The beginning of the year sees many industry pundits share their knowledge on what they believe will drive the year. I’ve been trawling through some of these 2020 trend lists and it reads like a news bulletin running the same headline all day on different networks.
Many of the trends are global and are quite a reach from mass South Africa. Very few take into consideration our struggling economy, our politics and how this permeates decision–making (from country leadership all the way to consumer brand choice), what the social funnel looks like and therefore data availability and what we do with it.
Having said that, there are some areas that I’m a little obsessed with at the moment from the global trend lists I’ve read. These have now been turned into ‘Kagiso’s current buzz’, my current business playlist, if you will.
My first area of interest is of course what impacts my pocket. The latest interest rate adjustment is being written like a great relief. A relief for some but certainly not most. While welcomed, it is unlikely to bring material changes because our economy is stuck in the longest downward cycle since 1945.
And, it’s not going to get better fast…we are operating in the era of strained politics, poor business confidence, the possibility of Stage 8 load shedding, the impending demise of SAA and to some quarters from a social perspective, seen as the pariah of the continent. Basically, we have lots to deal with, and overall South Africans are strained, socially, economically and politically.
South African will find ways of being frugal
What this means is that South Africans must continue to find ways to be more frugal. And because of this, our clients will still experience reduced spending, negatively impacting the industry as whole. Consumers will spend, cautiously so, but spend they will. This is where those close to the winning line can find reprieve.
One of those is the growth of house brands. Vend’s Retail Trends and Predictions 2020, states that we will see more private label growth in the retail sector because through a private label, retailers are able to offer customers a product that shows less flash and is available on demand in their store at a slightly cheaper price.
This poses not only a brand challenge (design and product development) but offers an opportunity for marketers to figure out the tension between brand and experience. Branded goods must start to think differently, in terms of alliances, brand experiences, core messaging. Agencies must figure out their real role in this and how they can bring value and results. We certainly can no longer do things as we were.
Reduced data prices bode well
What also grabbed my attention was the Competition Commission’s (CC) order to the telecoms operators to reduce mobile connectivity prices by up to 50% or face prosecution. Now, the prospect of reduced data pricing will bode well for many but let me focus on online retailing or marketplaces. These have shown significant growth on social platforms due to a sense of vuk’uzenzele, the growth of social media platforms and the availability of data. Should the competition commission get their way, even by a small margin this will fuel the adoption of the transformative 5G technology, voice technology and contactless payments.
This is an area that I’m sure most are watching, I’m very interested to see the impetus that action (in the affirmative), will do to online retailing and general social activity – I’m thinking of things like increased voice and visual search, many more potential customers, an upswing in online payments and on-the-ground delivery options; as well as on the media front how multi-screening influences where we find consumers.
Can I speak to a human please?
Lastly, whilst I’m excited about technology and the opportunities it brings, for me in my work and in my personal capacity, can I however speak to a human please?
In my trawling I came across the notion of human interaction being seen as a premium commodity from GlobalWebIndex. Indulging in technology and singing the praises of a contactless online life, our reality is that the human touch is longed for and this feeling never leaves us. Think long conversations, sustained eye contact, cuddling, play, and for some of us our privilege has increasingly replaced these with screens, voice assistants, likes, follows, hashtags and the ever-active arm-chair critic!
Our privilege is said to be forcing us to want a back-to-basics ultra-humanised experiences’ kind of life. To do this, we must disconnect. The thinking here is that ‘constant connectivity is bad for our health, sleep, and relationships’ and so it is something many of us will want to pull away from. To actively unplug from the network however is incredibly disruptive for work, personal life, and successful daily functioning.
Having the freedom and power to disconnect is emerging as a new sign of status in society. Something so freely available and abundant is being commoditised. Seriously. For us as an industry however, opting out of technology cannot be a privilege of high earners only, because human interaction is in fact the backbone of our actual existence. How we ideate, how we create, how we collaborate, how we mine data.
Our deep appreciation and knowledge of the intersection between consumers, the data they bring and how this is impacted by technology, is the absolute point of why we do what we do, making magic happen. Looking up from our screens with regularity and analysing what we find, will help our navigation.
Kagiso Musi is the group managing director of Meta Media South Africa, a new data-led media player in the country. She leads the Johannesburg and Cape Town offices with a list of blue-chip clients. The agency focuses on analysing and uncovering insights from the most granular forms of data and utilising that data to help clients win.
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