Township trends research reveals growing preference for value over brand, and loyalty for local 

The 2023 Township CX Report is out and marketers must pay attention

Spaza shop in a township

Key insights :

  • Township consumers are increasingly prioritising value over brand loyalty, with 59.3% stating price as primary consideration when choosing a product
  • A strong sense of loyalty exists towards local shops and brands, evidenced by 23% of respondents who spend 25% to 50% of their income within the township
  • Spaza shops are witnessing a year-on-year increase in the number of daily shoppers
  • The popularity of home-grown brands is on the rise among township consumers
  • Local fashion brands, led by Bathu, are attracting significant spending by township residents, followed by Drip and Amakipkip
  • Township-based delivery services are experiencing a surge in growth
  • Wider and more accessible internet access is creating more opportunities for online work
  • Stokvel community is undergoing a notable shift towards younger and more tech-savvy members

South Africa’s townships are seeing a significant shift in consumer behaviour, with a growing preference for value over brand affinity. That’s according to digital CX agency Rogerwilco’s Township CX (Customer Experience) Report for 2023, developed in conjunction with market research company Survey54. This as residents adapt to a number of challenges including high unemployment, power cuts, poor service delivery and rising food prices. 

Now in its third year, the Township CX Report polled more than 1,000 individuals living in townships nationwide to better understand their spending and saving habits, and the brands that resonate with them. 

When asked about their motivation for choosing a particular brand, the survey found that 59.3% of respondents considered price as the decisive factor. Additionally, 24.9% of participants emphasised the importance of a brand’s understanding of their needs, while only 10.4% mentioned advertising as a motivating factor.

Mongezi Mtati, senior brand strategist at Rogerwilco, notes, “We’re seeing spaza shops adopting strategies such as repackaging products into smaller sizes and offering weigh-and-pay options. These approaches cater to customers’ budgets and their current need for value.”

The efforts made by spaza shop owners are paying off, as 25% of respondents reported spending over 50% of their income within the township. Moreover, there has been a rise in patronage of local spaza shops, with 51% of respondents claiming to shop at spazas daily—an increase from 44% in 2022.

“To succeed in this market and win the hearts and minds of customers, brands may need to consider collaborating with spaza shops. Close partnerships with these businesses will allow brands to increase their basket sizes as customers top up their supplies throughout the month,” suggests Mtati.

The loyalty towards local businesses extends to the fashion industry as well. The popularity of home-grown brands is on the rise among township consumers. In 2022, 75% of respondents expressed a higher likelihood to purchase local fashion brands if they were easily accessible through store cards at frequented shops. This year, the survey delved into the actual expenditure on local fashion. Nearly 17% of respondents reported spending between R1,000 and R2,000 in the past year, with almost 6% investing over R3,000 in local fashion over that time. Footwear brand Bathu leads this demand, with 7% of respondents stating they purchased the brand within the last twelve months, followed by Drip (4.4%) and Amakipkip (purchased by just over 1% of respondents). In comparison, 6.3% of respondents bought international fashion brands.

The internet is crucial in transforming life in South African townships, providing opportunities for education, access to information, and income generation. Last year’s study showed that 70% of respondents had purchased online. This year, respondents were asked about using the internet to earn money, and 60% reported that either they or someone they knew had engaged in the online sale of products or services or working online.

The availability of affordable and high-speed internet has significantly impacted internet penetration in South Africa, which now stands at 72.3%. Mtati highlights the contributions made by initiatives like Isizwe.com’s Kayamandi Fibre Project and others led by Vumatel in achieving this milestone.

Improved internet access benefits individuals and presents numerous opportunities for small businesses to thrive. One sector that has experienced notable growth is food delivery services, driven by the surge in e-commerce and the unique circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. While established platforms like Uber Eats and Checkers Sixty60 enjoy strong brand recognition, local services such as Zulzi and YeboFresh have successfully addressed specific needs within the township ecosystem. For example, Zulzi offers a wide range of products, including food and pharmaceuticals, and even facilitates instant loans. On the other hand, YeboFresh focuses on bulk orders via WhatsApp for local businesses, leveraging economies of scale.

Digital access is also reshaping the traditional stokvel landscape, with notable increases in membership among the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups. According to this year’s report, two-thirds (63.9%) of individuals in the 25-34 age group are now part of one or more stokvels, making them the most prominent demographic and accounting for the highest growth in stokvel adoption. Additionally, the 18-24 age group has seen an increase in stokvel participation, rising from 37% in the previous year to 44% in 2023.

Mtati emphasises that innovative solutions such as the stokvel management app StokFella, combined with the rise of fintech solutions, promote financial inclusion and alternative savings methods among South Africa’s youth.

As township residents continue to prioritise value over brand loyalty and increasingly support local businesses, the findings of this year’s Township CX Report underscore the importance of brands actively engaging and establishing a presence within these communities.

The full report can be accessed here https://www.rogerwilco.co.za/south-africas-cx-township-report-2023-here

This story was published in BusinessDay, Daily Maverick and Bizcommunity

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