How Your Small Business in Kenya Can Adapt to Consumer Behavior Shift Caused by COVID-19.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world over eleven months ago, the world changed completely. This pandemic changed how we do life and influenced how people consume products and services.

Even before the first COVID-19 case was reported in Kenya, there was a shift in consumer behavior in the market. And, the shift hit the fan when the first case was confirmed on March 12th by the Ministry of Health and as the cases began to rise steadily and fast.

This led to panic, uncertainty, unpredictability, and fear. The new measures put in place to reduce the spread of the virus such as lockdowns inevitably caused a shift in the economy. Not only in Kenya a developing country but also in developed parts of the world such as Europe, China, the USA, etc.

This changed consumer behavior, supply chains, and the market itself causing an economic downslide. This downslide has made it inevitable for most big, small, and medium based business enterprises to experience losses.

There has been a drop in consumers’ buying power, businesses have shut down and those still in business are in a new age.

Most consumers are now more concerned about their health and that of their loved ones. There has been a significant shift to the digital space, especially in online shopping. Most consumers are more price-conscious and are prioritizing their purchasing on the essentials.

This inevitable shift in consumer behavior has influenced how enterprises are doing their businesses now.

In Kenya, most businesses are now getting back to business and trying to adapt to the new normal with some fully open and others partially open. And, as a small business enterprise in Kenya, understanding the shift in consumer behavior is your best shot to surviving this pandemic.

Changes in Consumer Behavior.

Consumer behavior influences how businesses operate and the success of their products or services in the market.  It directs businesses towards spotting the needs in the market. And that means, for your business to thrive, you need to understand what customers are buying and how they go about buying these products or paying for these services.

Factors such as rising unemployment as an impact of COVID-19 has made consumers become more conscious of what they consume or spend their money on.

The shift in consumer behavior will influence your business operations in so many ways and you need to adapt.

1.Increased Concern about individual health and safety of loved ones.

COVID-19 being a health pandemic that has no discovered cure, people were and are still scared of getting the virus. This fear has made people more concerned and more intentional about staying healthy and safe.

This concern has impacted the consumers’ confidence when it comes to doing their daily activities such as shopping eating out, traveling, etc. Thus, a good number of your customers might not be confident about coming to your restaurant, your retail store, or your hotel. This is probably because they don’t feel safe and fear contracting the virus.

Reopening businesses in Kenya are now required by the new regulations provided by the Ministry of Health to ensure that their businesses are safe for customers and for employees. Even with these requirements in place, some business places are not safe for customers.

If you have reopened your business or are planning to reopen your business, you really need to make sure your customers actually feel safe.

Ensure you provide your employees with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment. Have thermal scanners, sanitizers, and handwashing stations to show your customers you care. If your business is service based, let your customers know your business is safe by publicizing your measures.

2.Conscious Consumption.

COVI-19 affected the income flow of many people, with many losing jobs as companies closed and others adapting to slashed salaries.

This has seen many consumers spend less as a way of cutting costs and saving what they can.

A large percentage of Kenyan consumers are now focused on taking care of their basic needs and foregoing the opposite.

Also, with a good percentage of spending more time at home, most have been able to develop saving habits. They want to save more and more and this will affect your business as customers will be looking for ways to save their coins. So consider having enticing offers, promotions for your customers to accommodate their cautious and conscious consumer behavior.

3.More Online Shopping and less in-store Shopping.

The shift on shopping by COVID-19 was predicted when the pandemic hit. There has been a great shift towards online shopping and a great decrease in in-store shopping in Kenya.

Online shopping on e-commerce sites in Kenya such as Jumia, Glovo, etc., and on online shops through Instagram, Facebook, etc. has increased. It’s being termed safe considering there is less human contact, reliable considering its fast, easy, saves time, and can be done anywhere and anytime.

Businesses with a digital presence have been lucky with some recording high online sales than before. Some of the businesses that were not a part of the digital market family before have been forced to migrate their experience online.

The online space has high competition as it accommodates all business types – big, small and medium. That means if you are not online, your competitors are online and you are losing customers. Again, the high online competition calls for more ‘sock pulling’ and if you are not putting the weight online, you are losing to your competitors who are putting the weight.

If you are yet to reopen your business, if you want your business to survive your reopening, remember your digital marketing. Your adaptability and flexibility to this new shift and your marketing strategy will determine your survival and your numbers.  

4.Flight to virtual.  

The same way there was a shift to shopping online, there has been a digital shift towards how people work.

Since most businesses and workplaces closed their physical businesses, the working landscape is has changed. Offices are no longer the busy scenes from 9-5. Conference rooms are ‘no longer conference rooms’. The ‘new normal’ has pushed and made the workplace landscape more virtual.

More people in Kenya just like the rest of the world have now centralized work, school and home.

The virtual space has experienced a significant brim with so many virtual spaces developing. Meetings on virtual spaces such as Zoom became our new normal and is a habit highly going to stick around. Such spaces connected families and organizations when they could not meet face to face.

This shift has made more people willing to embrace technology. The virtual shift has opened businesses to develop apps that connect them to their customers.  

5.More Growing Love for Local Produce and shops

During COVID-19, there has been a noticeable love for locals in Kenya. This has been a way of supporting local businesses especially small businesses to help them stay in business.

More Kenyan consumers have leaned towards buying locally produced products. Industry influencers pushed consumers towards Kenyan products through campaigns such as, ‘Buy Kenya Build Kenya’.

We would say that Kenyan consumers are now more aware of the local market and this has put a good number of small businesses on the pedestal.

More consumers are now supporting businesses in their local areas. This shift calls for small businesses to build and grow local connections and create a community that supports their business.

Changes in Your Business Operations.

Those who never closed their business and those who have reopened know that business is not business as usual. As a small business that wants to reopen its doors;

  • Remember to make your customers feel safe and make the public know your safety measures.
  • Go where your customers are and increase your online presence. Your online presence will boost your connection with your customers.
  • Adjust your marketing strategy and don’t cut-off your marketing strategy. Make sure your strategy accommodates tactics that will help you have your customers back, retaining them including your new customers.
  • If you have a strong community that supports your business, you are lucky. If you don’t have one, it’s time to build one by providing experiences that will make your customers stick with you.

Final Thoughts…

As small businesses in Kenya reopen and as you plan to reopen there are some key shifts your business needs to adapt to if you want to thrive.

The business landscape is not the same in Kenya nor around the world. But if your small business adapts and accommodates this shift in consumer behavior, you will be able to continue serving your customers despite the health crisis and economic downslide.

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