Consumer spending has swung from total predictability to subtle shifts in product and store selection throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and understanding the whys and wherefores behind these choices is valuable to shops, brands, and even the shoppers themselves. At the behest of government, two local businesses joined forces in recent months to determine and deliver in-depth insight into retailing trends in the lockdown period.
The collaborators in the research and analysis of the survey data were 2Engage - through their bonsella® platform, a leading digital platform for brands and retailers to reward customer loyalty in the main market - and Brands Eye, an AI-focused retail research business.
Three specific sources were used to compile the unique and comprehensive report – consumer spend insights from bonsella®’s large loyalty card membership base, two consumer surveys conducted by bonsella®, and social media data from BrandsEye’s retail benchmarking account.
Andrew Weinberg, CEO of 2Engage and mastermind behind bonsella®, says the source material numbers were impressive, and ensured a report that offers an in-depth picture of shoppers’ experiences before and during the national lockdown, while also providing exceptional value for ongoing and future decision-making, choices and strategies. “Knowing rather than speculating on consumer choices and behaviour at such a fine-tuned level offers clear value to various sectors of the market. To brands, who can better formulate their marketing and distribution strategies based on deeper insight; to retailers, who can adjust their merchandising, buying, staffing, and many other in-store systems as a result of a better understanding of shopper behaviour; and of course, to consumers themselves, who can adjust their shopping based on more relevant information.”
Weinberg adds that the research report collaboration also delivered results very quickly, “which means that an agile and innovative brand can translate research results almost instantly into marketing and distribution action that creates sales, according to customer preferences. Likewise, retailers also will have insight into changes that can be made on the turn, to improve turnover and shopping experiences. bonsella® can conduct over 1500 surveys within 24 hours across South Africa and collate the data in real-time for almost immediate analysis.”
Bonsella®’s input comprised consumer insights covering four months from mid-January from 155 tier 2 retail stores in rural and peri-urban areas across the country, and two customer research surveys, and the Brands Eye data for the same period was taken from a total of 806,682 social media mentions on all main social networks and multiple other online sources, for SA’s top four retailing chains.
Key findings delivered some expected results – price became increasingly important to retail consumers, but the research showed the extent that it became a deciding factor in shopping choices because of the pandemic and during the lockdown. In response to the question, ‘What are the main reasons you choose to shop at this store?’, pricing was 81.5%, specials and sales – 52.2%, Covid-19 safety measures and sanitation – 39.1%, store location near home – 35.9%, safety and security in and around the store – 34.8%, friendly staff – 32.6%, and product variety – 30.4%.
Further findings included:
- Social media trends showed an increase in conversation relating to affordability from 7.2% before Covid-19 to 20.3% during the lockdown.
- Accusations of unethical behaviour against retailers became a lot more prevalent.
- Competition and collusion or price fixing had not been a major issue before Covid-19, at 0.2%, but went up to 11.8% as customers called retailers out on perceived price hikes.
- Social distancing at tills was the most desired in-store Covid-19 safety measure mentioned by 70.7% of the surveyed respondents, followed by shoppers and staff wearing masks.
Weinberg notes that the collaboration enabled them to explore new ways of verifying and understanding retail trends and testing them against each other with the different data sources. “This was an enlightening exercise for all of us and showed a way forward that will offer a valuable way of providing data and analysis that can more effectively guide brand spend and retailer decision-making. Such a massive proportion of our shopping market – generally from LSM 3 to 7 – is neglected by brands that don’t have a clear-cut way of accessing the market. bonsella® reaches over 4 million shoppers in more than 150 stores that serve that sector of the market. It made a significant difference in the outcome of the research project.”