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Four consumer trends that are sweeping African countries

consumer-trends-from-African-countriesA large part of owning and growing a business is keeping up with industry trends. There’s no such thing as too much information; the more you know, the more you’re able to use. Perhaps the most powerful bit of intel you can have as a business owner is the behaviour of potential consumers of your product or service. Knowing what people want and then providing it to them is, after all, the founding principle of business.

Paycorp wants your business to grow by knowing its customer base better, which is why we’ve compiled a few consumer trends moving through African countries that you might want to know about.


African consumers drawing closer to their own cultures

African pride is on the rise, as culturally-conscious brands see more support from consumers than they have before. Despite the uptick we’re experiencing in international brands opening up shop in Africa, consumers are also hungry for brands that remind them of their own heritage and cultural identity.

Guinness Nigeria launched Orijin and Orijin Bitters three years ago, two alcoholic beverages that are inspired by the herb, fruit and root beers that are popular all across Africa. The drinks were a success, grabbing a hold of 50 percent of the Nigerian alcoholic bottled drink market share, according to Nielsen Nigeria. In March of this year, an alcoholic-free drink joined the Orijin range, aptly named Orijin Zero.

The popularity of the Orijin brand in Nigeria can be seen as a sign that consumers are open to, and even excited by, brands that are richly influenced by African cultures.


Brands with heart are becoming popular

Ask any cynic and they’ll probably tell you that most companies commit to their corporate social investment (CSI) for B-BBEE points, but that’s hardly the case. We live in the developing world and one of the realities of that is that almost half of Africa is living below the poverty line, and another is that nearly 70% the global population living with HIV is in sub-Saharan Africa. Having a social conscience as a company, therefore, isn’t a strategic move but rather a necessary and overdue solution to several social problems.

Consumer trends have formed around this and customers now actively supporting brands that have a clear dedication towards improving the lives of all Africans. Last year, Moroccan bank BMCE was awarded the Socially Responsible Bank of The Year Award at the annual African Banker Awards for their continuing contribution to social upliftment and entrepreneurship. Through initiatives like the African Entrepreneurship Award (which BMCE sponsors via one of their subsidiaries, BMCE Bank of Africa Group), the Moroccan bank gives opportunities to creative-thinking business minds who are passionate about solving Africa’s problems using innovative entrepreneurial ideas.


Sensitivity towards the planet is even more important than before

Scientists tend to disagree about whether or not we’ve reached the “point of no return” in terms of climate change. But that hasn’t stopped the incurably optimistic from doing whatever they can to make sure that there’s still a planet left for future generations. Consumer trends have been growing more environmentally friendly over the years and customers are starting to demand that the brands they patronise should mirror their environmental philosophies.

Take Woolworths, as an example. They have a longstanding reputation for being considerate of the environment, something that their customers recognise and reward them for through their continued patronage. Woolworths’ environmental sustainability strategy has infiltrated their entire product offering and customer experience; they have solar panels at their head office that generate approximately 250 000 kWh of electricity a year, their garments carry wash care labels that promote energy-conservative laundering and they even have green stores (like their Palmyra Junction branch in Cape Town) that are designed to conserve and recycle energy.

Whether deliberately or not, Woolworths has effectively turned their environmental sensitivity into a product, one which their consumer base is more than willing to pay for.


A higher standard of customer service and experience

“I think people are understanding that the customer experience is the next competitive battleground […] That’s where business is going to be won or lost in the next five years at least.”

That was Tom Kingston, executive vice-president of consulting company Forum Corp., speaking to Fast Company about the growing importance of customer experience in the digital age. The first thing people usually do before they try out a new product or service is to google it and see what other people have to say about it. In the age of websites like hellopeter, keeping customers happy is a lot more important than it used to be because neglecting customer grievances can have loud and enduring consequences.

Yuppiechef is a South African online store that sells home and kitchenware. The story goes that their first ever customer was sent a handwritten note from the founders to thank them for their support. The handwritten notes caught on and were eventually made a standard part of the start-up’s customer experience. As the company grew it became harder for the founders to write a note for every new client, but they still try do it as much as they can and they are exploring other ways of making their consumers’ buying experience more personal.

Personalisation, it appears, is the next stage of elevated customer experiences. Gone are the days of lumping consumers into heavily generalised demographics. Today’s customer wants to feel like the only customer.


Download our ebook on Gearing Your SME for Long-term Success for helpful business tips to help your enterprise grow, because knowing what your customers want is only half of the process of doing business.