A presentation at this year’s Pan African Media Research Organisation (PAMRO) conference, delivered by Nicole Vergos, service line manager for marketing strategy and understanding at Ipsos SA, shed some light on an often neglected and forgotten portion of the consumer base, people with disabilities.
“People with disabilities have been historically marginalised and often ignored. But the interesting thing about disability is that it doesn’t discriminate. It crosses all cultural, age, gender, and income groups,” Vergos said.
Brands should pay attention to these consumers because “people with disabilities tend to show high loyalty to brands that make an effort to understand them”, she added.
Vergos recently headed up a research study into this consumer segment. An online qualitative community among people with physical disabilities formed the basis for the research. Participants were asked open ended questions over four days, with the first day starting with questions about themselves (who they are, what they do, where do they live).
The second day focused on their in-store shopping experiences (where they shop, how do they shop and why).
“Most of our respondents do prefer to shop instore than online, almost all of their shopping trips are pre-planned because they need to travel with someone or they need to think of places that are accessible to them. And they stick to the places that they know,” revealed Vergos.
A major pain point is the card machine at pay point, because many are not adjustable. They tend to seek help outside (car guards).
The third day of questions continued the shopping focus, but shifted to the products themselves, particularly clothes and shoes (what brands they buy and why).
The final day looked at the transport the respondents use (their experiences of public transport, or their own transport).
“In South Africa this is something that is seriously lacking. Public transport for a lot of our respondents wasn’t even a consideration for them. They said they’ve never used it, wouldn’t know where to begin or if they even could, so they’ve just avoided it altogether,” commented Vergos.
The key takeaways
These four main highlights emerged from the research:
- The disability market is a bankable segment. The market extends beyond people with disabilities to their family and friends. “Their friends and family add another 2.4 billion potential consumers that act on their emotional connection … This emotional connection also has an impact on the brands that they use and services,” said Vergos.
- But the core reality for people with disabilities is that the world around them is largely inaccessible
- It’s an overlooked market. There’s very little understanding of people with disabilities and they tend to all be viewed very one-dimensionally. “People with disabilities tend to be seen as charity cases, but they have spending power,” she commented.
- There’s a clear opportunity to tap into this market. “It’s really just small changes that can be made that can dramatically improve the customer experience. Making sure that ramps are at the right gradient, that there’s parking, that the space among the aisles is a bit wider. And training of staff,” she revealed.
“The common, underlying characteristic of living with a disability is the need to innovate, in order to make products, services and environments around us more accessible,” stressed Vergos.
Some of the companies that she mentioned that are excelling when it comes to people with disabilities were Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Sandton City shopping mall, and Cradlestone Mall. She also mentioned Tommy Hilfiger and Toyota as big brands making an effort to be more inclusive with their product offerings and advertising.
The latter recently signed a nine year deal with the International Paralympic Committee to sponsor the Paralympics until 2024. Alongside this, the brand launched the Mobility For All campaign.
Michael Bratt covered the PAMRO conference in Mauritius as a working guest of the research organisation.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8