I, Robot: How South African consumers are living the fourth industrial revolution


From shopping to streaming, PwC's latest global consumer survey shows how South Africans are not just shopping online, but are increasingly turning to apps and social media reviews to help inform their daily decisions.

The latest PwC 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey, which was released on Wednesday, analysed the behaviour, habits and expectations of more than 21 000 online consumers in 27 countries.

The survey took place across 6 continents and included countries such as Spain, Canada, USA, Russia and China. While the sample group for South Africa was relatively small (1009 consumers surveyed), many of the global trends were also reflected locally.

In terms of South Africans, almost half of those surveyed (46.5%) indicated that positive reviews on social media was what pushed them to buy.

Local consumers also indicated that social media was their medium of choice for news. While globally, only some 25% of consumers indicated that they kept track of current affairs via social media, in South Africa, this figure was at 33%. 

More than half (57.7%) of local consumers also owned health-related apps, with 71% indicating that they used it to exercise in the morning or to monitor their health.

The amount of consumers who stream music and movies daily was also significant.

Globally, 38% of those surveyed and more than half of Generation Z streamed entertainment daily. In South Africa, 22.9% streamed movies and 23.9% streamed music daily.

“These findings are not surprising given how pervasive social media is today,” says Anton Hugo, Retail and Consumer Leader for PwC Africa in terms of the consumer reliance on social media. The survey, however, did indicate that despite this, consumers still viewed traditional television advertisements as more influential than social media advertising.

Globally. the latter was ranked as the third most effective form of advertising.

According to Hugo the survey shows that consumers use technological tools to demand a tailored, seamless and multi-channel shopping and social-media-powered experience. The survey found that consumers are constantly seeking tools to help simplify their purchasing decisions because they are bombarded with choices.

Smartphones have become the go-to technology for online shopping and 51% of the global participants said that they use a smartphone to pay bills online and transfer money.

In South Africa this figure is even higher, with 63.2% of consumers using digital channels to pay bills and 67% transferring money.

Globally 24% of consumers choose to use smartphones to shop online weekly while, in South Africa, 23.1% of South African consumers did the same. 

In line with other marketing insights, the survey also confirmed that consumers are after a superior experience when they spend money. Consumers are the strongest link in the global economic chain. They are now also in a position to demand a tailored, channel-agnostic, socially conscious and social media-powered experience.

Because consumers today are so discerning and powerful, PwC believes that most organisations need to invest far more in customer experience, John Maxwell, PwC’s Global Consumer Markets leader, says.

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