Understanding and targeting consumer groups in Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean economy is fast recuperating after a decade of economic contraction.

This has resulted in greater confidence across all consumer groups.
Companies eager to participate in Zimbabwe’s growth story will have to consider strategies that target both the small, but affluent, consumer segments and the much larger, but low-income, segments. Popularity of organised retail across all consumer segments makes distribution less challenging than in other parts of the continent. However, for alcohol and tobacco products and mobile recharge vouchers, traditional trade remains indispensable. High literacy combined with high penetration of mobile and print media makes it convenient for companies to educate and inform consumers about new product offerings. However, the political climate in Zimbabwe is tense and conducting business there can be difficult.
Nielsen’s Emerging Markets Insight Survey, conducted in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare in 2012 found that despite the growth witnessed in recent times, wide income disparity between consumer segments still exists. At the lower end of the income scale, Struggling Traditionals and Female Conservatives make up
52% of respondents, but account for just 35% of the total income. Though they have high usage of mobile phones, TVs and radios, these segments are underdeveloped for print and Internet, and display lower consumer packaged goods (CPGs) consumption than other Zimbabweans.
In sharp contrast, Trendy Aspirants and Progressive Affluents comprise just 11% of the population, but account for 28% of the total income. These consumer segments are more likely than the general population to own consumer durables such as TVs, DVD players, satellite dishes, refrigerators, and personal computers/laptops. They are
also more likely to read newspapers and magazines and tend to use their mobile phones to connect to the Internet. Trendy Aspirants like to spend time with friends and are willing to pay more for products that are tailored specifically to their needs.
Overall, Zimbabweans are familyoriented, but traditional values do not limit a free lifestyle. Though affordability, familiarity and availability are the top drivers of CPG category purchasing, Zimbabweans also expressed an interest in trying many newer categories like iced tea and air fresheners.
Consumer spending
CPG categories account for 31% of monthly household expenditure. An organised retail landscape is popular in Zimbabwe as 78% of those surveyed buy their groceries mainly from supermarkets. Traditional trade outlets, such as tuck shops – small shops selling mostly food items – or kiosks, are less important than in other countries, with only one in four respondents shopping at them.
Affluent consumer segments, such as Trendy Aspirants and Progressive Affluents, show a predisposition towards buying value-added products like breakfast cereals, energy drinks and air fresheners.
In contrast, lower income consumer segments, such as Female Conservatives and Struggling Traditionals, have low to average consumption of most CPG categories, yet they embrace a desire to try products like packaged juices, which are higher on the value chain.
Across all segments, affordability, familiarity and availability are the top purchase drivers.
Media and marketing channels
The rapid adoption of technology is redefining the way Zimbabweans communicate. In the decade ending 2009, the number of mobile subscribers grew tenfold, while the number of Internet users grew at nearly three times that rate.
In urban and peri-urban areas, more Zimbabweans – 88% of respondents – use mobile phones than watch TV (74%) or listen to the radio (59%). The mobile phone as an Internet device is popular – 26% of mobile phone owners (comprised mainly of Trendy Aspirants, Progressive Affluents and Evolving Juniors) use their mobiles to go online and visit social networking websites such as Facebook. At 93%, text messaging is near-ubiquitous among mobile customers.
Football, family dramas and African movies are the most popular TV content. Zimbabwe’s literacy rate is high (92%); hence 59% respondents read newspapers, and more than one in three read magazines.
Contact Nielsen’s African Investment lead, Graham Marshall: Tel +27 11 495 3000; graham.marshall@nielsen.com