by Ailsa Wingfield. With finite time but infinite change, consumers’ expectations don’t stand still. Consumer circumstances and priorities are continually shifting as they seek to rebalance their more complex and crowded lives. Consumers are feeling more stretched than ever before, and are striving to repurpose their time and effort, searching for simpler and easier ways of living…
In our world today, consumers live a ‘hyperconnected hyperlife’. Work-life balance is regularly cited as one of their biggest concerns and busy consumers are demanding products, places and processes to help them overcome everyday obstacles for effortless living. Manufacturer, retail, technology, media and service brands have a vital role to play in providing an overall convenience experience with easy-to-use, automated, intelligent and digitised options for every conceivable lifestyle item, incident and interaction.
But what does true convenience mean? Circumstances, culture, location, market maturity and technology are key influencers and important considerations when tailoring convenience solutions for different segments of society. But, no matter where or for whom, at its essence, convenience has three core attributes: ease, utility, and simplicity. In providing these elements, brand solutions and experiences may enable more fulfilment, enjoyment and balance in people’s busy lives — where time is fast becoming the new currency.
Six factors of change
There are six factors of change driving consumers’ increasing need for convenience:
People are flocking to urban areas in search of better employment prospects, infrastructure, services and a wider array of lifestyle options. By 2025, 69% of South Africans will live in cities or towns — 39m people in total, 4.7m more than today.
Average household sizes are declining as fertility rates continue to fall (3.0 people per household by 2025 in SA). With increasing population density, limited space for new housing and high property prices; many consumers are downsizing their physical living areas.
Limited land and high investment costs are major barriers for many urban areas to develop the transport infrastructure needed for their growing populations. In many cities, congestion is increasing, car ownership is declining and people are spending, on average, two hours commuting every day.
Evolving gender roles
Nearly 52% of South African working-age females participate in the labour force. With more working women, the traditional role of women to take care of shopping, cooking and other domestic duties is shifting to a shared role between men and women.
People are living longer than before. In South Africa, 18% of the population will be aged over 50 by 2025. Shifting age demographics means technology adoption, spending ability and priorities will vary considerably between generations.
Uptake of technology
The scope and scale of technology has exploded, driving a fundamental transformation in the way consumers include and use digitisation in their lives. SA mobile subscription is well over 100% and internet access will reach 68% by 2020 (an increase of 16 points in five years). Growing smartphone penetration and the rise of smart homes and spaces will escalate consumer capability and connectivity to services to streamline their lives.
With the convergence of these factors, consumers feel increasingly overloaded and often overwhelmed. It is no surprise, then, to see that the primary reason for using time-saving products and services is to ‘simplify my life/less stress’, followed by gaining back time to do the things that they value most. Consumers are seeking convenience solutions in three core areas:
Usage of products and services is no longer only the domain of in-the-home. The spectrum of where and how products are consumed has extended to incorporate a far larger range of places, spaces and opportunities for brands and marketers. Nineteen percent of SA consumers’ monthly budget is allocated to products for at home but, nowadays, a further 5% is also spent on out-of-home or on-the-go consumption.
The days when meals were prepared and eaten with family at home around the dining table are becoming fewer and fewer. As a result, easy-to-prepare and ready-prepared food options not only save time and energy but can also be tailored to dietary and health preferences, an imperative for our increasingly wellness-conscious societies.
Consumers without the energy or inclination to cook are also adopting ‘send it home to me’ services, with 34% of South Africans using a restaurant/meal delivery service in 2018. To date, many of the home-delivery services have been fast-food meals, but this is changing and set to grow as health considerations and internet penetration expands, and suppliers establish competitive market offerings.
On-the-go and out-of-home meals are becoming more common as consumers spend more time working and commuting. Swift, mobile munching means consumers are looking for accessible, portable, nutritious and tasty out-of-home options. Grab-and-go meals from quick-service/fast-food and street vendors are on the rise, with 63% of SA consumers saying they visited a fast-food outlet during the past six months.
Meanwhile, certain meals are also being completely replaced by snacks. Snacking is now more than just an indulgence, reward or sweet treat; snacking has become purposeful. Brands, therefore, have the opportunity to create smarter, fresher and healthier options, in smaller and more-frequent formats, and delivered in-the-moment.
No matter where consumers are shopping, eating or how they’re cleaning, they are looking for more suitable products. Convenience is one of the top reasons for buying a new product and, as a result, many of the convenience-related attributes such as ease, suitability, relevance and function are important choice-drivers.
Retail concepts are often the most-referenced experience when it comes to convenience, especially small, physical store formats and, more recently, the growing ecommerce environment. But the perception of convenience is not limited to any single physical store format or virtual channel. Streamlined services, digital experiences and frictionless commerce are converging with the ‘bricks and mortar’ and ecommerce worlds to shape new shopping experiences that provide personalised and on-demand ease, utility and simplicity.
The retail landscape is also being reshaped by evolving shopper missions. Busy, commuting South Africans who live in smaller spaces increasingly find shopping to be a chore (49%), and are shying away from the big grocery-stocking trip to more frequent top-up and immediate needs-based buying. So, will the physical store cease to exist? The answer is almost certainly no. Recent store closures around the globe does not signify physical retail extinction, but rather retail revolution and transformation.
We are already seeing the change within the brick-and-mortar formats — smaller stores are outpacing the growth of large stores and gaining frequency. Smaller stores often already have the advantage of proximity and are well-placed to optimise their assortment and range of products and services beyond essentials and snacks. Stores located along busy traffic routes that provide efficient in/out and click-and-collect offerings will continue to grow in popularity.
Omnichannel experiences can help provide the much-needed ‘digital makeover’ to integrate physical and virtual shopping. Today’s offline and online purchasing actions rarely happen in isolation and, in addition to more-conventional marketing practices, there are now a number of digital shopping activities that precede and succeed the path to purchase. These actions help to inform decision-making; add value, transparency and interaction; and ultimately lead to better buying experiences for consumers. Omnichannel facilities are an imperative and, for sustained success, physical retailers need to leverage their consumer-relationship information (via their rich datasets and loyalty) — with the right technologies, and a strong focus on convenience — to expand their consumer touchpoints.
The scope for continued growth in online shopping is also undisputed when we consider consumers’ willingness to adopt more digital elements to make their shopping experience easier and simpler. The incidence of SA consumers ordering online for home delivery is 21%, with a further 45% willing, and those using online automatic subscription is 7% but those willing to use this as an option in the future is 32%.
Regardless of whether shopping online or offline, consumers are seeking a more-efficient and -enjoyable experience. Large, small and virtual stores need to be infused with positive sensory encounters, relevant services and technological capabilities that provide ease, utility and simplicity. Eliminating mundane shopping actions with programmatic functions, automated lists and subscriptions that utilise artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality, as well as tapping into consumers’ connected lifestyles and viewing habits on social media, are the way forward.
No matter whether it is before, during or after people eat, clean or shop, there are more opportunities and means to engage consumers than ever. The arrival of the internet and mobile phones has been a game-changer for engagement. Hyperconnected and hyperavailable, 84% of consumers enjoy the freedom of being connected anytime, anywhere. Connected devices and platform fragmentation provide more-convenient, on-demand and -interactive ways to view, read and listen to content. And for brands, this enables more-tangible links with consumers, from product discovery to purchase outcome.
Accordingly, marketers are reallocating their advertising spend, based on ever-increasing data and information about consumer-engagement touchpoints. This is enabling more-relevant and -personalised content to engage with addressable audiences. But there is a caution to this: technology can be complex and information overload is becoming a reality — 54% of consumers say they are overwhelmed by the amount of information available. Marketers will need to simplify their digital systems, consider integrated apps and personalise content, with frictionless links to a purchase outcome.
In many regards, ‘connected consumers’ are navigating their own engagement path. Brands need to be fully immersed in the search, social and shopping spaces and explore new ways to identify consumer interests, needs and touchpoints to provide seamless connections to satisfy them.
The quest for convenience is at the very heart of what most consumers are striving for, but one of the most-important points to appreciate is that convenience does not mean the same to everyone, everywhere or everything. In our increasingly ‘on-demand’ world, consumers will have more control to customise, and summon products and services, where and when they need them.
Brands and marketers will need to match these ‘in the moment’ needs, using data to develop solutions, and deepen relationships with their consumers. Each market, brand, store and service may be at different inflection points on this quest, but one thing is clear — a comprehensive understanding of consumers’ circumstances and pain points gives brands a clear connection with the opportunities and solutions that consumers seek.
Ailsa Wingfield is executive director: thought leadership for Nielsen Global Markets. She helps companies capture today and tomorrow’s prospects by identifying and exploring demand-generating trends through strategic foresight, knowledge and thought leadership creation. She has extensive experience in Africa and Middle East, working with global and local brands in multiple countries across the consumer goods, media and telecommunications industry.
The article first appeared in the 2018 edition of Brands & Branding in South Africa, an annual review from Affinity Publishing of all aspects of brand marketing — consisting of case-studies, profiles, articles and research — also accessible at Brands.MarkLives.com. Order your copy of the 2018 edition now!
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