TLC Middle East and Africa takes great interest in understanding both economic trends and consumer behaviour in the regions in which we operate, this is to better cater to the needs of our clients and their customers/consumers or staff. While the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has, is and will continue to affect every market in every region in the world, the unfamiliar limitations placed on consumers worldwide is changing many aspects of what we are used to. From our worldly and health perceptions, spending habits, lifestyle activities and expectations from business. Being at the peak of the epidemic (March/April 2020), with many countries in lockdown or sanitization programs, acts as a stress test; pushing economies, communities and the status quo to its maximum. We believe data gathered from this time should then be used to gain insight and adapt strategies to drive continued business and economic success. To get a factual and current understanding of this, TLC studied the Global Web Index’s Coronavirus Multi Market research report to summarise the core findings of the change in consumer behaviour in South Africa.

How are customers’ behaviour changing?

Since the outbreak there has been a change in consumer mentality and behaviourism which directly affect spend, prioritisation of variable and fixed expenses. The significant changes we have seen in South African consumers, since the outbreak, are:

How are consumers spending their time?

With consumers now abundant free time in the home there has been an increase in specific media intake, device usage, social media applications and activities in the home. More specifically, these include:


There is a definite spike in live music streaming with 39% of South Africans interested in streaming live concerts, using popular streaming services like TIDAL.

There is a definite spike in live music streaming with 39% of South Africans interested in streaming live concerts, using popular streaming services like TIDAL.


Considering media consumption and technology usage, South African consumers’ time spent on devices is only marginally more compared to the global average but has seen a definite spike since the lock down started on 27 March 2020: 

What are consumers thinking?

When it comes to the financial effect of Covid-19, 50% of South African’s believe it will have a significant effect on their household finances yet 89% believe it will have a significant effect on the local economy. The discrepancy here could be attributed to South African’s resilience with the belief that this will be a short term crisis which we will bounce back from, and minimal or no long term effects.


How does the above belief effect spend? From the participants surveyed there was an indication of delayed purchases of expensive, luxury goods but these percentages show only a low consideration or intention to delaying purchases. Indicated below: 

Intention to Delay Purchases

A rather low percentage of 31%, compared to the global 53%, of citizens believe that the outbreak will last 6 months to a year. This combined with only 18% of South Africans surveyed being willing to delay big ticket purchases until the outbreak is over in SA supports the above insight that we believe our South African lives will return to normal shortly.

Expectations from Business

While South Africans may believe our lives will return to normal shortly, what do we expect from the brands who spend millions of rands annually to engage, impress, and retain us while in the midst of the pandemic? 

There have been great strategies by a number of multinationals and local businesses who have changed their business models to either adapt to the current climate in order to stay relevant or simply play their part in helping their country better manage the virus. Examples includes:

  •  online retailers having massive sales (Edgars, Cielo, Decofurn, @Home, to name only a few);
  •  committing to offering free delivery after the crisis subsides (Pick n Pay, Morningside Shopping Centre, to name only a few);
  •  supplying of essential items:
     such as the local liquor industry, South African Breweries, who 
    donated 40 000 litres of pure alcohol and started to develop 80%   alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help fight the epidemic in South Africa;
  •  Clientele quickly responding to the Covid-19 outbreak by offering immediate funeral cover for new and existing clients. As a   Clientele member, you get access to the Rewards App that offers data, grocery vouchers etc;
  •  As well as grand gestures by organisations of donations (Remgrow, Patrice Motsepe Foundation, to name only a few).

With great praise from consumers, research also shows that brands are both asking communities how they can help as well as sharing an abundance of solidarity messaging (Simply Asia, Nandos, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Nike) to show unity, understanding and unwavering positivity. 

For more insights and intelligence on change applications through rewards-based consumer/customer and staff incentives visit the TLC web page. For more news updates on Covid-19 visit the South African Department of Health’s news portal. Alternatively, contact the South African Department of Health’s dedicated WhatsApp hotline on +27 (0)80 002 9999.