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Follow our blogs to gain insights into contemporary market research and business intelligence trends relevant to consumers and business. The blogs serves as a platform for knowledge generation and sharing for those interested in household and personal wealth, demography and population, economic and business, consumer behavior, neuroscience and youth research. The blog supports life-long learning and collective generation of solutions related to contemporary community-related challenges impacting on South African individuals, society and regulatory environments.

TRACKING MOOD STATES CONSIDERING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The 2021 syndicate research report by the Behavioural and Communication Research Division decided to utilise the annual Happiness Index data somewhat differently.  Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, health has become the predominant driver of happiness, affecting mood states, and influencing the consciousness of South Africans and consequently also their behaviour.  The media’s pervasive coverage and influence on the response to the pandemic makes the research on general mood states and mood states experienced during the pandemic particularly topical.  To this end, the self-assessment manikin (SAM) measure used in the cross-sectional Happiness Index study since 2012 (Joubert & Poalses 2012) is suited to measure moods due to underlying theoretical assumptions underlying the instrument.  By limiting the data analysis to a single instrument provides rich and focused information, focusing on the reflection of life in greater depth, and providing a more prominent concept of well-being.

A series of events that preceded the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns are presented. These included, amongst others, the swearing in of Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa to a five-year term as president of South Africa, national elections, inequality, unemployment, corruption, economic insecurity, the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, xenophobic violence, the rights of people with disabilities, gender-based violence, the right to health and a healthy environment, Eskom’s load shedding and student protests.  These emotively laden matters escalated and are regarded important and newsworthy political and socio-economic incidents and occurrences that could have already had an impact on the mood states of South Africans when the pandemic and national lockdown eventually ensued.

An analytical synopsis of positive, negative, and ambivalent mood state measures from 2012 to 2020 is presented below.  The range of colours represent the year-to-year trends, with dark green being most favourable followed by the lighter greens, then yellow, orange and lastly red being most negative.  It should be noted that the figures displayed represent overall trends, and any interpretation thereof is general in nature, as significant demographical and socio-economic differences are evident.  Disaggregated analyses and interpretations with comparative general and COVID-related mood states are presented in the comprehensive BMR syndicate research report.  These include age, gender, population group, relationship status, province, education, personal income, and employment status.

Upon closer examination it is evident that approximately three in four participants expressed positive moods between 2012 and 2018.  The 2020 general mood state rating remained comparable to previous years suggesting that participants are able to express how they feel with greater confidence, without a sense of ambivalence about it. When confronted with the Covid-19 pandemic ambivalent general mood states have, however, increased considerably during 2020.  The implication for consumer and business behaviour is that these moods influence attitudes and ultimately the intentionality of behaviour. A strong emotive state, whether positive or negative, will influence the sentiments driving decision making and ultimately the behaviour of consumers.

Demographic variables showing the greatest difference between the general and COVID-19 positive mood states revealed interesting findings to be of value to marketers as this insight into specific consumer segments could be of strategic importance for certain products and services.

In addition, the research also gauged qualitative insights to obtain a more in-depth understanding of the emotive impact of COVID-19 on well-being, whether positive or negative.  While substantially more comments alluded to a negative influence on well-being, a large number of comments indicated a positive sentiment, and a few also indicated both positive and negative.  In short, the following predominant positive and negative themes emerged from the array of verbatim comments:

Interesting findings were revealed across all demographic variables.  However, the most telling findings resulted from measuring the difference between the general mood and the COVID-19 mood.   All demographic variables yielded statistically significant differences.   The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on human lives, claiming about 4 million deaths worldwide, of which more than 62 000 deaths occurred in South Africa at the time of this report.  As such, there are increasing calls to consider the impact of COVID-19 on people’s psychological well-being and mental health.  It is important to keep the information about the Coronavirus, pandemic, and lockdown salient, honest, transparent, and forthcoming.  The role of the South African Government, media releases and research of this nature are therefore deemed pivotal in the manner in which the South African population may be perceiving the pandemic emotively.  From a consumer perspective, consumers have been necessitated to approach their purchasing behaviour differently, and in response to this, marketers would generally have had to adjust their marketing appeals and campaigns accordingly to align to different lockdown level protocols. The findings from this study confirms the significantly change in emotive mood states caused by the ubiquitous presence of COVID-19 and presents a number of guidelines for marketers to take into consideration during marketing campaigns when targeting specific markets.

TRACKING MOOD STATES CONSIDERING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC (Research Report No 514).  For any enquiries regarding the research study, please contact Ms Jacolize Poalses at jacolize.poalses@bmr.co.za or Prof Pierre Joubert at pierre.joubert@bmr.co.za who are the compilers of the report.

CONSUMER FINANCIAL VULNERABILITY INDEX: Q2 2021

Consumer finances impacted negatively on all levels during Q2 2021

The state of South African consumers’ personal finances deteriorated during the second quarter of 2021 (Q2 2021) following a gradual improvement since Q2 2020. Higher levels of financial vulnerability in Q2 2021 were caused amongst others by the COVID-19 social relief grant which ended in March 2021, pressures of rising fuel and food prices, high unemployment and limited salary increases. The impact of these and other factors are reflected in the Momentum-Unisa Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index (CFVI) which decreased to 45.9 points from 49.7 points in Q1 2021.

The drivers that led to the lower CFVI score were the significant decline in consumers abilities to save and limited employment opportunities, which were exacerbated by below-inflation salary increases and absence of social relief grants – making it difficult for consumers to live within their means during the past three months.

  • The income index weakened from 50.2 points in Q1 2020 to 47.4 points in Q2 2021.
  • The expenditure index declined from 52.3 points to 48.4 points over the same period.
  • The savings index deteriorated the most, declining by 6.1 points to 42.7 points in Q2 2021.
  • The debt servicing index decreased from 47.5 points in Q1 2021, to 44.9 points in Q2 2021.

The decline in the CFVI therefore reflects that the majority of consumers are feeling financially exposed and insecure, meaning that any small adverse event (e.g. pay cuts) can contribute to a large deterioration in the state of their personal finances. When interpreting the CFVI, it is important to keep in mind that a small number of consumers earn the bulk of the income and are responsible for most of the spending, saving and debt servicing in the economy.

 The main reasons behind the changes in the four sub-index scores:

  • Income vulnerability increased during Q2 2021. The main constraint to consumer incomes is the inability of the economy to create jobs for a large portion of the population. This made obtaining or retaining employment extremely difficult, which – as a result – negatively influenced consumers’ income earning prospects. In addition, the COVID-19 social relief grant of R350 per month came to an end in March 2021.
  • Higher levels of expenditure vulnerability for Q2 2021. Compared to Q1 2021, a larger portion of key informants believed consumers’ expenditure tended to exceed their incomes, thereby impacting their ability to remain within budget. The majority of key informants were of the view that consumers generally tend to live beyond their means and not demonstrate self-control when it comes to spending.
  • Savings vulnerability also increased in Q2 2021. It seems as if consumers struggled to save in general. This is confirmed by a larger percentage of key informants disagreeing with the statement that consumers’ ability to save improved in Q2 2021. This also includes saving more for retirement. Many key informants also indicated that consumers unfortunately did not have greater access to emergency savings in Q2 2021. Many consumers have been forced to sacrifice saving in order to cover expenditure and service their existing debts.
  • Consumers were more vulnerable in terms of debt servicing capabilities in Q2 2021. Low interest rates assisted in limiting debt servicing costs, but given the pressure on income and expenditure, consumers had limited funds to repay outstanding debts. It appears some consumers’ financial circumstances might have continued to call for a cancellation of financial obligations.

The key informants were asked to indicate which consumers they deem to be most financially vulnerable during the past quarter based on their interactions with consumers and their perceptions of consumer financial behaviours. Key informants highlighted that the youth (those below 39 years) tend to be the most financially vulnerable consumers. This was the opinion of more than two thirds (71.3%) of key informants. This corresponds to the economic struggles that this market segment faces, including high unemployment and the pressures brought about due to changes in life stages (such as student loans, getting married or having children).

Some observations made by key informants concerning the financial behaviour of consumers include:

  • The psychological toll of the pandemic is greater than one might realise.
  • Consumers tend to be very negative about the country and do not feel in control of their lives.
  • Consumers in low-income groups tend to rely on government for support and survival and not so much on creating their own sources of income.
  • Consumers have changed their buying behaviour as the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital products and services, such as online grocery shopping.
  • The pandemic has undermined the feeling that long-term planning is important, with consumers having a survival mindset and not taking tomorrow into consideration.

The majority of consumers in South Africa are struggling financially, given sluggish job creation and the pressures of prices of goods and services which are rising at a faster rate than incomes. Consumer finances will remain volatile for some time to come, supported by the majority view of key informants that such a recovery could take more than two years following the initial shocks brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

As part of Momentum’s Science of Success campaign, the Index is produced in partnership with Unisa. It aims to provide South Africans with information and strategies on how they can accelerate their journey to financial success. The CFVI is compiled from the views of key informants (researchers, bankers, insurers, retailers, government, economists, analysts, etc.) who deal with consumers daily and/or study consumer finances continuously.

Please click HERE to download the full report.

MID-2021 POPULATION ESTIMATES FOR SOUTH AFRICA BY PROVINCE, DISTRICT AND LOCAL MUNICIPALITY

The Bureau of Market Research (BMR) (Pty) Ltd at the University of South Africa (Unisa) recently released a report on the population projections for South Africa by province, district and local municipality as of mid-2021.

The BMR report, compiled by the Demographic Research Division, applies a cohort component method in projecting the national and provincial population and the ratio method for the district and local municipality population. The base of the projections is the October 2011 Population Census figures adjusted to mid-2011 in conformity with international standards for population projections.

The BMR estimates the total South African population as at mid-2021 to be 60.5 million persons. The provincial breakdown indicates that Gauteng remains the most populous province with an estimated population of 15.9 million persons, while Northern Cape remains the least populous province with an estimated total population size of 1.3 million people, as at mid-2021. Also, the percentages of the population group composition are estimated to be 80.8% for Black Africans and 2.6% for Indians/Asians in mid‐2021. Besides cohort analyses by province and population group, the report also provides population estimates by age–sex structure, with females projected to constitute 51% of the mid-2021 population. A gradual ageing population is observed from the analyses. The report further articulates that of the projected mid-2021 population of the 20 largest metropolitan and district municipalities in South Africa, as of mid-2021, Zululand District Municipality (936 632 persons) in KwaZulu-Natal Province ranked number 20, while the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (5 971 781 persons) in Gauteng Province ranked number one. The estimates indicate that as of mid‐2021, the largest local municipality in terms of population size was Emfuleni (803 411 persons) in Gauteng Province while the least populous local municipality was Mier (6 902 persons) in the Northern Cape Province.

The BMR report provides essential population estimates for South Africa which can be used for planning purposes regarding inter alia health, service provision and fiscal aspects. Increasing population numbers imply that, in the future, there would be an increased demand for social and health services, electricity, water supply as well as toilet and waste disposal facilities, and this needs to be taken into consideration when planning in these sectors. Overall, the results of this study are particularly useful for the computation of various health indicators such as disease prevalence and mortality rates. Likewise, the updated projections are of vital importance for the private and public sectors alike.  Whereas the private sector uses such updates primarily for market sizing purposes, the public sector uses the updates primarily for planning purposes.  Population indicators are also useful in the continued surveillance of COVID-19 as well as the on-going vaccination programmes in South Africa.  However, it is important to note that the populations estimations do not take into consideration the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has most likely increased mortality rates, accompanied by a drop in fertility rates, while migration may also have been receding.  Factoring the impact of COVID-19 into population estimates will require strong and valid indicators for understanding the phenomenon. Until surety with a high degree of certainty has been obtained regarding the validity of available demographic data, the BMR’s past methodology for estimating the size of the South African population has been retained, with the mid-2021 estimates presented in the BMR report.

MID-2021 POPULATION ESTIMATES FOR SOUTH AFRICA BY PROVINCE, DISTRICT AND LOCAL MUNICIPALITY (Research Report No 513) was compiled by Dr Joshua Kembo (BMR Senior Researcher) in collaboration with Professor Carel van Aardt (BMR Research Director).  For any enquiries regarding the study please contact Dr J Kembo joshua.kembo@bmr.co.za who was the lead researcher of the study.

PERSONAL INCOME ESTIMATES FOR SOUTH AFRICA, 2016 – 2021

TRENDS IN PERSONAL INCOME ESTIMATES (2016 – 2020)

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic the South African economy was characterised by low growth, high levels of income inequality and poverty, structural unemployment and low investment. The weak economy with a growing national debt burden contributed to sovereign ratings downgrades, consequently increasing national debt service costs. Individuals and households, especially those in lower income groups, also had to turn to unsecured debt to finance living costs as the economy was already under immense pressure giving rise to little job creation.

During 2020 the situation intensified following economic closures during the Covid-19 lockdown, giving rise to negative economic growth, even higher levels of unemployment and great losses in personal income. The economy contracted by 7.0% and many individuals either lost their jobs or became discouraged to even look for jobs, resulting in an expanded unemployment rate of 42.6% at the end of the year (Statistics South Africa, 2021). During 2020 income losses did not only result due to job losses, but also due to indirect and induced economic impacts on the personal income growth of those people who did not lose their jobs, for example earning lower incomes than usual during the Covid-19 lockdown period due to not being able to work their usual full hours or receiving lower or no salary increases because of businesses not being able to afford such increases due to low or negative business income growth.

In order to investigate personal income positions of consumers given the macroeconomic challenges indicated above, the BMR income and expenditure model was updated with the latest available data to obtain the estimates provided in this report. Population and parameter weights were used to ensure the overall accuracy (validity) of the income estimates of the model. The results (figure 1) for the adult population (aged 15 years and older) indicate that following relatively high annual nominal growth rates of around 7.5% during 2016 and 2017, nominal growth rates in personal incomes slowed to around 5% during 2018 and 2019. The year 2020, however, brought about declines in income, where total income decreased by 3.4%, while cash flow income for the adult population also declined by a somewhat higher rate of 3.8%, resulting in a constrained ability of South African individuals to transact due to less funds available for expenditure and therefore negatively impacting the economy. The main difference between these income definitions is that income of a non-cash nature such as income in kind and imputed rent are included in total income but are excluded from cash flow income.

Skewed income distributions persist in South Africa, and in all likelihood have been intensified during 2020 (see figure 2). This is seen in that 74.9% of the adult population earned below R62 500 per annum (or R5 200 per month), receiving 12.6% of total income and 9.8% of cash flow income (due to grants and other transfers including in kind transfers) during 2020. In contrast only 4.4% of the adult population earned more than R455 000 per annum (approximately R38 000 per month), but they received 43.1% of total income and 45.0% of cash flow income. The analysis further showed that 44.8% of the total adult population does not earn any income and 13.2% of the adult population relies mainly on grants as income source.

OUTLOOK FOR PERSONAL INCOMES

The 2021 trajectory of the South African economy is to a large extent a function of possible economic recovery after the 2020 economic impacts of Covid-related lockdowns and Eskom electricity provision constraints and a large number of remaining downside risks to economic recovery. The resulting macroeconomic situation in 2020, given this continuous contestation between recovery and downside risks, is not providing any definitive expected outcomes for 2021. In the light of such uncertainties, it is expected that there will be an improvement in personal incomes during 2021, but the magnitude of the improvement will be fairly small and it should be kept in mind that such an improvement is from a negative personal income growth base of 2020.

The results indicate that the adult population is expected to grow by 1.7% during 2021, resulting in an adult population size of 43.3 million individuals. Total income for the adult population is expected to record an increase of 5.16% in nominal terms during 2021, while cash flow income is expected to record a slightly higher increase of 5.17% in 2021. This translates to an increase of R209 billion in total income and an increase of R183 billion in cash flow income expected during 2021. When inflation is considered, the purchasing power of consumers’ income would still, despite this increase, be below the levels of before the impact of the pandemic and lockdown.

Salaries and wages remain the largest contributor to income but given the significant decrease in investment income during 2020 it can be expected that the largest increase in income from the specified main sources will be for investment income, given the low base (2020 value) from which the growth rate is measured. Given the limited increases in grants announced by the Minister of Finance in the February 2021 budget speech (National Treasury, 2021) the income of those individuals that depend on grants as their main source of income is expected to increase at 3.8% during 2021.

Major challenges await policy makers and decision makers in the public and private sectors to assist in the recovery to pre-lockdown levels and creating additional income growth opportunities. The recovery process for the economy in general will most likely be slow and is estimated that output and employment will remain well below pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023, with considerable uncertainty surrounding the future.

PERSONAL INCOME ESTIMATES FOR SOUTH AFRICA, 2016 – 2021 (Research Report No 512).  For any enquiries regarding the research study, please contact Ms J Meiring at jacolize.meiring@bmr.co.za, Prof CJ van Aardt at carel.vanaardt@bmr.co.za or Mr A Risenga at arthur.risenga@bmr.co.za who were the compilers of the report.

BMR Macroeconomic and Retail Trade Sales Forecast for South Africa 2021

Introduction

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted business and consumer confidence, shifted production and delivery supply chains resulting in a significant disruption but also transformation of the retail trade sales sector in 2020 and possibly for years to come. The relaxation of the national lockdown to level one announced by the President at the end of February 2021 had re-opened some economic opportunities for low-income households, but a significant proportion of consumers will continue to be vulnerable financially under the adjusted level 3 lockdown. Getting back to pre-pandemic output levels will take time. Recovery to the 2019 level of output is only expected in 2023, reflecting sustained headwinds to economic activity, including high long-term investment costs, electricity supply constraints and rising oil prices that have increased the economy’s total import bill, offsetting some income gains from a stronger term of trade.

Key Macroeconomic Forecasts 2021

South Africa economic growth is expected to rebound in 2021, underpinned by a global recovery and a commodity price upswing, which will support the key mining sector and which, combined with the prospect of a second consecutive bumper harvest, a tax-neutral budget and signs of a resumption in investment and construction will strengthen productivity and output. Overall, risks to the domestic growth outlook are assessed to be balanced. Global growth, progress in vaccination, a low cost of capital, and high commodity prices are all supportive of growth. However, new waves of the Covid-19 virus are likely to weigh on economic activity both globally and locally. In addition, ongoing constraints to the domestic supply of energy and uncertainty about vaccine rollout continue to pose downside risks to growth. Taking these aspects into account the BMR probabilistic macroeconomic model, predicts the South African economy to grow by 3.0% and for 2021 to be a more favourable year than 2020 in terms of the key macroeconomic indicators presented in the table 1 below.

Trends in Real Retail Trade Sales Growth 2013-2020

Figure 1 presents the annual growth in real retail trade sales in South Africa confirming that the sales have been registering a declining trend during the last eight years from a high of 2.7% in 2013 to a low of -6.9% in 2020.

Real Retail Trade Sales Forecast 2021

By taking into account the prospects of both the 2021 global, regional and local economies, the impact and progress in the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccination programmes, the BMR estimates formal retail sales to grow by 2.0% in real terms during 2021 with the highest growth projected for retail outlets in household furniture, appliances and equipment (5.3%), followed by pharmaceutical and medical goods, cosmetics and toiletries (3.8%), and general dealers (2.7%) as reflected in figure 2.

Real Household Consumption Expenditure Forecast 2021

Growth in consumption expenditure is normally attributed to two major components, namely, price inflation and an increase in demand.  The BMR forecasts household retail expenditure by product group in constant terms, to increase for most of products.  Overall, durable goods are anticipated to grow the most by (3.8%) while services and non-durables are likely to expand by (2.5%) and (2.3%) respectively and lastly semi-durables are expected to contract by (-0.8%) and services to increase by (2.9%) as depicted in figure 3.

Figure 4 confirms that in terms of retail outlets, the highest expansion in demand by product during 2021 is expected with respect to recreational and entertainment goods (8.8%) followed by household furniture, appliances, and equipment (6.5%) and thirdly computers and related equipment (5.7%).

Conclusion

The 2021 BMR retail sales forecast shows that retail sales are anticipated to increase by 5.8% in nominal terms and by 2.0% in real terms.  This forecast reflects an expansion in sales in terms of volumes for 2021 though from a low base given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The second wave of the pandemic was strong but had minimal direct impacts on the global economy. Countries addressed second waves by implementing better targeted and less economically damaging lockdowns, unlike the tight restrictions implemented during the first wave. In tandem, businesses have, where possible, adapted or shifted to less contact-intensive ways of working, further insulating production activity and many jobs from restrictions on mobility and contact. Similar cautious strategies are being adopted for the emerging third waves.

For any enquiries regarding the research study, please contact Prof PK Kibuuka (Research Director, Bureau of Market Research) at paul.kibuuka@bmr.co.za.

EXPECTED CONSUMER MARKET TRENDS DURING 2021

The Bureau of Market Research (BMR) recently released a research report focusing on expected consumer market trends during 2021. Data for this report was obtained by means of a key informant survey, identified consumer market trends from other recent consumer market reports and Big Data analyses of the South African consumer market. Such data sources revealed inter alia the following expected trends in the South African consumer market during 2021:

  • The economic growth rate during 2021 will be about 3 percent during 2021 which is, however, from a very low base of -7 percent during 2020. However, about half of the key informants surveyed during the survey are of opinion that the economic growth rate during 2021 might even be lower than the 2020 economic growth rate.
  • Although many key informants were unsure as to whether higher economic growth rates will be experienced during 2021 compared to 2020, they were fairly certain that higher levels of unemployment will realize during 2021 compared to 2020.
  • The main reason for the low economic growth and rising unemployment rates during 2020 was Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown. Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown also had a strong impact on consumer behaviour during 2020 in response to a large number of consumers either temporarily lost incomes during 2020 or maybe lost their jobs giving rise to longer term income losses.
  • Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown will have an impact on consumer finances during 2021. It is being expected that Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown will impact the four major categories of consumer finances, namely household income, expenditure, assets and liabilities.
  • Key informants surveyed for this study are generally very pessimistic about the immediate future of consumers during 2021 by indicating their belief that higher consumer confidence will not be returning during 2021.
  • Key informants believe that consumers will be cutting back on their spending during 2021, namely many consumers will be ‘buying down’ while focusing their expenditure on essential goods. The level to which consumers will be spending during 2021 will be determined by a large number of factors including the future trajectory of the Covid-19 virus and possible future stricter lockdowns as well as this year’s trajectory with respect to the economy, business incomes and employment.
  • There is a strong increase in the interest of consumers to buy goods online. It is being expected that consumer interest in online buying will continue to grow during 2021. Key informants not only believe that an increasing number of consumers will be buying online but also believe that consumers will increasingly be moving away from in-store sales to online purchases.
  • Consumers are also becoming increasingly more mobile in conducting their online purchases by using their mobile phones for such purposes. This appears to be part of a worldwide movement with shopping becoming much more mobile in the sense that shopping is being done on mobile phones anywhere at any time.
  • Consumers are increasingly accessing retailers in an omni-channel fashion. The advantage of this is that consumers can choose which shopping channel they prefer thus optimizing customer shopping experiences and here especially the value of a specific retailer/brand in the eyes of a consumer. By creating omni-channel shopping environments retailers enable consumers not only to buy during normal shopping hours but to purchase goods whenever it is convenient for the customer.
  • Key informants believe that that consumers want increasingly higher quality goods and services while being less willing to pay a premium for such higher quality products and services.
  • Key informants believe that during 2021 an increasing number of consumers will be spending money on their homes to ensure good home office environments for working from home purposes.
  • Key informants believe that an increasing number of consumers will be spending more money on digital Internet entertainment than on out-of-home entertainment such as restaurants, bars and theatres.
  • Whereas many businesses expected that people would gradually return to the office during 2021, key informants surveyed for the purpose of this study do not only expect that during 2021 people will continue working from home but they actually expect that an increasing number of people will be working from home.

Whereas the prime focus of the findings above was on expected changes in consumer behaviour and tastes during 2021, key informants were also asked about expected changes in retailer behaviour in response to the changes in consumer behaviour and tastes shown above. It appears from key informant responses that the following changes in retailer behaviour can be expected during 2021:

  • Retailers will increasingly be making use of Big Data (and here especially machine learning) derived insights for marketing and planning purposes.
  • Retailers will increasingly be moving online to sell their wares during 2021.
  • Retailers during 2021 will respond to various market disruptions driven by new technologies. Such rapidly evolving technologies are mostly driven by advancements in information technologies, communications, machine learning and robotics.
  • Retailers will innovate in a variety of ways during 2021. Such retail innovations include inter alia the use of artificial intelligence in market analyses, the use of augmented reality to attract customers, the use of electronic links to direct customers to ecommerce websites, the use of speech recognition in customer analytics, the use of virtual reality in marketing campaigns and the increased use of wearable technology (wearables) informing marketing.
  • Retailers will increasingly be making use of influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is successful at realizing four important marketing outcomes, namely growing brand awareness, enhancing the ability of consumers to use specific products and services, developing brand preferences as well as developing and strengthening product preferences.
  • Retailers will increasingly be making use of peer-to-peer marketing. As the world of digital marketing is evolving and given that there is growing competition for customers among retailers, new types of marketing approaches are being developed making use of digital marketing. Peer-to-peer marketing is premised upon the fact that people generally trust recommendations by other people they know.
  • Peer-to-peer selling will become increasingly prevalent. With the growing number of peer-to-peer sellers advertising on peer-to-peer websites/apps such as inter alia Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp groups, Facebook Marketplace, Bidorbuy, Gumtree, Carfind, Junkmail and OLX.

The findings of this study have a large number of implications for marketers. Such implications were highlighted and discussed in the report together with some strategic pointers as to how retailers can optimize their retail strategies for success.

For any enquiries regarding the research study, please contact Prof CJ van Aardt (Research Director, Bureau of Market Research) at carel.vanaardt@bmr.co.za.

CONSUMER FINANCIAL VULNERABILITY INDEX: Q1 2021

Consumers less financially vulnerable due to improved incomes during Q1 2021

The state of South African consumers’ personal finances continued to improve during the first quarter of 2021 (Q1 2021) on the back of a recovery in the income of especially middle- and higher income groups. Due to the important role income plays in consumer finances, it was the driving force behind the further improvement in the Momentum-Unisa Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index (CFVI) from the low point of 35.4 points registered in Q2 2020. In Q1 2021 the CFVI improved to 49.7 points from 47.5 points in Q4 2020.

Although improving income earning prospects was the main driver behind consumers’ experience of less financial vulnerability, all the sub-indices of the CFVI continued to recover (apart from savings all scores are higher than those recorded in Q4 2019):

  • The income index increased from 47.7 points in Q4 2020 to 50.2 points in Q1 2021.
  • The expenditure index improved from 49.2 points to 52.3 points over the same period.
  • The savings index was up 1.5 points to 48.8 points in Q1 2021.
  • The debt servicing index rose from 45.8 points in Q4 2020 to 47.5 points in Q1 2021.

However, notwithstanding the improvement in the CFVI and its four sub-indices, the majority of consumers are still feeling financially exposed and insecure, meaning that any small adverse event (e.g. pay cuts) can contribute to a large deterioration in the state of their personal finances.

The main reasons behind the changes in the four sub-index scores:

Income vulnerability decreased during Q1 2021. This suggests that more consumers were able to earn or increase their income. Compared to Q4 2020, a larger percentage of key informants were of the opinion that there has been a greater chance for consumers to retain or obtain employment during Q1 2021 as well as noting an improvement in the income earning prospects of consumers.

Lower levels of expenditure vulnerability were recorded for Q1 2021. This sub-component is supported by the recovery in employment. Compared to Q4 2020 a larger portion of key informants were also of the opinion that consumers’ expenditure did not exceed their incomes and therefore more consumers’ spending remained within budget during Q1 2021.

  • Savings vulnerability also decreased in Q1 2021. The continued improvement in savings can be attributed to both the recovery in income and more consumers living within their means. However, key informants indicated that consumers unfortunately did not have greater access to emergency savings in Q1 2021.
  • Consumers were less vulnerable in terms of debt servicing capabilities in Q1 2021. Low interest rates assisted in limiting debt servicing costs. Similar to savings, the recovery in income improved consumers’ ability to repay outstanding debts.

The key informants were asked to indicate which consumers they deem to be most financially vulnerable during the past quarter based on their interactions with consumers and their perceptions of consumer financial behaviours.

Key informants highlighted that financial vulnerability was prevalent in all income groups. However, the majority of the key informants (63.4%) perceived consumers earning less than R5 000 per month as most financially vulnerable.

The key informants also indicated the following financial vulnerabilities in terms of other demographic variables:

  • 3% indicated the youth (those aged below 39 years) to be the most financially vulnerable.
  • Two thirds perceived females to be more financially vulnerable than males.
  • 57% deemed individuals that are single (single, separated/divorced, widowed) to be more financially vulnerable in comparison to those who are married or living with a partner.
  • Individuals that are employed in the public sector were deemed to be the least financially vulnerable by 46.0% of key informants.

Interestingly, the trend witnessed in Q2 2020 – which saw consumers more concerned about their finances than their health (due to Covid-19) – continued during Q1 2021. The majority of those surveyed (30.7%) believe that consumers are more focused on their finances than on staying safe from the Coronavirus, while 26.7% said that consumers still attach a high value to their finances, but they also attach a high value to staying safe.

The Q1 2021 CFVI continued to show an improvement, displaying the adaptability and possible optimism of consumers. However, consumer finances will remain volatile for some time to come following the initial shocks brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown that started a year ago. Key informants noted that South African consumers are resilient, and some have started to adapt, but to experience a long-lasting recovery in their financial situations, consumers will require external support in the form of job creation and skills development in especially poorer communities.

As part of Momentum’s Science of Success campaign, the Index is one of the reports produced in the partnership between Momentum and Unisa that aims to provide South Africans with information and strategies on how they can accelerate their journey to financial success. The CFVI is compiled from the views of key informants (researchers, bankers, insurers, retailers, government, economists, analysts, etc.) who deal with consumers daily.

Please click HERE to download the full report.

CONSUMER FINANCIAL VULNERABILITY INDEX: Q4 2020

Improvement in consumer financial vulnerability levels, but consumers remain financially very exposed

Some of the financial strain that several consumers had to endure during the initial lockdown periods early in 2020 dissipated during the fourth quarter of 2020 (Q4 2020). This is evident from the Momentum-Unisa Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index (CFVI), which recovered to 47.5 points in Q4 2020 from 43.5 points in Q3 2020. This means that the index improved to a similar level before lockdown. The improvement follows two very difficult quarters during which the index deteriorated to the highest level of financial vulnerability since inception in 2009.

During Q4 2020 the four sub-indices of the CFVI all showed an improvement, but remained rooted in the very exposed category on the index scale:

  • Income vulnerability decreased as the sub-index improved from 44.1 points in Q3 2020 to 47.7 points in Q4 2020. This suggests that more consumers were able to earn or increase their income. The strong improvement since Q2 2020 suggests a recovery in employment.
  • Expenditure vulnerability decreased as the sub-index increased from 45.9 points in Q3 2020 to 49.2 points in Q4 2020. This sub-component is close to the mildly exposed category and was, among others, supported by the recovery in employment.
  • Savings vulnerability also decreased as the sub-index score moved from 43.1 points in Q3 2020 to 47.3 points in Q4 2020. This can be attributed to both the improvement in income and less spending (due to some regulations restricting the full opening of the economy).
  • Low interest rates contributed to consumers being less vulnerable in terms of debt servicing as the index score increased to 45.8 points in Q4 2020 from 40.8 points in Q3 2020.

A review of the average annual scores of the CFVI and its sub-components shows that consumers suffered greatly during 2020. The average annual score indicates that consumer financial vulnerability was at its lowest level since inception of the index, dropping to a low of 43.4 points. The main contributor to the low score was a significant increase in debt servicing vulnerability. This sub-index declined from 48.7 points in 2019 to 40.9 points in 2020, on the brink of the very vulnerable category of the index scale. This means that the inability to service debt made the largest contribution to consumers’ financial vulnerability.

The key informants were asked to provide reasons for the financial difficulty that consumers experienced during Q4 2020. COVID-19 and the impact of lockdown on personal finances and job retention remain core reasons as retrenchments, salary cuts and price increases affected consumers’ ability to work and earn an income.

Key informants also provided insights into worrisome consumer behaviour during Q4 2020, namely that some consumers did not live within their means and did not demonstrate self-control when spending. Another troublesome observation was that consumers are in several ways limited in expanding their incomes. This could be due to the economy’s inability to create sufficient jobs coupled with limited opportunities to start their own businesses due to a struggling economy.

Key informants reported little hope for a quick recovery in consumer finances due to, among other things, COVID-19 and lockdown. This is evident from the following views:

  • 6% of key informants are of the opinion that it will take 18 months or longer for consumer finances to recover from the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown;
  • 8% of key informants noted a decline in consumers’ perceived levels of control over their financial situations (i.e. personal empowerment) during the past few months; and
  • 3% of key informants noted that consumers attach a high value to their finances, but they also attach a high value to staying safe against COVID-19, while 27.5% of key informants believed consumers are more focused on their finances than on staying safe against the virus. The remaining 36.3% believed that consumers were more worried about staying safe against COVID-19 than their finances.

Overall, the Q4 2020 CFVI results show that despite an improvement in the index, consumer finances will remain vulnerable for some time to come as a sustainable economic recovery is expected to take years rather than quarters. Therefore, key informants are of the opinion that consumers need to empower themselves with appropriate skills, financial and otherwise, and adjust their behaviour if they hope to restore their financial situation and stimulate economic recovery.

As part of Momentum’s Science of Success campaign, the Index is one of the reports produced in the partnership between Momentum and Unisa that aims to provide South Africans with information and strategies on how they can accelerate their journey to financial success. The CFVI is compiled from the views of key informants (researchers, bankers, insurers, retailers, government, economists, analysts, etc.) who deal with consumers daily.

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MOMENTUM-UNISA HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL WELLNESS INSIGHTS 2020: See the upside of a world turned upside down

Unisa’s partnership with Momentum to obtain a better understanding and insights of South African household finances has been running for nine years. This year’s Momentum/Unisa Household Financial Wellness Insights report served as the backbone of the 2020 Momentum Science of Success Festival, held in Johannesburg as well as broadcasted via a Facebook Live event on Wednesday 25 November. It seeks to provide South Africans with an in-depth look at the state of their finances in their homes. The report provides information specially designed to inform and empower South African households to achieve financial success and recover from the possible impacts of life before, during Covid-19 and beyond.

Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, and the implementation of a lockdown period in March, the South African economy was not a positive environment within which companies and households could thrive. Economic growth averaged 0.8% over the past five years instead of the needed 5%, while unemployment continued to increase, instead of declining. With decelerated economic growth and an increase in job losses, more and more South Africans have now become excluded from participating in economic activity.

Although all households have been affected to some extent by the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown, the research highlights that South Africa’s middle-class households were hit the hardest as both their income and net wealth were severely impacted by factors beyond their control.

The good news is, despite the lockdown and other challenges experienced due to Covid-19, some already recovered – for several reasons – but mostly because they followed a specific recipe necessary to taste financial success. The report shows that those who experienced financial pressure due to a salary reduction dealt with the challenge by reorganising their spending patterns. This involved changing their store of preference, updating their budgets and cutting back on luxuries (financial management), and managing their debts. The adjustments that were placed at the bottom of the list included reviewing medical aid, business closure or changing living arrangements.

To be better prepared for the journey towards financial success, it is important for households to gain a good understanding of the factors that are within their control and those over which they don’t have any control. It is vital for households to know that there are ways to self-guard them against some of these factors. In order to limit the impact of factors beyond our control households should minimise financial dependence on others (including government), spending on luxuries, increase savings (for emergencies and long-term, such as retirement, insure against the uncertain and access credible financial advice.

Regardless of income level or qualifications obtained, the one key ingredient to financial success is for households to take control of their own financial journey by starting with the end in mind – have a financial plan which includes short- and long-term goals and implement the plan, regardless of events that are outside of their control. Planning and then implementing such a plan is key. A clear implementation plan must provide all the activities that must be undertaken and the specific times it must be undertaken to achieve the long-term goals. A solid implementation plan will also help to increase the financial literacy levels of households and guide their emotions during volatile times.

The report reveals the following seven habits of households that can weather a financial storm:

  1.  They map out their journey with measurable goals and a plan to achieve them.
  2.  They maintain their momentum by knowing where every cent goes.
  3.  They cover and protect themselves from rainy days.
  4.  They make the bold but intelligent choice to invest.
  5.  They don’t let speed bumps deter them from achieving their aspirations.
  6.  They broaden their perspective by being financially savvy and streetwise.
  7.  They realise there is more than one path to achieving success.

The research is the result of the collaborative effort by the Bureau of Market Research, College of Accounting Sciences and Momentum.

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