Understanding The South African Consumer
While the internet is a veritable treasure trove of information on developed markets like the UK and the USA, it can be tricky trying to tap into relevant, contemporary wisdom about local consumers – their likes, dislikes, buying habits and where they spend their (physical or digital) time.
That isn’t to say that the information is impossible to find, or even that there aren’t areas of overlap between local and international consumers, but if you’re trying to tap into a market, you’d best know as much about that market as you can.
How Is The South African Consumer Different?
Millennials are the consumers that almost every brand currently has in their crosshairs – and it’s little wonder. By 2025, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s workforce will be made up of millennials. That’s a lot of purchasing power.
But the thing is, a vast majority of online resources and expert opinions focus on the American millennial with a bit of leftover attention given to her European counterpart. If you’re targeting South Africans while assuming American consumer expectations, you might find your messaging misses the mark.
Like their global counterparts, South African millennials are better educated than older generations, with a more narcissistic focus on themselves. They expect transparency from the brands they engage with, and they want their individualistic needs to be met by products and innovations that cater to their personal quirks and desire for status.
The country’s unstable economic landscape and ongoing problems with crime have made an inedible mark on its consumers and their purchasing behaviours.
Where South Africa diverges from global norms is in our consumers’ relative focus on safety and security. Our financial uncertainty, employment insecurity and relatively negative outlook on the wider economic prospects of the future are also dictating factors in the deciding how, why and on what we will spend our money.
South Africans are cautious consumers. We don’t mind paying extra for quality, but we do not charge into purchasing decisions without due consideration. With many living from paycheck-to-paycheck, the value of a purchase is not measured so much in the direct cost of the product or service, but rather in its overall quality and additional benefits.
For businesses to dominate in this market requires that they consistently deliver quality over quantity and that their marketing and promotional materials adopt a voice of authenticity.
How Do We Use Social Media?
Speaking of authenticity, average South Africans spend three hours a day on their favourite social platforms, specifically Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Like everyone else, we use social media to reach out to the world, keep up to date with what our friends and families are up to, and, of course, keep track of our favourite brands.
In terms of maintaining the perception of transparency, social media is a great place for brands to engage with their consumers. If you’re involved in communities initiatives, have a new and innovative product/service or you just want to give your page’s fans their fifteen minutes of fame, social media is a great way for South African brands to build awareness and develop a lasting relationship with their target markets.
Be honest, socially aware and helpful in your social messaging and you’ll go a long way with the South African consumer.
How Brand Conscious Is South Africa?
South African consumers are very brand conscious and historically, have always been very brand loyal. Due to mind-set and environmental changes, the latter of those two qualities has been diminishing in recent years.
Brand loyalty has somewhat fallen to the wayside as consumers, specifically millennials, are encouraged to live for themselves and to focus on exploring new experiences and trying new products.
It is a disruptor’s market and innovative, interactive brands that appeal to the audience’s social consciousness and/or their need to feel unique will be the ones to stand out from the crowd.
South Africa’s brand loyalty may be at an all-time low, but companies that consistently deliver quality service and memorable experiences over the long haul, will carve out a place for themselves and be the ones to earn a premium piece of their market’s allegiance.
South African Consumers: Digital And Traditional Media
Digital media has officially overtaken traditional media as a leading South African pastime.
Between social media, smart phones and the absolute ubiquity of the internet in our daily lives, it may not yet be time to abandon traditional media platforms, but you’re long overdue if your organisation has not yet jumped onto the digital bandwagon.
While the reach of television, radio and print publications certainly justify their continued use in marketing and advertising in the country, the fact is that everyone is online – and so you had better be too.
South Africa And eCommerce
Fears of identity theft and other forms of electronic fraud are still keeping some South Africans from treading as far into the digital marketplace as their global peers, but eCommerce is still a rapidly growing industry. Brands that have yet to catch up to the information age, had best give their playbooks another look.
True to the continent-wide trend of digitization, an ever greater number of South Africans are plugging in and logging on. While this trend has been somewhat stunted by high data costs compared to our neighbours, it remains an inevitable shift.
The local market has been more forgiving than most, the time is fast approaching when a lack of a comprehensive online presence will be crippling rather than just inconvenient for your business.
As taxes go up and the country continues to navigate choppy economic waters, expect more and more savvy South African shoppers to head online and cast off old brand loyalties as they browse multiple retailers in the hunt for budget-easing bargains.
South African Consumer Expectations
While brand loyalty is in a state of flux, consumers’ expectations of their brands are at an all-time high.
In South Africa, brands are expected to be self-aware, socially conscious, transparent, trendy and engaging. Experiences matter more than possessions, and social shareability is paramount. Reduced purchasing power hasn’t turned us into thrifty so much as considered consumers, and South Africans will buy products less for their low cost than for their perceived quality and durability.
Local consumers are better educated than ever before, but are also level-headed and practical – don’t talk to South Africans like they’re stupid, just treat them like they matter. How you talk to South African consumers and how much thought you’ve put into engaging them and creating a pleasant customer experience matters as much, if not more than the specific product or service you provide.
If these seem like high expectations for a company to meet, worry not. That is why Wetpaint is here – we understand the local market and keep our fingers pressed to the pulse of South African consumer sentiment. Our messages are crafted for a South African audience, our designs created according to South African sensibilities and our targeting is continually refined around locally relevant analytics in order to reach out to the most qualified market for your products and/or services.
We know our industry, we know our market and we know our nation.