Women wield the bulk of South African spending power

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THE purchasing power of South Africa’s 18 million female consumers is undeniable given that seventy-one percent of them are responsible for grocery shopping, while sixty percent are the primary purchaser within South African households, making them a force to be reckoned with, in the local retail sector.

‘It’s clear that this influence will only grow, with 21-million female consumers expected in the local market by 2025 and their labour force participation numbers set to increase from the current 9.5 million to 11 million (also by 2025),’ said global market research firm Nielsen in a new report. This increase will see a greater number of working women encounter even more time pressures, especially since their average work week of 42 hours, already outpaces the average 37 hours in Europe.

‘We see that women hold the power when it comes to purchase decisions and their choices change as they go through different life stages. It’s therefore important to understand these changes, to produce products that appeal to women throughout their lives,’ said the report.

Nielsen data shows that currently 80 percent of women purchase most from supermarkets, their average expenditure per trip is 220 rand ($15.14)and there is an average of five stores in their repertoire. In terms of how frequently they shop, women are in store at least once a week, consisting of a bulk shop once a month and top up shops three times a month.

The most common items purchased in their monthly bulk shop include skincare (body lotion, moisturisers, body wash etc.) 61 percent, sanitary protection (59 percent) and shampoo and hair conditioner (58 percent). When asked what they purchased on their last visit to the shops, 68 percent of women said fresh meat or poultry, 68 percent dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter), 64 percent bread/freshly baked goods and 61 percent laundry detergents & household cleaners.

A shopping mindset

To really meet the diverse range of women’s needs in the retail market, it is important to understand that women’s shopping and brand habits change as their lifestyles change, especially when they become mothers, which radically alters shopping behaviour.

Women transition from prioritising their personal desires, splurging on personal luxuries and engaging in impulse buying to, prioritising their family needs, spending knowingly and asking for trusted product advice with the aim of providing the best for their family needs. Therefore, it’s vital to connect with the women shopper early on, retain her as a brand ambassador and cement product choices throughout her life, by understanding where and how she shops.

‘When it comes to stores, we have found that women look for conveniently located stores to ease their daily stress and pressures they face. Their shopping destination choices include a place which is simple and where it is convenient to find what they need, has easy to navigate aisles and good lighting, is well stocked, displays clearly marked price points and promotions, and features efficient checkout counters,’ said the report.

The good news is that 81 percent of women enjoy doing grocery shopping. When it comes to shopping habits and preferences a substantial 90 percent feel customer service is important, 84 percent plan but buy additional items, 71 percent are price conscious and 37 percent actively look for promotions – insights that offer interesting points for engagement and planning for manufacturers and retailers alike.

The power of moms

So what are the key aspects connecting these very modern women? The first point to consider, is their choice to delay parenthood, with the majority (56 percent) consciously choosing to have children between the ages 25-39. This delays any life-stage related changes to their spending patterns. Another important aspect is that older moms tend to be more financially secure and therefore have more money to spend on their families.

Once they enter the parenting cycle, first time moms tend to be unsure about the delivery and reliability of products. They rely on trusted advisors for product recommendations and become averse to trying new products, unless otherwise advised. Brands therefore have a short window of time to capture and retain their trust and loyalty. Products also need to stand out from the clutter, given that the South African baby/ child market is highly competitive, with more than 926 baby personal care products and 1887 baby food products.

Strong connections

To ensure effective connections with this highly desirable consumer, brands need to use brand power in adjacent categories, maximise trust and credibility and grow their base of brand ambassadors.

Getting women to think about your product can be tricky. In order to effectively grab their attention, the traditional engagement model needs to be revamped from a category focus, to a lifestyle focus, with a move away from short term brand association to long term impact and affinity. The power of women in the shopping sphere cannot be ignored and brands need to understand how women think and behave, to allow for the creation of truly women-centric retail strategies that cater to their unique needs.

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