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5 ways Gen Z will force brands to change

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By RACHEL THOMPSON, insights director at GfK South Africa

We’re seeing the needs, expectations and behaviours of young South African consumers evolve at a pace that threatens to leave brands behind. As centennials – or Generation Z – move into the workforce and become the next wave of consumers, brands will need to rethink many of their assumptions about what customers want.

GfK data – including Consumer Life* and FutureBuy** data and insights – paints a picture of deepening disruption as a digital-native generation puts its stamp in the world.

Here are five consumer needs we see emerging as digital technology and platforms reshape the consumer landscape:

  • Instant everywhere

What do today’s consumers want? Everything! When do they want it? Now!

We’re living in an always-on world, where consumers expect on-demand access to products and services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Among South African consumers, 62% want the shops to be open at all times. A third are willing to purchase an inferior product or service if it is available when they want it – a number that rises to 42% among Generation Z. And, one of the primary meanings of innovation for these consumers is “a faster way of doing something”.

Everything from media to transport to food is becoming an on-demand service. For an example of this trend, just look at how on-demand video streaming has changed the game. No longer do we want to wait for broadcaster to roll out a television series in weekly episodes – we’d prefer it to drop the entire season in one go so that we can binge-watch over the weekend. And the idea of booking a taxi to the airport seems quaint when you can hail a ride from your smartphone at any time and it will be there to pick you up within five to 10 minutes.

  • Knowledge is power

Some 87% of Generation Z consumers rate knowledge – whether it comes from a price comparison site or their university studies – as their number 1 value. Generation Z is South Africa’s most educated generation yet, with a higher proportion having the opportunity for tertiary education than earlier generations. Plus, ubiquitous mobile connectivity has empowered them with instant access to information from a device they can hold in their hands. Some 73% of Generation Z respondents in our research are studying and 84% compare prices online before buying. Not only do they like acquiring knowledge, they also value sharing their insights, and opinions with friends and family via social channels.

  • Maximising experiences

Today’s consumer increasingly cares more about the ride than the car. More than half (55%) of Generation Z respondents say experiences are more important than possessions, and 72% value enjoying life as a priority. Ownership of many commodities is already just about extinct – rather than buying software, CDs, or DVDs, for example, we subscribe to music streaming, video streaming and cloud software services. Even personal transport is becoming an on-demand service. Brands that focus on selling products need to be thinking about how they can turn them into delightful experiences.

  • Me-centricity

Our research shows that personalisation continues to grow in importance as consumers ask where a product can add more tangible value to their lives. Generations Y and Z want products and services to be tailored to their personal quirks. They want to be able to make products more relevant to their personal lives – if brands don’t offer personalised offerings, these consumers will either try to configure the offerings to their own needs or look to another provider. Around 60% of Generation Y respondents – and 58% of the total South African respondent base – like to buy products tailored to their needs. Nearly two thirds of Generation Y like technology that makes personalised recommendations and 25% value automated products because they allow for personalisation.

  • Rise of ‘hometainment’

Given South Africa‘s safety concerns, consumers are staying at home more, where they recognise that they have access to a wider range of personalised and premium entertainment choices.

Protecting the family is the top value for South African consumers and 74% say they are always concerned about their safety. Three quarters say that they enjoy spending time at home – the reasons for this include safety and the ability to make sophisticated entertainment choices. Between video and music streaming services, the proliferation of food delivery services, and more ecommerce options, this trend is likely to grow.

Closing words

To meet these emerging needs, brands will need to pivot towards digital channels and become more data-driven in how they interact with consumers. Not only should they seek to deliver personalised services, they should understand consumers’ needs in context so they can address them with the right offering for the right moment. Brands that ignore this trend risk falling behind the curve.

*GfK Consumer Life is a global data and insight service that provides a view on how consumers’ everyday lives are evolving. It provides access to what people think, and what people do on a global, regional, local or micro level.

**GfK FutureBuy is a global syndicated study providing insight about how shopping is evolving across FMCG, Tech and Durables and other categories, in 35 countries across the globe, including South Africa.

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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