Bottom line: South African service sucks. As the nation hurtles towards the year’s biggest retail period, research outfit Why5 has released its Retail Shopper Survey 2014. Its findings should give retailers much food for thought.
Why5 will use this year’s insights as a base for its 2015 field study. “The scope of next years survey will use the 2014 data as a base – we will have some trend data but mostly this world is changing at a pace that demands agility and a new line of questioning every year – in line with local and global trends,” says Why5 managing director, Stuart Lowe. “Retail Shopper 2015 will go into field in February 2015. We expect a sample size of between 8 and 10 000 – with a big emphasis on securing a representative respond sample.”
This year’s survey targeted consumers mainly in Gauteng and the Western Cape (45% in Gauteng, 26% in the Western Cape, 14% in KZN and 55% female). Lowe says the findings unearthed “golden threads” that retail industry stakeholders should “print out and nail to the wall as they start to strategise winning formulas in an increasingly competitive marketplace”.
Why5’s research specialist, Alan Todd, says the survey was “designed to expose what’s driving the shopping behaviour of ‘economically active’ consumers (ie. those living in households earning over R10k a month) – for everything”.
Todd says while South Africa has a “fair amount” of specific retail data available, “there isn’t anything resembling a landscape survey that helps shed light on the actual retail experience of the shopper”.
Todd believes being ‘consumer-centric’ is a “modern marketing mantra that really makes sense – and it’s not difficult. You simply have to be brave enough to ask the question: what does my customer really think? That’s precisely what we did last year and the results were illuminating to say the least.”
Why5 has identified 10 key characteristics:
- Service sucks: Really bad scores. With 46% ticking the ‘generally poor’ box and another 10% selecting ‘terrible’, there’s as much room for improvement in service as there is for new malls!
- Proximity is key: Respondents showed a huge reluctance to travelling far to shop (69% prefer ‘stores that are located nearby’). Whether it’s petrol prices, time constraints or changing expectations, the catchment area for malls has shrunk dramatically.
- Shopping ain’t fun: 80% of shopping is for necessities. So shoppers are mostly there because they have to be, not because they want to be. And 86% are very cautious about spending money. So retailers who find ways to sweeten the occasion are more likely to win wallets and build loyalty.
- The web of knowledge: Apart from the rise in online shopping, an even greater impact of the Internet on the retail environment is that shoppers have never been better informed: 59% always research online for specific categories of goods.
- Smartphone payment: Purchase and payment from mobile devices is considered a great idea (35% would ‘definitely or probably’ use the service) – so Standard Bank’s Snapscan is right on the money. Its potential is limited only by consumer education, something Retail Shopper 2015 is going to unpack in detail.
- The Internet’s for pleasure & leisure: Although Internet shopping is on the up, 59% of shoppers use it to buy books, movies and music – pleasure purchases where ‘tangibility’ is irrelevant.
- Loyalty programmes. ‘Benefit programmes’ make a massive difference to perception and behaviour. A massive 96% of respondents claim to use loyalty programmes.
- Sales still work: In a similar vein to loyalty, bargain hunting is as important for the uppermost end of the market as it is for the lower. 78% of respondents claimed to ‘sometimes or often’ be tempted to buy products just because they are on promotion.
- Customers want you to talk to them: A hugely important characteristic – and the data shows that printed catalogues and e-mail newsletters rock: 93% sometimes, often or always read catalogues. 46% subscribe to digital newsletters and of those, 99% sometimes, often or always read them. And in-store radio stations? They’re a waste of energy: 64% say they don’t even notice them, or regard them as a waste of time.
- Mall mimicry: Finally, Todd and his colleagues theorise that the proliferation of malls has flattened out the landscape so all malls looks the same: same banks, retailers, outlets, food chains et al. Consumers certainly recognise this characteristic, but for 2015, the RS Report is going to definitively answer whether it’s a good thing – or a great opportunity to differentiate.
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