The need for the business community to understand African economic perspectives so as to build lasting connections with consumers in the continent was a major issue discussed at a forum organised by Market Trends International (MIT) in partnership with the European Society for Opinion and Market Research (ESOMAR).
The event with the theme ‘Exploring unique, African economic perspectives’ was the first in its series in Nigeria, but was said to have been hosted in several countries of the world over the last eight years.
Speaking at the forum which took place in Lagos, chairman of Market Trends International, Josiah Ebhomenye explained that the forum hoped to engage their members, local data and research insight communities by offering valuable content and time for interacting and discussing among participants.
Ebhomenye, who is also the country representative of the European Society for Opinion and Market Research further explained that his agency and one other research agency were the only indigenous market research agencies established in the early 70s, adding, that in the recent times both foreign and local research agencies have flooded the market research space in the country.
Speaking on ‘Consumer Connection: Unique African Perspectives,’ senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Lagos, Augustine Agugua described consumer connection as the process of building a strong relationship between a brand and its customers, saying that it involves understanding the needs, preferences, behaviours of consumers and creating experiences that resonate with them.
Agugua observed that the above was particularly true for the African continent, which according to him is home to over 1.3 billion people and a wide range of cultures, languages, and traditions.
According to him, “Understanding African perspectives is important because it enables businesses to create products and services that meet the needs of this diverse market and build lasting connections with African consumers.’’
On the influence of traditional beliefs and spirituality on consumers’ behaviour, he pointed out that many African consumers still hold strong traditional beliefs and spirituality, which he opined can influence their purchasing decisions.
He stated that consumers are often highly brand loyal, particularly to brands that have a long history on the continent or that are seen as being authentically African.
To him, building a strong brand reputation is essential for success in many African markets.
Emphasising the importance of businesses looking to expand their presence in the African market to develop a deep understanding of African consumers, he said that African consumers represent a significant market opportunity for businesses looking to expand their global reach.
With over 1.3 billion people on the continent, he said that businesses that understand African consumers’ needs and preferences can develop products and services that cater to this vast market.
Talking about price sensitivity, the lecturer said: “Despite the importance of brand loyalty, many African consumers are also price sensitive they will often seek out the best value for their money, particularly when it comes to everyday necessities.
“In some African cultures, respect for authority is highly valued. This can influence purchasing decisions, as consumers might choose products or services that are endorsed by respected leaders or authority figures.’’
While stating that African culture is diverse and complex, he affirmed that marketers need to understand and respect these cultural differences and tailor their marketing campaigns accordingly, adding that using local cultural references, such as music, art, and food, can help businesses establish a connection with their target audience.
“Working with local influencers who have a large following on social media can help businesses reach a wider audience. Influencers who are respected and trusted within their communities can help businesses establish credibility and build trust with their target audience,” he said.
Bukola Sowunmi of Unilever Nigeria, who spoke on ‘Intimacy and insights into action – path to brand growth,’ had intimately as the act of connecting with someone deeply.
According to Sowunmi, for a brand to grow, there is a need for the industry to penetrate consumers.
“The more people we penetrate, the more useful for the brand and the more the brand grows.
‘’As an industry, we are good at data analysis, we can be better at distilling insights, but the only grail is action and Impact,’’ Sowunmi added.
Paul Oziegbe, a market research, insight and consulting director at Pierrine Consulting, said that there has been a growth in the market research in the last 12 months, adding that Nigeria leads the African continent with a clear path of growth based on clients’ need and consumer peculiarities.
Earlier, Executive Director of MTI, Victor Ebhomenye said the Nigerian market was peculiar and that the event titled, ‘ESOMAR connect Nigeria’ would go a long way in educating the participants of such peculiarities.