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Cross Category Trends

by Ellis Malovany

Cross Category Trends

We live in a world increasingly influenced by technology. Even a highly unique culture like that of South Africa is changing, evidenced by the rapid growth and utilization of mobile technology that has impacted almost every facet of life. Over the course of the last decade we’ve seen smartphones appear in the hands of consumers across every spectrum.

Meanwhile, brands have adapted to deliver to the South African consumer benefits befitting their evolving needs, some learned from their global counterparts, but some homegrown ones too. From banking and financial services to fast food, South African brands share the common understanding that to succeed locally, advertisements, promotions, and selling offers must be clear, concise, and deliver value. The following trends are shaping the new South African consumer who is more savvy, efficient, and aware than ever before.

South Africans are leading increasingly complex and busy lives and are keen to buy products or services that help them free up time either for family and friends at home, or for entertainment and socialising. Consumers are becoming ever more digitally integrated and are doing as much as they can on their phones while on the go.

When it comes to retail, shoppers are drawn to services that help them save time in store or make the experience simpler, which increasingly involves not even going into a store at all. Understanding the value of convenience and integrating it into the brand’s proposition can certainly be a big plus for marketers.

The accelerating wave of globalization
Online and mobile consumers are drawing the world into South Africa, faster than South African companies can establish footholds outside the country. With better economic times ahead, South Africa is becoming more attractive as a brand investment target and the influx of foreign companies will stimulate the demand for global brands and services.

The danger for many local brands across all categories resides in the acceleration of these changes. Brands can no longer rely on the fact that local is lekker or that they are proudly South African to bolster sales. Consumers will be making more dispassionate comparisons, and spending their money based on merit, rather than nationalism. For brands with the potential to enter new markets globally, the associations with South African cultural uniqueness can be a ticket to success.

The search for value
In the face of rising costs of living, South Africans can’t be blamed for being value-minded.  But they are not necessarily just buying the cheapest products available. They are rather looking for more efficient ways to buy, wanting to strike the right balance between quality and price. Woolworths or Pick n Pay may not offer the lowest prices around, but consumers know they get good value for their purchases, which brings them back again and again.

Brand & Consumer Alignment
Consumers tend to be drawn to products and brands that they perceive to be aligned with their own lives and beliefs. For example, South Africans tend to value traditions and heritage, which is increasingly leveraged by brands in their communications. While this puts many local brands in a strong position to make meaningful connections with consumers, it also provides opportunities for international brands that can provide a locally relevant expression of their brand – and, in some cases, a localized version of their product – that feels at home in this market. McDonald’s has tried to localize its offering with boerewors-flavoured burgers, while global brands like Domino’s Pizza, H&M and Zara are also expanding their footprint in the country.

Changing spheres of influence
Though television remains the mainstream media of choice, mobile has become a dominant force in how people access information, buy products, search offers, book travel and conduct financial activities. Increasingly, particularly among younger consumers, digital media is providing new sources of inspiration. Given the ubiquity of mobile phones and the popularity of social media, online forums are alive with opinion, and the sources of influence are many and varied.

Nearly three out of every four people are on Facebook, and like many other places in the world, WhatsApp has become the killer app delivering real-time connectivity to family, friends and business contacts, with the idea of a WhatsApp Group even entering the lexicon as a proxy for cohort. With increased access to reliable wi-fi, Smart TV purchases on the rise and streaming services gaining ground, South Africans are adapting quickly to a more connected world.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and world of machines

AI, ML, IoT (Internet of Things, connecting a multitude devices together to communicate and gather information) are becoming ever-present. From individualized online and mobile shopping experiences to driverless cars, smart energy meters to weather-controlled agricultural water systems, businesses and people globally are relying more and more on technology behind the scenes.

While much of this cutting edge technology has not yet been fully integrated in South Africa, both established brand managers as well as up and coming brand entrepreneurs can utilize advanced technologies. Stronger brands like First National Bank and Capitec Bank along with many up and coming brands like Takealot, News24, and Showmax embrace technology to flatten the world, increase speed to market, and drive demand.