LAGOS: Advertising creates awareness but word-of-mouth endorsements, in person or electronically, are what drive purchase decisions in Africa, a study from Nielsen has claimed.
The research company surveyed 8,168 urban consumers across 15 African countries for its Emerging Market Insights Study, and found that respondents rated recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of communications.
The study also established that marketers would need to leverage this approach in varying ways in different countries across the continent.
It identified three categories of consumer, based on media usage and penetration, as well as their uptake of social media. The first group, "savvy" consumers, were typically found in more developed countries like Angola, Namibia, Kenya and Botswana.
"Selective consumers" tended to be hampered by cost, and most commonly lived in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria. The third, "simply average" consumers, were largely drawn from the poorest countries with less independent media, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Mozambique and Ghana.
Nielsen suggested that word of mouth would need to be leveraged differently across these three groups. In those countries that had adopted social media, for example, virtual WOM messages from celebrities or community figureheads could prove influential.
In other countries where digital maturity is lower, using in-person word-of-mouth would be a better approach, it added.
Below this top-level differentiation, the report split consumers into seven segments, in declining order of affluence: progressive affluents, trendy aspirants, balanced seniors, evolving juniors, struggling traditionals, wannabe bachelors and female conservatives.
Trendy aspirants were the largest consumer segment in countries classed as having "savvy" consumers, and were also the most open to viral word-of-mouth.
"Balanced seniors" accounted for 20% of respondents and were typically in the "selective" cohort. They usually favoured recommendations from those closest to them, meaning product demos and roadshows could be a good way to reach such consumers.
"Evolving juniors" were highly social, and most open to the buzz created by exciting advertising and in-person word of mouth.
Ultimately, the report concluded, for all the growth of traditional and digital media, "targeted word of mouth stands out because of its sheer simplicity and impact"
Data sourced from Neilsen; additional content by Warc staff