Boomtown | Does your understanding of consumers go beyond the city bubble?
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27 Sep Does your understanding of consumers go beyond the city bubble?

By Andrew MacKenzie

The mindset and behaviours of most rural South Africans are quite different to those in urban locations, and it impacts how you market your brand or business.

I encourage our team to escape their bubble of craft beers and food festivals to see the real world because it’s these experiences that guides and supports our formal market research for clients, and impacts our creative executions and strategic decisions.

Boomtown strategists connect with a true cross section of South Africans to make sure insights are grounded in genuine consumer truths, not just a small subset of individuals who attend focus groups in a CBD conference room at 6pm on a Thursday night. As an entrepreneur or business owner you can also benefit from visiting where you customers socialise, work, spend their downtime, and shop. Understanding consumers is your ace up your sleeve.

Metro versus regional audiences

Even Port Elizabeth’s Spar-on-every-corner world is anything but the norm. Cities and their citizens do not represent the thinking of the majority of the country.

Given that our clients and the products/services they offer, just like your business, are not isolated to cities and the nearest reaching suburbs. If you ignore insights from a third of South Africa’s population who live outside our default, go-to cities, you’re making ill-informed marketing and advertising decisions.

But before we start running focus groups out in ‘the bush’, perhaps we need to have a more definitive view on the inherent discrepancies between metro and regional consumers and put into motion ways to hear a real and inclusive consumer voice.

New methodologies

Traditionally, hearing the voice of the rural South African might have involved a few hours in the car or a trip on a Boeing. It took time, cost money, and as such, it was rarely something businesses could afford or see the value of.

But we live in 2017 and data collection is getting tech-savvy, and rural doesn’t mean disconnected.

– Live online focus groups take us out of the viewing facility and into cyberspace – where respondents can consist of an office worker in a meeting room in Cape Town, a mum at home in Bathurst and a student on campus in Alicedale
– Online communities give us the chance to create an ongoing dialogue with people, building on our learning and understanding of each other and giving us a much deeper and richer picture over time, and
– Mobile research tools are getting better and better; there’s a host of brilliant mobile platforms and tech out there, and researchers are adding these new toys to their ever-expanding toolkits.

Even social media is an incredibly fruitful research tool when used in the right way; you can learn a lot from asking a someone if they wouldn’t mind opening up their Instagram. In one simple action, we can see the products, brands, experiences and people that matter to them, and as Dr Nick Gadsby said, “consumer language is shifting from words to images, and so we [the research industry] need to become more visually literate”.

I’m a firm believer that you get the greatest insights from direct observation, and technology is slowly bringing us closer to being able to do this.

And who knows what sort of tech is ahead of us? Virtual reality focus groups might become common practice sooner than we think. But until this time we owe it to ourselves, our business, and the South Africans who use your products/services, to step outside of our bubbles and listen to the other third of the country.