The South African consumer landscape is currently fragmented and
polarised, characterised by the double-edged demand of the South African

Some consumers, says Nielsen, are feeling more prosperous while others are among the most stretched spenders in the world. Some crave new, premium or convenience products, while others seek value for money, quality private-label goods, or prefer to stick to their firm favourites.

A Nielsen consumer insights event has provided some interesting talking points around brands engaging with consumers and their needs. Nielsen identified three key factors through speaking to its clients: purpose, value and convenience. The South African consumer has adapted and changed the way that they spend and shop, looking for things only on promotion, buying less or buying cheaper brands.

38% of South Africans say they love to try new things. This is exciting for anyone looking to disrupt the market and switch consumers over to their brand, but it’s terrifying for anyone trying to keep that fickle consumer loyal to their products. Private labels are growing way ahead of the market, but there is still a place for premium products, which created an interesting


The drivers for consumers trying something new or adding products and brands to their lives included price, purpose, brand halos (expect brands to have a presence and purpose), leaning to local (buy local and support local community), and accessibility (in the big retail outlets, but now online too!).

When it came to purpose, Esti Prinsloo, BASES lead for Africa at Nielsen, stated that they were sitting in an era where in order to actually grab the mind and the love of the consumer, it’s not just simply being a brand that they know. It’s actually about offering
something more … If one has a purpose that one has created and one’s consumer can rely on, then one create trust with them.

It was not just a functional purpose, but also an emotional connection, but she cautioned that it needed to be continuous
(not once off), and needed to be genuine (millennials in particular call out brands if they are not being genuine). It’s not just about
communicating a purpose, it’s about delivering on that purpose. The modern consumer wanted to talk with brands, interact with
and read about them, including reviews of the brand.

This was where social media played a role as it provided this interaction.


When many people think of value, they assume it means the cheapest possible products or services. But this is not the case in today’s world. Value means different things for different people.

Value is not just about cheap, it’s about value for money for what the consumer pays for … It’s not just about cheap versus expensive. It’s economy versus premium, and there’s a place for both. Multi-platform outreach was required, and TV and in-store
advertising still played a key role; 77% of South African consumers still buy in-store, downplaying the role of online shopping, though this is set to rapidly increase over the next few years.


Alongside purpose and value, brands needed to focus on convenience for consumers. Convenience is all about offering consumers solutions that are going to help to make their lives easy, effortless and save time. So what it means for brands is that they need to adapt their convenience offerings and solutions to consumers’ needs. Because these needs are evolving day by day in terms of convenience and what they are looking for.

So companies need to offer solutions that meet their specific needs at that specific time. For consumers, it was all about being connected and confident.

They are hyper connected, with devices providing people with more opportunities to find products and services when they want it, where they want, and how they want it. Time is the ultimate currency. Any product, brands or services that allows people to save
time and effort is valuable and highly sought after.

They look for ease, utility and simplicity. Convenience should be implemented by brands across all aspects of consumers’ lives.

This included consumption experiences, shopping experiences, and engagement
experiences. With consumption, it’s in the home, on-the-go, and out of home, while shopping covers offline, omni, and online.
Proximity and speed, and ease and efficiency, are the key attributes brands should focus on.

Tailoring these qualities

The caveat to these three important values though, is that purpose, value and convenience mean different things for different consumers. There is no one-size-fits all approach, which would deliver maximum value to consumers. There are only basics that brands can get right, but fully knowing and understanding consumers is crucial for brands.

Article by Michael Bratt