PMA Fresh Solutions explores the changing consumer landscape

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Speakers Sarina de Beer and Louis de Kock.

Omnichannel strategies to grow consumer demand and novel consumer behaviour were the key discussions at the Fresh Solutions event hosted by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) on 30 October in Pretoria. These topics were covered by distinguished speakers Sarina de Beer, managing director at the research firm Ask Afrika, and Louis de Kock, prior senior category manager for produce at Amazon Go and founder of Nile.ag.

De Beer argued that South African consumers are more open to change than consumers in most other economies. Consequently, South African consumers will look around for something better if they are not getting the value they want from a brand.

A recent survey conducted by Ask Afrika determined that 54% of consumers who are completely satisfied with a specific brand will try other brands. Some 69% of consumers choose cheaper brands over their favourite brands. Township markets that were historically more loyal to specific brands have also experienced a decline in brand loyalty this year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has accelerated the shift towards online consumption. However, South Africa remains an immature market when it comes to online shopping,” De Beer said. “Eighty-nine percent of South Africans who started using online shopping channels indicated that they would go back to the stores after lockdown.”

The survey indicated that 30% of consumers shop less frequently but when they shop, they buy more items to avoid going back. In addition, 25% said they reduced their shopping trips and the items in their basket. Eleven percent said they increased their shopping trips, which might be because of buying fewer things but more frequently. Furthermore, 8% said they shop differently.

According to the survey, 50% of South Africans will eat less nutritious food, mainly because they need to watch their budget. This is a concern as consumers want to have access to healthy meals relative to what they can afford.

“In the future, we are going to see authenticity has become the new currency. As a result, we are going to hold brands and products accountable,” De Beer said.

De Kock explained how omnichannel strategies allow retailers to engage with customers across many different channels. He said omnichannel approaches are rapidly changing the way fresh produce is sold and this will have vast implications for the future. It is still in early stages and large developments can be expected that will require a great level of adaptation and innovation. Omnichannel platforms will provide opportunities for producers and partnerships will be the key to success. – Press release, PMA