Industry Updates

The rise of the online consumer and generational impact

23 Oct 2015

Retail spend in South Africa is increasing year on year and the value of online retail sales in South Africa was R5.3bn for 2014, this is still just 1% of total retail sales in the country (PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) online survey, n=1,000).  According to Internet World Stats South Africa had 2.4 million internet users in 2000 and this has increased to 24.9 million in 2014, the internet penetration of the entire population is 51.5 %. Internet usage in South Africa accounts for 8.4 % of the total internet usage on the African continent.

The recently conducted Ask Afrika Icon Brands™ survey identifies brands that are used most loyally across the South Africa demographic irrespective of race, culture, income, education, or lifestyle. Vodacom won the Internet service providers category and Samsung Tablets achieved Platinum Status and won their category. This year 164 product category winners were celebrated and 37 brands were classified as Ask Afrika Platinum Brands. As can be expected, not all of the 164 product category winners have Iconic status given the vast differences in socio-economic levels and therefore the means to access certain products. Nonetheless, these product category leaders often dominate their space and are mostly iconic amongst the consumers that have access to them. Ask Afrika Platinum Brands are the brands of tomorrow and have a total Icon score above the required threshold, but are not used across the entire population.

According to Sarina de Beer, MD of Ask Afrika, the research survey shows that, “As our lifestyles are changing, our needs are changing. We now eat on the go, and we have historically filled our engagement needs or sense of family by eating together in South Africa. This is happening less and has created an emotional void. A way of compensating and filling this void is through technology and social media.”

People in South Africa are spending more and more time online and this leads to more online consumption and the rise of the online consumer. Younger generations are also more at ease with online retail. Africa has the world’s youngest population – more than half its inhabitants are under 20 years old, compared with only 28% in China. In the urban centres alone the 16-34 age group already accounts for 53% of income.

Generation Z or ‘screenagers’ multi-task between a variety of screens, they follow generation Y (millennials) are 17 years-old and younger. According to flux tends, “There is evidence to suggest that Generation Z’s influence, fuelled by an innate and constant connection to the world around them, will outstrip their size.”

Global statistics from Target Group Index (TGI) show that Generation Z, who have grown up being ‘connected’ with a global consciousness being innate, have an attention span of 8 seconds and 73% check social media within an hour of waking up. Only 3% of time that they spend communicating via technology is talking on the phone. They are socially conscious and 60% want a job with social impact, 70% want to start their own business and 56% say that they are savers and not spenders. There were 3.4 million views of 16 year-old Andora Svitak’s TED talk ‘What adults can learn from kids’.

TGI shows that Millennials or Generation Y are somewhat different, they are immersed in technology, but they still have a more localised outlook than Generation Z and were old enough to experience the mood and shift  caused by the global recession. About 70% say they will change jobs when economy improves and 37% (nearly 2 in 5) say they do not trust big businesses. This group’s top priorities are being ‘connected’, having a flexible work schedule, and the opportunity to make a difference. Having said this, 70% are positive about their future. Compared to the entrepreneurial outlook of Generation Z, only 9% say they plan to open a business within the next five years.

Both Generation Y and Z are very comfortable online and do not have the same restrictions to online consumption as older generations do. According to an article on in January 2015, “the number of active internet users in South Africa grew steadily in the past year, according to a report released by social media marketing and communications agency, We Are Social, there are now 24% more internet users, bringing the total number up to 24.9 million. The number of active social media accounts grew by 20% to 11.8 million users. A survey conducted by the Global Web Index indicates that social media topped the list for the activity that most users spend their time on their mobiles and that of all the social platforms available in South Africa, users spent most of their time on WhatsApp, followed by Facebook.’

“In the last year, mobile connections saw a 16% increase bringing the total number up to 79.1 million 83% of those connections are pre-paid, 17% are on contract and 36% of the total mobile connections are on 3G or 4G. Survey-based data also revealed that after using social media, most of mobile users’ activity is divided up between watching videos, playing games, shopping and making location-based searches.”

The article shared some interesting statistics from We are Social about online shopping, according to the Global Web Index in December 2014 23% of the South African population bought something online via a PC and 11 % bought something online via a mobile phone. Many people also went online to research a product before buying it, 31% of the SA population used a PC for this purpose and 17% used a mobile phone.

The Ask Afrika Icon Brands™ survey uses a nationally representative random sample, 15,690 consumers were surveyed, representing over 23.3 million adult South African consumers. An enumerated area sampling design was employed and the universe includes all communities with more than 8,000 inhabitants 15 years old and above. The data was weighted using the Statistics South Africa’s population mid-year estimates and audited by respected independent experts BDO and Dr Ariana Neethling.

“The Ask Afrika Icon Brands™ survey holds value in understanding which brands are getting it right and also can provide marketers wishing to target the entire population with the requisite tools to track trends and to gain greater insight into the South African consumer mind-set and behaviour. However, the survey also provides insights into a diversity of product categories that are targeted at only a portion of the South African demographic,” says de Beer.

Tailor-made reports can be ordered, providing insight and competitor analysis into specific industry sectors. To enquire about these customised reports contact:

Maria Petousis, TGI Director, or Julie-Anne Terblanche, TGI Client Services Executive,  (012) 428 7400

About the Ask Afrika Group:
Over a period of two decades, Ask Afrika Group has grown to be the largest independent South African market research company. The company focuses on local relevance, benchmarked against the global context. Ask Afrika is a member of ESOMAR. Apart from its large South African footprint, Ask Afrika Group also operates in a dozen African continental territories.
Ask Afrika Group is well known for delivering strategic and large scale field projects and for creating benchmarks for industry. With regards to service excellence Ask Afrika Group is the preferred research partner across industries to co-craft customer service strategies through meaningful research methodologies across the value chain and customer service touch points.
TGI research, for which Ask Afrika Group  owns the South African copyright, has an annual single source sample of 15 000 locally and 800 000 globally. It has a global geographic coverage of 70 markets, and measures services, products, media, and brands. Ask Afrika’s knowledge of brands is extensive and as owner of the local TGI license, it is the leader in brand expertise in South Africa. TGI can provide a commercial alternative to industry media measurements. It is the perfect vehicle for brand positioning.  
The Ask Afrika Groups’ exclusive product suite includes the Ask Afrika Orange Index®, the Trust Barometer™, Radio Moods™, TGI (Target Group Index), Ask Afrika Icon Brands™, Kasi Star Brands™ and TGI Township, the Digital Barometer, the Lite Data Collection, the Behavioural Sciences Package and Gateway.
Ask Afrika is proud of its exceptional service delivery, with offices based in Pretoria and Stellenbosch. For more information please visit the website:

Issued on behalf of Ask Afrika by Stone Soup Public Relations

For further information, please contact Daya Coetzee, (011) 447 7241