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Covid-19 creates fundamental shifts in Africa’s consumers

The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to a new kind of African consumer who is already displaying fundamental shifts in consumption and purchase behaviour driven by factors such as heightened health awareness, a focus on quality and safety, a renewed desire to stay at home and a tight wallet squeeze.

As a result of this a recent Nielsen industry webinar navigating the New Normal discussed the realities and effects of this rapidly evolving outlook. Speaking during the webinar, Nielsen Africa MD Bryan Sun outlined the consumer evolution since the onset of the pandemic and the fact that crisis-buying patterns have accelerated the adoption of permanent behaviour change.

“As the prospect of looming lockdowns first hit, consumers realised they needed to stock up which saw a spike in store visits, stockpiling of shelf staples and growing basket sizes. However, as restricted living became more common place, there was a change in behaviour with consumers seeking out products without putting their health at risk.

“We have therefore seen growth in online shopping, declining store visits and a rise in out of stocks. Supply chain challenges have also driven consumers to be less price sensitive on high demand packaged goods or those that guarantee hygiene standards,” explained Sun.

The expectation is that once quarantines lift and consumers return to “business as usual” they will continue to operate with a renewed consciousness about health, which will remain for a long time. There will also be shifts in the way consumers perceive products with the increased importance of safety and efficacy claims, and a willingness to spend more on hygiene needs and healthy foods.

Future mindsets

As countries move from restricted living to precautionary living, Nielsen has also created an in-depth view of current and future SSA consumer mindset and purchase patterns based on learnings from other markets:

Heightened health awareness will drive consumers to be less price sensitive on high demand packaged goods or those that guarantee hygiene standards as food safety becomes paramount to consumers.

The renewed desire to stay at home and the preparation of home meals might require brand extensions and a need to address declining store visits, growth in online and proximity shopping.

As consumers are impacted by less income and smaller purchasing wallets, value for money offerings and more aggressive promotions – over that of just in-store promotions – are needed.

ecommerce growth has reached double digits in many countries with Italy at 82%, China 50%, and Korea 30% where older shoppers are trying ecommerce for the first time. Technology catalysts are driving behavioural change and will penetrate the market despite previous scepticism around this platform.

Looking to the future, Sun commented that the path to recovery means retailers must urgently look at factors such as pricing mechanisms and brand relationships in order to maintain and strengthen consumer trust in their brand.

“Successful retail regeneration across the continent, following the impact of COVID-19 on the African consumer and retail landscape, will rely on an agile and innovative response that sets the groundwork for a future unlike any we have ever known.” Report by Mediaink Communications

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