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How COVID-19 has affected South African grocery retail consumer sentiment

Consumer insights pre- and during lockdown

On 26 March 2020, South Africa entered uncharted territory as a countrywide lockdown came into effect. In the days leading to the start of the lockdown, South African grocery retailers recorded an increased volume of shoppers looking to stock up on essentials. At the same time, the volume of grocery retail related conversation on various social media platforms increased, spiking around key government announcements related to the lockdown and the start of the lockdown.

Deloitte Africa partnered with BrandsEye to gain insights into the impact of COVID-19 on consumer sentiment in South Africa’s grocery retail sector. We analysed social media posts and other online engagements in the run-up to the lockdown and during the initial phase of the lockdown to gauge the current sentiment of local consumers towards the country’s leading grocery retail chains. More than half a million posts were analysed to find out what the burning issues for South African retail consumers are and how these consumers perceive leading grocery retailers during these unprecedented times.

  • With health concerns and accusations of unethical retailer behaviour, after the start of the lockdown, consumer sentiment declined in the initial weeks. As the lockdown continued, sentiment improved, particularly for retailers who took actions to reward staff.
  • Negative retail sentiment largely focused on pricing issues during lockdown, shifting from HR issues and issues related to retail facilities. Positive sentiment resulted from how retailers care for their staff, adding to positive sentiment around safety and hygiene products for staff and customers.
  • COVID-19 has fast-tracked the need for digital transformation in retail, highlighting the need to operate and serve customers differently. 
  • The emerging themes for retailers based on the consumer sentiment analysis indicate that COVID-19 will drive significant changes in customer experience, supply chains and category management, health and hygiene, and employee engagement. 

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