Luxuries are out as pandemic-hit consumers tighten their purse strings

20 August 2020 - 12:38 By Suthentira Govender
South Africans can longer afford luxuries in their trolleys a new survey has found
South Africans can longer afford luxuries in their trolleys a new survey has found

SA consumers have no extra income for luxuries and buy only essentials, a new survey has revealed.

The survey, led by consumer experience company nlighten together with media consultant Vanessa Raphaely and behavioural specialist Justine Jackson-Fraser, found that almost 50% of respondents have no additional income for luxury goods and buy only the bare essentials.

The aim of the survey — which included 261 respondents — was to assess how the Covid-19 pandemic had changed consumers' shopping and spending behaviour.

The survey quoted 33% of respondents as saying that any extra spending money would go towards health and wellness items for their families and 40% indicated that health had become their priority.

When asked what the main driver behind their spending was, 41 % said that price was now their biggest driver for purchasing decisions, while 35% opted for convenience.

“As SA entered level two of the lockdown this week, businesses need to ask themselves if they are prepared to face the new consumer.Do  they know how their customer has changed in the wake of a global health pandemic?” said Nathalie Schooling, CEO of nlighten.

“Since women still make the majority of household purchasing decisions, it’s important that businesses tune in to what these customers value, which has changed substantially during the pandemic.

“Shoppers are tired of standing in long queues, it is time-consuming and just not safe any more, so finding new and convenient ways to serve will become key for companies,” said Schooling.

There has also been a heightened sense of empathy and a move towards putting money back into the pockets of the “little guy”.

In the survey, 74% of respondents indicated that since the start of lockdown in March, they were more likely to support small businesses, local home industries and those who serve the greater community.

According to behavioural specialist Jackson-Fraser, events that create a major change in emotions, such as a global health pandemic, would affect behaviour.

This is indicated by 75% of respondents saying they now had a  greater sense of empathy and community, with 82% saying they value time and connection with loved ones more now than before, while 63% value a slower, more present and sustainable lifestyle.

“It’s vital that businesses start paying close attention to how consumer values and needs are changing, because there’s no more hiding for anyone.

“Trust has become a huge factor in how businesses are perceived. Customers will immediately see whether a brand cares about them from how they respond to this crisis. And companies that don’t respond appropriately shouldn’t expect to survive,” said Schooling.