#HOPE: Growth in the retail sector

By Michelle Steyn, Bateleur Marketing & Sales Director. Key retail strategies must include fully understanding customer needs and motivations behind their decision-making process.

By Michelle Steyn, Bateleur Marketing & Sales Director. Many retailers and brands in Africa are preparing to tighten belts and brace for an uncertain 2023 amid local and global market volatility. The threats to thriving are being hindered by several challenges that are hurting consumers’ pockets. The impact on petrol and food prices, supplier increases, and an overall dreary economic outlook doesn’t offer much hope for a sector that flourishes off disposable income.

Michelle Steyn

According to Deloitte, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, “Despite the many challenges retailers faced in 2021, the top 250 managed to outpace the previous year in all key growth metrics.” So, while growth is certainly not an easy task for retailers, it is possible despite the economic rollercoaster the world is riding. Ultimately, the objective of any retailer and brand, is to retain its current customer base and to acquire new customers. The age-old saying ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’ could serve as a good guiding principle within the next year. Let’s unpack some strategies retailers are implementing to achieve loyalty and growth.

Undoubtedly, the demand for digitisation experienced a sharp increase, which was kick-started during lockdown. Many retailers realised it was time to jump on board and offer digital shopping channels to consumers. According to Vyom Chaudhary (Editor at, “Africa is shaping up to be the next hotbed for internet-based businesses. As smartphones and the internet become more prevalent in African countries, the population has started to shift towards online shopping”. But what can retailers and brands do to differentiate themselves and become memorable in the ecommerce domain? The answer lies in a key pillar for any brand or retailer – understand customer needs and motivations behind their decision-making process.

Key retail strategies
  • Delivering affordability: Shoprite achieved growth as merchandise sales grew 9.6% to R184 billion. The retailer also showed a profit jump of 21.5% to R5.73 billion – a substantial growth of R6.2 billion in market share. We are all aware of the Checkers Sixty60 success story, and other factors included assessing customer needs in service delivery. The fact is that convenience and affordability will garner loyalty and repeat business.
  • Multiple payment methods: Africa has diverse markets with unique nuances around payment needs. The older population doesn’t always trust online and the lower to middle class may not have the funds available immediately. In comparison, younger people will want to pay with a button tap. Takealot is a thriving example of this innovation in ecommerce; it offers cash on delivery and payment plans. This makes shopping simple and gives the brand the edge as it appeals to customers who may not have gone digital due to an inability to pay immediately or have access to a credit card. In 2021, only 10.01% of South Africans used a credit card.
  • Data costs still an obstacle: On ecommerce platforms, data costs have always been a niggling frustration. The World Economic Forum published an article in June 2022 stating, “Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s most expensive mobile data prices, widening the ‘digital divide’ between the world’s internet haves and have-nots.” It added, “African economies would see massive benefits if the internet became more affordable”.

Still, South Africa can look forward to the possibility of data costs that are as much as 20% cheaper thanks to Google’s new undersea cable. Business Insider reported: “The cable promises faster internet speeds and reduced internet prices when it comes online”. This will certainly expand the ecommerce market.

So, what can retailers and brands do to mitigate global and local market uncertainties? First and foremost, strategy must be built on agility to adapt to ever-changing consumer behaviours. Understand that growth is not just a coincidence. Companies that grew listened to consumers’ needs and adjusted accordingly. They invested in their own brands, engaged with their customers, and reaped the benefits.


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