Afroplan: 21st Century Coupons

afroplan

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Afroplan is a new online and mobile platform that connects users in Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo with grocery store chains to learn about discounts and promotions in real-time.

Big-box grocery stores are still a relatively new phenomenon in developing countries. Until just a few years ago, the vast majority of citizens living in even the metropolitan areas of such countries did their grocery shopping in locally-run markets filled with locally or regionally sourced foods. With the increase in chain grocery stores around the world, shoppers are adapting to the “one-stop-shop” mentality, including the concept of discounts and promotions.

Coupon Cutting in the Digital Age

Afroplan is a new mobile and online platform created by Cletus Razakou, a young Ivorian-Togolese digital expert and app developer. Afroplan bridges the gap between retailers and consumers by allowing users to input their personal data, such as location and material interests, and alerting them when a near-by retailer has a discount on a relevant item. While currently present only in three West African nations, a region home to 37 or 13% of Africa’s commercial centers, Afroplan is available on all smartphone platforms.

Users are able to input all varieties of material interests, from specific food items to the latest tablet, and are able to make informed choices about the right time to buy. Razakou was frustrated by the lack of communication between retailers and consumers regarding promotions, and realized that if a platform were created where retailers and consumers could alert one another about promotions, more Africans would benefit from these bargains.

This not only benefits consumers, but benefits retailers: many stores experience financial losses due to the expiry of food-products or to the fast turnover of tastes and preferences in material goods. Stores are now able to inform a broader range of consumers about potential savings while ridding themselves of soon-to-be-obsolete stock.

Benefits for All

The platform works through a two-pronged approach: the first is that supermarkets and other retailers are charged a flat fee to post individual promotions. The second is that sellers can purchase specialized advertising space to reach a broader range of consumers, including those who have not specifically listed a product as one of their interests. This is not only beneficial for the app as a money-making scheme, but is beneficial to retailers: the more specialized advertising they purchase, the more people see their products, and the more people will be interested in purchasing a discounted item, even if they had not listed it as a preferred item. In this way, retailers are able to expand their consumer base by creating a culture of desire while preventing losses incurred from expired and unsold products.

Of course, users benefit as well: they are now able to make informed choices about how to best-spend their hard-earned money. Consumers are able to choose from eight categories of goods: fashion, home decor, electronics, beauty, telephones, infant/baby, food, and overstock items.

Initial Challenges

Creating an app for an emerging industry is not without its challenges. Razakou said that the main challenges during this process were financial. It was challenging, Razakou said, to publicize the platform to potential clients (stores) and users in an efficient manner in all three countries, because they had not yet received investments from clients. Fortunately, Afroplan’s initial success indicates that financial barriers may no longer be prohibitive for expansion.

The Future of Bargaining?

Afroplan is an interesting, innovative approach to discount consumption. Connecting users in real-time to see the latest discounts is a new way to encourage consumption in West Africa, and, for those living in areas with supermarkets that opt to work with Afroplan, could lead to substantial savings on big ticket items. Unlike shopping at a local African market, buyers are not generally able to bargain in a supermarket, which takes the power away from the consumer. Afroplan gives shoppers some modicum of power when supermarkets are growing in popularity and number. No longer do citizens of Senegal, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire have to choose between the convenience of a one-stop-shop and the potentially low prices of shopping at good-specific markets.

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