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African consumers willing to spend more on certain products

Certain buying habits of African consumers, particularly on health and hygiene products, are likely to change permanently.


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The current global crisis has given rise to a new kind of African consumer who is already displaying fundamental shifts in consumption and purchase behaviour, according to study by international market research company Nielsen.

The company says this is driven by factors such as heightened health awareness, a focus on quality and safety, a renewed desire to stay at home and a tight squeeze on consumer’s wallets.

Online behaviour, too, has seen “incredible changes”, with major increases in the use of social networking, online reading, listening to music and video streaming. This is despite perceptions that Africa lags behind much of the world in terms of its online conduct.

Permanent changes in buying behaviour

Nielsen Africa MD Bryan Sun said the crisis-buying patterns adopted by African consumers since the onset of the pandemic have subsequently accelerated the adoption of permanent behaviour change.

“As the prospect of looming lockdowns first hit, consumers realised they needed to stock up – which saw a spike in store visits, stockpiling of shelf staples and growing basket sizes,” Sun explained. “However, as restricted living became more common place, there was a change in behaviour with consumers seeking out products without putting their health at risk.

“We have therefore seen growth in online shopping, declining store visits and a rise in out-of-stocks [of goods]. Supply chain challenges have also driven consumers to be less price-sensitive on high-demand packaged goods or those that guarantee hygiene standards.”

Healthier products will be top of the agenda

Nielsen says in a press release that the expectation is, once quarantines lift and consumers return to business as usual, they will continue to operate with a renewed consciousness about health matters and healthier products.

There will also be shifts in the way consumers perceive products. They will place increased importance on how safe products are to use and they will examine claims of product effectiveness. There will be a willingness to spend more on hygiene needs and healthy foods.

African buying habits vs rest of world

Nielsen also released the findings of its recent online survey conducted in over 70 countries, which produced interesting comparative insights between sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) and the rest of the world.

For example, 51% of African consumers said they were cooking more at home, versus 39% globally, while significantly more Africans said they worked more at home versus the global average.

When it comes to shopping activities, 46% of African consumers said they are visiting shops less often, versus the global average of 32%.

Seeking information during the pandemic is, it seems, an obsession with African consumers. Eighty-three percent said they were following information multiple times a day – significantly higher than the global average of 75%.