Have consumer spending habits changed for good as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
After two months of lockdown level 3, South Africa moved to Level 1 on Sunday evening. While many are celebrating getting some of their freedom back, this pandemic has landed most businesses and consumers in uncharted territory.
The fear of a third wave is still real and 78% of Jacaranda FM’s audience believe that we have a year before our lives return to normal (Jacaranda FM February Consumer Survey). The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we work, travel, communicate, shop, and more, but which new habits are likely to stick permanently?
Like many other countries, South Africa’s economy has been battered by the pandemic.
In a recent East Coast Radio Listener Survey, we noted that in 2020, 51% of respondents were employed full-time, 22% were unemployed or looking for work, while 8% were self-employed. Fast forward four months and the results have changed slightly, but, unfortunately, not for the better. 48% of respondents are now employed full-time, 28% are now unemployed, while self-employed remains at 8%.
The change in results is indicative of the current economic situation in South Africa, where we have seen significant job losses and small-business closures due to the pandemic (East Coast Radio Listener Survey Jan 2021).
Consumers are more conscious of what they buy and more focused on obtaining value from purchases. As consumer shopping evolves, it’s important to note that shoppers remain open for advertising in times of crisis. In Jacaranda FM’s February Consumer Survey, 51% of listeners said they found themselves spending more this year than they did in 2020, with the bulk of the spending on groceries.
Household products came in at 20%. Consumers are staying and working from home more, prioritising savings over spending. 16% of Jacaranda FM’s listeners are looking to acquire alternative power sources like generators, solar power or inverters.
The latest set of interest rate cuts effected by the South African Reserve Bank have seen the repo rates reach their lowest in over 20 years. With 22% of the East Coast Radio listeners surveyed planning on buying property this year, it’s clear cash-strapped consumers have welcomed these cuts (East Coast Radio February Consumer Survey).
Social activities and travel top the list of things people are looking forward to spending money on – the activities that have been most impacted by the lockdown.
When all travel restrictions are removed, local is still the choice – 44% of Jacaranda FM’s listeners are looking forward to some local travel this year, with self-catering being the choice for those weekend getaways. As travellers plan trips now and later, their priorities – and what makes them feel confident and safe – is changing.
While the vaccine rollout has many travellers dreaming of their first post-pandemic trip, price and safety against the virus play a significant role in deciding where and when to book those breaks.
There’s an increased awareness of health and well-being, with 33% surveyed (Jacaranda FM) saying they planned to adopt healthier lifestyles, with a focus on fitness.
As a result of social distancing at home, consumers are spending more time online to virtually connect with others and stream entertainment.
Despite the pandemic, 90% believed radio station sponsored parties and events were important in 2020, and it seems that 2021 is no different, with 88% feeling it’s still important (East Coast Radio Listener Survey Jan 2021).
However, the second wave seems to have changed what events respondents would prefer to attend. In 2020 and 2021, family fun walks topped the list at 33% and 35%, respectively, while comedy shows and live concerts took a dip in 2021, and online music events jumped higher.
As more consumers grow accustomed to doing things in the comfort of their own homes, there’s tremendous opportunity for brands to offer digital-enabled solutions to traditional needs.
Despite WhatsApp’s latest privacy announcement, 66% of Jacaranda’s listeners in the Consumer Survey said they have no interest in dropping WhatsApp. Radio has always proved to be a medium that adapts easily to crisis situations. In the current crisis caused by Covid-19, radio has again stood out as being an essential medium to stay informed.
What has changed is how and where South Africans are listening to radio. When it came down to where people are listening to the radio from, the car was the top choice – increasing its lead in 2021, followed by at home and at work (Jacaranda FM Listener Survey).
- 72% are listening in the car
- 53% are listening from home
- 43% while at work
- 25% are listening on mobile devices
- 15% while commuting
- 3% are listening on their smart speakers
The results are similar for East Coast Radio.
Apart from listening to radio, consumers plan to spend more time visiting family and friends, travelling for leisure, streaming movies, and taking up a new skill or course.
As many South Africans emerge from the pandemic with considerably less spending power, consumer brand relationships are likely to permanently be altered, so businesses need to reexamine how they build trust with their customers in this new reality.
Charis Apelgren-Coleman is the market engagement manager at Kagiso Media Radio. She has worked with small and large local organisations as well as large multinational organisations, while managing specialist content teams.
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