Understanding local consumer markets

Posted On Monday, 05 March 2012 02:00 Published by
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Retail is nothing without the shopper. But do SA businesses and retailers know their consumers and are they ready for the customer of the future?

“With consumer markets as diverse as SA’s, and technology driving massive changes in consumer decision-making and buying habits, a meticulous understanding of customers is imperative for retail success,” says Amanda Stops, general manager of SACSC.

Emeritus Professor John Simpson, Director of the UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing will bring SA’s most affluent consumers into focus at the conference,  giving delegates greater insight into the top end consumer market which, while fairly small in number, has spending power that dwarfs much bigger market segments.

According to Simpson it is the backbone of the local economy. This 900,000-strong, mainly middle-class, group are hard-working, productive citizens who comprise only 10% of SA’s taxpayers, but account for half of the entire country’s taxable income.
Professor Simpson says: “With an estimated annual spend of over R300 billion, this group of individuals is of vital importance to the health of South Africa’s economy and their influence cannot be ignored.”

Understanding this powerful group means accepting that time is a valued commodity for them and convenience is prized. “High levels of service are expected and valued. Indeed, it can even be a key factor when it comes to shopping choices,” notes Simpson. “The research shows that most aren’t happy with levels of service in this country.”

Simpson’s presentation at the SACSC Research Conference delivers a clearer and more nuanced picture about exactly who these top end consumers are and how various factors, including age and gender, influence their consumption patterns.

Widening focus to the African continent, important insights into trends and opportunities around the African consumer will be provided by Derek Engelbrecht of Ernst & Young. “There’s a profusion of growth on the African continent which is home to six of the world’s fastest growing economies. This contradicts conventional stereotypical views of Africa,” says Engelbrecht. “Getting into the many markets that comprise Africa is neither simple nor easy. It starts with knowing the customer and growing from there”.

A power pair of international presenters will bring world retail trends to local delegates at the SACSC Research Conference. Natalie Berg from Planet Retail in the UK will provide a global perspective on key retail trends, and what may impact South Africa in the future.

Even with multi-channel retail, it’s all about the customer. So believes Colin Buxton of Toolbox Marketing, in the UK and Europe, who will discuss how only the fittest retailers survive, even with tools like multi-channel retailing and marketing.

“Multi-channel marketing is about making it easy for a customer to buy in whatever way is most appropriate,” explains Buxton. Channels range from retail stores to websites, catalogues and direct communication.  Advances in technology are providing new ways for businesses to interact with their consumers. Buxton reports that 60% of all 'Valentine' online transactions in the UK were completed using iOS devices.

“While technology is an enabler to the multi-channel retail, it cannot stand in isolation. The five rights of product, price, place, time and quantity still apply,” says Buxton. “It is, and always will be, all about the shopping experience for consumers”.

Buxton adds: “The challenge for retailers, town centres and shopping centres continues to be how best to entice customers to visit their businesses to purchase the goods and services on offer. The better they get to know their customers the more effective they can be, in delivering a personalised service to sustain the growth of their business.
Keeping an eye on the horizon is essential for retailers who hope to stay in tune with their customers – and there may be choppy waters ahead. “Never has so great a challenge been evident in customer relationships,” reports Chris Moerdyk of Moerdyk Marketing and Media, who will introduce delegates to the consumer of the future.

“Sooner than we imagine there will be a complete change from brands taking the initiative of informing, selling and advertising their wares to consumers. Instead consumers will have the initiative and demand information when they need it, how they need and where they need it,” says Moerdyk.

Social media is playing a major role in this about-turn.

Moerdyk says: “Today’s social media phenomenon is more than a fad. It is the spearhead of the way consumers will rate and relate to products and services. How they praise or protest experience and merchandise. How they recommend their consumer choices to others. Already we are seeing major brands suffering severe damage by not properly monitoring social media.”

This is one of the myriad of new influences on the consumer of the future that Moerdyk will bring under the spotlight.

The focused, interactive event is packed full of the latest research and tactics. “We will also be looking at several retail trends in an innovative line-up which highlights research,” says SACSC Research Committee Chairman and Research Conference Chairman Dr Dirk Prinsloo.

“Ultimately the SACSC Research Conference will present a clearer picture of the market in which shopping centres and retailers work. It is set to inspire innovative future retail tactics in local markets and put research into action,” notes Prinsloo.

The complex relationship between retailers and consumers will be highlighted at the SA Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) Research Conference on 14 March 2012 at The Hilton, Sandton. It is a rigorous one-day session combining insight from some of the best minds in SA and abroad to bring delegates the latest research, best practice and trends. Introduced in 2011, this is the second SACSC Research Conference.

Publisher: eProp
Source: SACSC

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