Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The current economic climate is having a major impact on how people shop. According to research conducted by BMi Research, SA consumers have changed their shopping habits dramatically in the past few years.

Shopping trips are more carefully planned and consumers refer to broadsheets and specials as well as comparing prices online before drawing up their shopping lists. “Our research revealed that the more disciplined spouse tends to do the weekly shopping as they are less likely to indulge in impulse purchases,” says BMi Research CEO Gareth Pearson. “Similarly, consumers have recognised the kid pester factor, with the result that many people are choosing to leave children at home while shopping.”

The big take-out: As consumer spend continues to be under pressure, shopping habits have changed significantly, requiring a different marketing approach.

Once in-store, shoppers have less brand loyalty and are increasingly gravitating towards products that offer increased perceived value, says Pearson, adding that midmonth there is a propensity to buy private label nonperishable items. Smaller pack sizes are given preference while products such as bath oils, bath salts and luxury cereals – perceived as luxury items – are falling off many shopping lists. Though shoppers will still consider luxury items for special occasions, in the absence of a special occasion they are increasingly giving preference to canned and frozen items rather than fresh food given their longer shelf lives.

Loyalty cards continue to be well received, though most shoppers don’t have positive associations with coupons.

Pearson reports that spaza shops are growing their offering and providing more competitive pricing as they increase volumes. Consumers have also started to factor in false economies. “Increasingly, consumers, particularly at the lower end of the market, will weigh up the transport costs before deciding to shop further away from home,” says Pearson.

The most significant post-shopping trend revealed by BMi’s research concerned product usage, with consumers increasingly aware of wastage and using expensive products more sparingly. “We discovered that there is a big focus on breakfast: consumers want to ensure their children eat a healthy meal before school but cost has become a factor. A growing number of consumers are starting to avoid branded cereals, for instance, as the price point is just too high,” says Pearson.

Multipurpose products, such as multipurpose cleaners, are rapidly replacing multiple individual products while refill packages are in greater demand than ever. “Even high-end consumers who have not traditionally been particularly price sensitive are becoming increasingly frugal and using less cleaning product to ensure it goes further,” he says.

Pearson believes consumer spend will continue to be under pressure until disposable income levels start improving. Marketers therefore need to put more effort into promotions and offering consumers bigger discounts. His advice to marketers and brand managers is to spend time understanding the needs of consumers, in particular the most appropriate pack size offered at the right price point.

“Shoppers have become a great deal more sophisticated in recent years as well as more health conscious,” he says. “Things like including the nutritional value of food items has become more important.”

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