Businesses in Africa are facing a challenge that is unprecedented in recent history. COVID-19 is changing the landscape of business and marketing messages need to change alongside this evolving situation. Currently, Africa has a relatively low number of confirmed cases of coronavirus but 68% of Africans are concerned about the virus and how it might affect them. While health and wellness are top of mind, 63% of Africans report they are more concerned about how the pandemic will impact them financially.
As the virus gained traction earlier this year, consumers in Africa experienced immediate, and in many cases catastrophic, financial distress. In February, both the Consumer Sentiment and Personal Finance indexes began a sharp plummet to all-time lows. Despite the uncertainty, Africans report feelings of optimism that recovery is possible, and 80% feel reassured that life will return to normal before the end of the year.
Businesses must adjust marketing messages to respond to consumer sentiments today and moving into the future. We polled consumers from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Tanzania. Using data-driven insights obtained from these surveys, we have put together three effective marketing strategies brands can use that take into account our new reality and how consumers are reacting within it.
Understanding how people respond to a global pandemic is new to everyone. By asking the right questions to a variety of consumers, we learn how the current situation is affecting their behavior today and what the impact will be in the future. Keeping up to date on consumer sentiments and behavior as the pandemic evolves allows brands to quickly adjust marketing messages and strategies. There is no one size fits all approach for brands to use while navigating business in a pandemic. Research has shown that consumer behavior is different across regions and countries in Africa. Companies need to leverage the right information to make data-driven decisions that will have a positive impact on their business and give them a competitive advantage. The right data at the right time allows companies to speak directly to people’s immediate concerns. This helps build trust and relationships that last well beyond today.
As coronavirus spreads, businesses can keep employees and customers safe by following the most up to date recommendations from health officials. Implementing best practices for handwashing, disinfecting procedures, and wearing masks show that a business cares about the health and safety of employees, consumers, and the community. Regularly and consistently communicating these best practices to employees and consumers can help alleviate fear and reassure people that a business is doing all it can to keep people safe.
The world changed when coronavirus began to spread and businesses need to change, too. When asked, 61% of Africans reported they are practicing social distancing and 47% are shopping online. Businesses need to examine their service delivery models and determine where they can pivot to offer services in response to these consumer insights. There are three ways that brands across Africa can start to innovate in response to the pandemic.
Increase digital marketing efforts
Africans are using online resources to stay up to date on the pandemic. When surveyed, consumers reported they prefer brands to use digital solutions like social media posts and online advertising. Of the online messages they want to see, 23% of consumers said they want to learn about innovative solutions or products that businesses have to offer.
Adapt business model to align with changing consumer behavior
Businesses who adapt their products and services in response to the way consumers are shopping will have more success. Since the pandemic began, over 98% of Africans have altered their shopping habits. Consumers are looking for shopping solutions that are convenient and safe. This means they are shopping online more. People have changed their routines and are looking for options that allow them to shop in less crowded spaces.
Offer cashless payment solutions
Many businesses have long survived by accepting predominantly cash payments. Since handling cash is perceived as a higher risk form of payment, 40% of Africans have adopted mobile money as their primary form of payment. Cashless payment solutions offer increased convenience for consumers and minimize direct contact. This increases safety for business owners, employees, and the people they serve.
Many African businesses have successfully answered the call to innovate. For example, Shoprite Supermarket has a mobile store that travels to outlying communities. This allows community members to get food for their families without the stress of traveling to bigger suburbs. NetFlorist also pivoted in response to consumer needs. Instead of delivering flowers, the company now offers grocery delivery.