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Debunking Retail Myths and Unveiling Consumer Behavior in East Africa

Nielsen recently hosted two milestone market intelligence events in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Kampala, Uganda. The events theme, ‘Changing Markets, Changing Consumers, Changing Strategies,’ helped attendees understand the changing nature of markets and consumers in East Africa, as well as the resulting requirement for changing strategies in the wake of this flux.

The conferences included insight sessions on the evolving retail and consumer landscape in Kenya, Uganda, and East Africa, along with discussions on the key trends shaping the future of the region and what marketers can do to stay ahead of the curve.

The session ‘Modern Myths & Retail Realities’ debunked myths surrounding retail, such as:

  • Emerging markets have run their course – Contrary to this view, several population attributes point to positive prospects for retail growth in emerging markets, namely a growing and increasingly young population, rising urbanization, and a growing middle class, which will likely be the growth engines for consumption.
  • Bigger equals better – Smaller formats are growing as people change the way they shop and live, with more frequent shopping trips at smaller more convenient outlets to fit their hectic lifestyles.
  • Promotions are the best way to drive sales – Promotions can be overdone and are not the only weapon; fresh food, a range of quality products, convenience and availability, all play a role in driving sales and shopper loyalty. One needs to be smarter about promotions vis-à-vis other drivers of sales and find the right balance.
  • E-commerce isn’t important for grocery – In a number of markets, including the less developed markets, we are already seeing e-commerce having a significant impact on grocery

The session was presented by Peter Gale, Managing Director, Retailer Vertical, Emerging Markets, Nielsen and Bryan Sun, Managing Director, East & South Africa, Nielsen in the Kenya and Uganda events, respectively.

The second session on ‘Understanding the East African Consumer,’ presented by Akash Pal, Managing Director, Consumer Insights, Nielsen Africa & Middle East, showcased key highlights about the East African consumer and the diversity within the region. One of Nielsen’s recent consumer studies highlighted the differences between each country with distinct consumer behavior and attitudes—Kenyans were found to be “inquisitive”, whereas Ugandans were more “experimental.” Understanding these traits are key when tapping into each country’s consumer mindset and delivering to their unique needs. Akash also presented how the consumers in East Africa differ in terms of their saving and spending patterns and attitude to technology and digital adoption.

The events concluded with a power-packed panel discussion in both Nairobi and Kampala, with senior leaders across the industry discussing how businesses are adapting to the changing environment and developing strategies to meet the evolving retail and consumer landscape in Kenya, Uganda and East Africa.

All in all, both events gave the attendees a peek into the changes happening within East Africa and the upcoming trends that will impact manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike. Watch the videos below for highlights from the events.