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How to grow your business amid penny-pinching

Consumer pinch and business: Pictured from the left are BetterBond chief executive Carl Coetzee, Teljoy chief executive Jonathan Hurvitz, Sea Monster chief executive Glenn Gillis, and Andrew Bourne, regional manager for Africa at Zoho Corporation. Photos: Supplied/Ventureburn
Pictured from the left are BetterBond chief executive Carl Coetzee, Teljoy chief executive Jonathan Hurvitz, Sea Monster chief executive Glenn Gillis, and Andrew Bourne, regional manager for Africa at Zoho Corporation. Photos: Supplied/Ventureburn

Back your brand’s purpose, advises Sea Monster CEO Glenn Gillis as consumers struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living. Gillis and other business leaders share their top survival tips amid widespread consumer penny-pinching and pessimism.

It has been a time of turmoil. As the pandemic subsided, a war erupted and a recession loomed. Because of this, the cost of living has gone up for consumers, and start-ups that had hoped to get back to how things were before Covid-19 have had to get ready for another year that might not be as stable.

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According to the most recent GWI consumer dilemma survey, 54% of consumers believe that the cost of living has risen in the last six months, while 31% believe that they are spending less than they did two years ago.

For consumers, this means considering small adjustments to save money; for example, using a micro-savings and investing app such as upnup. Says Tony Mallam, MD at upnup, “There’s no need to modify your lifestyle. The groundwork has already been done. There is no minimum investment amount, so anybody may begin to save by rounding up their transactions or adding to them. Why not take advantage of a transaction that is taking place regardless?

And for consumers who want to travel, local booking platform Jurni offers accommodation to suit all traveller pockets, with their site showcasing smaller accommodation owners in rural areas and townships.

What does this entail for businesses, though? We ask business professionals what guidance they would provide businesses.

1. Meaningful communication is key 

“When considering the most effective communication methods, keep in mind that we’re talking to people,” says Andrew Bourne, regional manager for Africa at Zoho Corporation. “A better understanding of our customers’ needs and challenges is required. It is important to recognise that this is an opportunity to learn more about your customers.”

Bourne goes on to say that it’s become even more important to ensure that any communication is not only effective, but also meaningful. “Check in with your customers to see how they are doing and what special needs have arisen as a result of the rise in the cost of living.”

When it comes to small businesses, this could mean giving them free access to software so that they can find their feet while times are tough. “Zoho’s Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program gave disrupted businesses access to Zoho software for free for three months to offer some reprieve during challenging economic times.”

2. Cater to your target market’s life stage 

Understanding where your customer is at is key to market success, says Jonathan Hurvitz, CEO of Teljoy, whose rent-to-own business offering of premium brand household items appeals to consumers who are money-conscious, but still aspirational.

“Dishwashers break, kids need laptops for school, and new homeowners have to furnish the houses they move into. This is the reality for most of us,” he says. Part of what makes their offering so appealing lies in extras like free delivery and installation, and maintenance and risk cover included in the monthly cost.

People are embracing renting, not owning, what they need – cars via Uber, holidays through Airbnb, and entertainment with streaming services like Netflix. But it’s not just thrifty consumers that can benefit from affordable access to premium products.

“In SA, many young adults don’t have generational wealth, which means they don’t get Mom and Dad’s second-hand TV or couch when they move into their first apartment. They still want big-ticket items to impress their friends with, though. When someone walks into your home and admires your Xbox or Smeg kettle, they don’t ask you how you’re paying for it. We recognise that people want things, but also need clever ways to free up their budget to spend on other areas of their lives.”

3. Back your brand’s purpose 

According to Glenn Gillis, CEO of Sea Monster, the short and easy business answer is to make things cheaper, but that’s not always practical.

“Brand equity is built not just during good times but specifically when times are tough. This is the time for brands to back their purpose, to share their knowledge and to make better informed customers even if it might mean walking away from short-term gains,” says Gillis.

As Gillis explains, a classic example is Black Friday – great brands who don’t encourage customers to overspend for all the wrong reasons this Black Friday are on the right track.

“Brands should be asking themselves how they can share their brand knowledge in a way that is visual, engaging, and easy to use to make better decisions for their customers, which will, in turn, develop better customers for them over time,” adds Gillis.

4. Value over cost

Buying a home is probably one of the biggest purchases most of us will make in our lives, but it is also one of the most meaningful, and potentially valuable, over time. “Purchasing a home is an emotive decision as well as a financial investment,” says Carl Coetzee, CEO of BetterBond.

“We know that people want a home of their own, but they are understandably concerned about keeping up their monthly bond repayments, especially during challenging economic times. So we offer on-line pre-approval that lets buyers know how much they can afford, and the size of the bond they could get if their application is approved.”

Coetzee adds that BetterBond applies to more than one bank on a buyer’s behalf to secure a better interest rate.

“This competitive interest rate, which is on average 0.61% lower than what they may have paid if they had only approached one bank, will ensure a considerable saving; not only on the monthly bond payments, but also on the interest payable over the loan period.”

ALSO READ: 7 top financial tips to aid for budding entrepreneurs

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