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How Yazi's research saved Yoco R2 million - from building an app no one would use

Yazi's survey uncovers that informal trader merchants would not use an app to track debtors
Nobody wants to build an app unnecessarily. Not only are you flushing your capital down the toilet, but you're wasting precious time to get ahead of competitors. On top of all of that, building an app that nobody likes can be compared to thousands of Instagram comments telling you that your baby is ugly - it's emotionally draining.
Recently we partnered with Yoco to find out whether their audience would actually use an app that they were on the verge of creating. Turns out - you guessed it - that they didn't. And Yoco's data driven attitude along with our market research tool, saved them the money, time and emotional distress.
Believe it or not, an app isn't always the answer. And it's imperative that you find out whether it is before you build it.

“I love having a partner that can give insight into the informal sector”

Catherine Collins Senior Product Manager

Business Objectives

To validate whether keeping track of debtors and bookkeeping is a problem for merchants in the informal market.


Yoco validated that there is not sufficient demand for Bookkeeping and debtor tracking product features.

The client:

Yoco is a growing African Fintech, enabling people to thrive through open commerce. Founded in 2015, Yoco now processes over US$2 billion annually, and is the payments provider for over 200 000 self-employed.

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Pain point

Customers pay on credit but don’t have an easy way to track who has paid and who has not.
Keeping track of money in and money out is clunky and inaccurate for a small business owner in the informal market.

Research Objectives

Understand if and how merchants offer credit to their customers
Market size. Ave. debtors per merchant p/m & % who lend
Market size. Average loan amount per customer
Discovery. Method for keeping track of debtors
Painpoint. Hardest thing about lending to customers
Understand the pains around bookkeeping
How often they record or update their finances
Rating for how easy bookkeeping is
Method for keeping track of finances
Hardest thing about bookkeeping

Research Method

The survey was conducted with a sample of 400 business owner merchants in South Africa. The survey was carried out entirely through WhatsApp, the app with the highest penetration of mobile owners in South Africa. This enables Yazi to reach the best representation of the SA population digitally. The respondents completed the survey from 14 - 19 Jan 2022.

Survey question design

16 questions were asked in total: 10x Single and multi-select multiple choice, 2x Open text, 2x Image/picture response and 2x Rating questions.
The image questions asked for a picture of the place where merchants keep track of their debtors and bookkeeping (Costs & revenue). These questions would enabled Yoco to get a very tangible sense of how merchants record their financial information.

How WhatsApp surveys work

The survey consisted of open text and multiple-choice questions. For multiple choice questions, survey participants respond in any of the 3 ways: (1) by sending the answer text or (2) the number that represents the answer or (3) button options in WhatsApp. See in the image example.

Acquiring the respondents

Yazi has a combined database of 6 million people that have signed up on WhatsApp and agreed to receive survey updates/notifications. Participants elected to do the survey after receiving a notification in WhatsApp. The incentive for participants who qualified and completed the survey was R100 each, paid out in a voucher currency, .

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Audience surveyed

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Yazi uncovered that 49% of informal business owners keep track of their debtors and finances in a book.
60% said they'd like their debtors to be notified when payments were due.
50% only allow R1 - R200 to be purchased only credit
28% do not offer credit to their customers. When asked why, 37% said “I stopped, too many people didn’t pay me back”.
30% found keeping track of finances (money in and out) very difficult

If YES, how do you keep track of who owes you money?
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Business type by % Sell on credit & % Lend to above 10 customers
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Sell on credit: 61% who operate a Spaza/Tuckshop business (n = 102)
Lend to 10+ customers: 53% who operate a Tavern/Shebeen business (n = 54)

Please send a picture of where you keep track of your debtors?
Yoco debtor photos (1).png

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Ultimately, the sample of merchants surveyed would not have found a debtor tracking app valuable. Or they may have found it somewhat valuable but were unlikely to remember to do it or be able to stick to it. The data revealed that merchants weren’t lending to that many people and were lending very small amounts of money. Only 9% of merchants selected ‘keeping track of debtors’ in a question asking for their 2 hardest aspects of lending.
Market size:
Only 38% merchants sell on credit
Market size:
80% merchants only lend to 1-10 customers
Market size:
50% merchants only lend up to R200
66% listed borrowers paying back late
Developer salaries and time are not cheap. It is estimated that it would have cost Yoco R2m to build and release the app in market that ultimately, no one would have used.

“Wasn’t expensive at all - we could do more and more. Another great thing was the photos - they told such a beautiful story of the way the store owner was recording data and gave a lot of colour to the answers.”

Catherine Collins Senior Product Manager

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