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Getting to know you: Why buyer personas matter in South Africa

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South Africa is a big country. The 1.22 million km squared of astonishing geography which comprises our nation is filled with people from all sorts of backgrounds, with all sorts of stories.

It’s also home to a massive wealth gap, with much of its wealth in the hands of a small minority of the population. In fact, South Africa’s economic inequality is amongst the worst in the world.

From the descendants of Malay arrivals who came to the country in the galleys of the Dutch, to South Africans with Zulu, Venda, Ndebele and Khoikhoi ancestry, South Africans have one of the richest ethnic and social mixes in the world, making the population incredibly diverse.

While economic divides are hugely problematic, there’s also strength and beauty to be found in the diversity of the South African population. The sheer demographic mix makes this a wonderfully vibrant corner of the world – a true melting pot of cultures.

Marketing mayhem…

This doesn’t, however, make things easy for marketers, advertisers and brands. As marketing becomes increasingly sophisticated – particularly in the digital sphere – a one size fits all approach founded on a hunch is simply not good enough.

Today’s most successful marketing strategies hinge on in depth research and carefully crafted content which targets key demographics. Market segmentation based on thorough customer research allows brands to speak directly to a definitive group of consumers with shared tastes, interests and “pain points” which may trigger a purchase.

From automated email marketing which sends personally tailored promotional content to different segments of your consumer base, to different content marketing strategies which piggyback on the interest and concerns of particular groups, powerful marketing is now all about getting personal and using technology to make this approach work on an ever grander scale.

Defining demographics through data

So which definitive groups, if any, exist among South Africa’s consumers? That all really boils down to your unique brand…

Recent demographic data harvested by Wonga reveals how every brand’s demographics will look different, depending on the product or service…

  • Wonga’s typical customer is a 34 year old single male
  • He is typically English-speaking, though this may be his second language, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa are also widely spoken
  • He lives in Gauteng and does not have dependents
  • His monthly income could vary widely, but is most likely to exceed R25,000
  • He works in retail, manufacturing, telecoms, finance, transportation or health
  • He uses a smartphone or tablet for the majority of his digital activities
  • Android or Windows devices with a Chrome browser are most commonly used
  • Social media makes up the majority of his internet use, with TV, travel and movies also featuring.

This customer profile (or buyer persona) may describe one clear individual, but the data the persona is based on points to many different profiles. For instance, 48% of customers were female, while income was an unusually equal spread. 27% of consumers earned R25,000+ monthly, while 21% earned R5,001-10,000 and 20% earned R10,001-15,000.

So how can you pinpoint the right people to “get personal” with in order to finesse your promotional activities? It’s time to dive into your own data…

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