Women wield the bulk of SA spending power

The purchasing power of South Africa’s 18-million female consumers is undeniable given that 71 per cent of them are responsible for grocery shopping, while 60 per cent 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. 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.

These and other insights were shared by Nielsen BASES director Esti Prinsloo speaking at the Power of Mom Conference where she explained: ‘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.’

Nielsen data shows that currently 80 per cent of women purchase most from supermarkets, their average expenditure per trip is R220 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 per cent, sanitary protection (59 per cent) and shampoo and hair conditioner (58 per cent). When asked what they purchased on their last visit to the shops, 68 per cent of women said fresh meat or poultry, 68 per cent dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter), 64 per cent bread/freshly baked goods and 61 per cent laundry detergents and household cleaners.

 A shopping mindset

But to really meet the diverse range of women’s needs in the retail market, Prinsloo said it was 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 so-called ‘selfish spenders’ who prioritise their personal desires, splurge on personal luxuries and engage in impulse buying to ‘conscious spenders’, who prioritise their family needs, spend knowingly and ask for trusted product advice with the aim of providing the best for their family needs.

‘What’s vital, is to connect with the women shopper early on, retain her as a brand ambassador and cement product choices throughout her life. A key aspect of this, is understanding where and how she shops,’ explained Prinsloo.

In response to this, Nielsen data has found that women are looking for conveniently located stores to ease their daily stress and pressures they face and once they’re there, they want ‘a place where it is simple and convenient to find what I need’, has easy to navigate aisles and good lighting, is well stocked, displays clearly marked price points and promotions, and features efficient checkout counters.

Fortunately, the good news is that 81 per cent of women enjoy doing grocery shopping. When it comes to shopping habits and preferences a substantial 90 per cent feel customer service is important, 84 per cent plan but buy additional items, 71 per cent are price conscious and 37 per cent actively look for promotions – insights that offer interesting pointers 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 per cent) 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,’ explained Prinsloo.

She added that 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 target market, Prinsloo said manufacturers needed to use brand power in adjacent categories, maximise trust and credibility and grow their base of brand ambassadors.

In addition, she pointed out: ‘Getting women to think about your product can be tricky as it’s difficult to engage them and find a relevant touchpoint, be it on social media, online or along the path to purchase. “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.

‘You have to get in touch with women one on one to hear what they’re really saying, understand how they think and behave, which will allow for the creation of truly women-centric retail strategies.’

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