile interfaces first before they think of other interfaces for tablets and, or PCs. That’s because things have changed drastically now, and about 80% of the way your solution will be accessed will be through Mobile and mostly through Android* if not exaggerating. So definitely that would be an area to target and focus on.

How to build solutions with a sense of inclusion of the informal economy

And of course, data consumption is also very important. You want to have a solution that is not going to consume data. Implementing PWA (Progressive Web Application) models to optimize how content is served and delivered in a way that consumes fewer data and resources of the user is an ideal way to go.

3. Face-to-face Support Systems.

By default, the informal sector loves face-to-face and when it comes to support, you want to build Support solutions has an element of people or humans. This is influenced by everyday dealings in the informal market. They hate talking to robots or hate talking to complicated systems that make it look like they are talking to a big head office.

Mind you, these are guys that are normally intimidated first thing they walk into a bank branch, and they see the lady wearing suit to attend to them in customer support. And you’re bringing a solution to them and you’re telling them to call a customer care line where they first of all have to listen to some music, and somebody now talks to them in one clean English language that makes them wonder whether you’re from Buckingham palace. This is not really going to work too well.

You need to build a solution where there’s some level of contact. Because this informal market reacts better when they know they have a direct communication with real people and even more preferably in their local language. Of course they can speak English. And that is not to discredit them but speaking English to them in their own particular dialect or accent, or even switching to their local dialect creates immeasurable comfort and makes it easier for them to engage with you much better.

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