Picture: 123RF/YAZAYO
Picture: 123RF/YAZAYO

For fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands to survive in a post Covid-19 economy, a complete rethink of digital marketing strategies is now a must.

That is the blunt conclusion of Nielsen’s New Shopper Normal study.

Before the pandemic, only 4% of South Africans said that they shopped most often online. That figure rose to 11% in May 2020 (during level 4 lockdown) and was up to 12% by September 2020 (level 1). And of the new online shoppers, 28% had never shopped online before Covid-19.

Chris Botha, group MD at Park Advertising, which has giant media agency The MediaShop in its stable, says there is no question that the pandemic speeded up digital transformation for most businesses.

"Within five days the majority of the private sector in SA went from a work-from-office situation to a work-from-home situation — they did that in 120 hours." says Botha. "The rapid change has meant that many retailers had to expedite their digital and e-commerce plans. Checkers Sixty60 [their mobile app to shop for groceries online] was scaled much quicker than initially planned. And everyone is following the trend, with Woolworths’ same-day delivery being launched in the past few weeks."

Ailsa Wingfield, executive director of Nielsen Connect’s global intelligence unit, says: "Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, online FMCG shopping usage has advanced by up to five years in just six short months. As a result, there has been a rapid increase in online shopping and usage with new users, frequency and preference having skyrocketed. Preference for online as the most-used channel has also more than doubled."

So how do brands need to react?

"Firstly, business will have realised it doesn’t take that long," says Botha. "I think we get caught in the trap of perfecting something before launching it. Businesses will become more agile in launching their products. For us as agencies, it means we have to lead the way. The days of a television shoot from conceptualisation to fruition taking months are gone. Shoot quick, learn and adapt."

From a consumer perspective, Botha believes shoppers are becoming more adept with digital shopping, and more comfortable with the ecosystem. He tells the FM that success will ultimately depend on who has and interprets the best data.

"With e-commerce, clients and agencies will have significantly more first-party data that they can capitalise on. As more customers spend time on these platforms, their owners can better profile their customers with richer data. Imagine how powerful Shoprite is with real-time data on each customer’s shopping habits. Imagine what data they can now feed back to their suppliers. The future will be real attribution modelling."

It is important to understand the dynamic between online and offline behaviour.

"We use the acronym Bobo — browse online, buy offline. A combination of cookie and customer loyalty data will quickly guide this process and give real-time efficacy to advertising spend."

While evidence from Nielsen’s consumer and retail measurement shows a huge and continuing move to online, brands are cautioned not to ignore traditional shopping.

In SA, two-thirds of consumers (68%) say they are now using online and offline channels — this is up nine points from May.

Wingfield elaborates: "Overall, consumers are shopping and buying in a mixed reality. In many instances online shopping options are a new addition to their existing store repertoire. But most consumers indicate that they will maintain a combination of online retailers and bricks and mortar offerings. They are connected and offer a similar and familiar shopping experience."

Delivery has emerged as the most important thing to get right: in May 67% of consumers said they wanted same/next-day delivery. By September this had risen to 75%.

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