Spotlight on post-pandemic consumer behaviour in the property sector

By Mary Anne Constable

Importantly, how can businesses in the property sector create a new world that embraces their shifting needs?

Key consumer trends in SA and beyond

Semigration and working from home

Lockdown forced many into isolation at home for lengthy periods of time. This included having to work from home, which resulted in consumers rethinking their homes as new combined places of work and play.

Mary Anne Constable

The Paper Architect

In a post-pandemic world where the only constant is change, how are South African home and investment property owners adjusting their behaviours?

One of the few certainties that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, was uncertainty. Lots of it, and for extended periods of time. Also accelerated change. Consumers are finding ways to cope with prolonged uncertainty, while battling digital fatigue and overwhelm, yet with a renewed sense of cautious optimism.

An increasingly customer-centric approach to business and marketing reflects how consumers expect businesses to meet them where they’re at, as opposed to ‘old school’ brick-and-mortar businesses which expected consumers to do most of the legwork. It’s therefore essential that businesses understand consumer behaviour in the here-and-now (but also the future) so that they can respond with products and services that meet consumers’ changing needs.

While the external forces of life (antagonistic politics, ailing economies, volatile climatic events, and so on) can’t always be planned for, the internal psychological factors that underpin long-term human behaviour change can, in fact, be predicted. This is what trends forecasting consultancy, WGSN sets out to do every year in its annual Future Consumer whitepaper. The latest edition, released in May 2022, explores the consumer of 2024, and it’s every bit as fascinating as it sounds.

According to WGSN, the consumer of 2024 is more than a little stressed due to rapid change, leading to apprehension about the future. They are overstimulated by digital noise and overwhelmed by data. Considering that 90% of the world’s data has been created between 2019 and the present, this consumer sentiment isn’t surprising. As we become more digitally connected than ever but still physically isolated, consumers are searching for greater meaning amidst the inevitable tragedies of life. Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, coined the phrase ‘tragic optimism’ to describe this sentiment in 1985. As a result, consumers are trending towards reconnecting with what’s meaningful, embracing the wonder of nature, human relationships, and life.

In the predicted world of 2024, the physical and digital realms are blurred, and consumers are embracing the metaverse, web3, crypto, NFTs, and other forms of decentralisation. But today’s consumer is not quite there yet. We can take some hints about the present-day consumer from WGSN’s Future Consumer 2023 whitepaper, which neatly outlines four different consumer profiles: the Predictors, the New Romantics, the Impossibles, and the Conductors (see box for detail). It is interesting to see how these have been/and are currently playing out in the property market in South Africa.

The Predictors

A proceed-with-caution cohort that’s worn out by emotional fatigue an uncertainty.

The New Romantics

A group inspired to reconnect with their emotions, nature, and find meaning in chaos.

The Impossibles

An activist cohort that seeks to use technology to build the world back better after COVID-19.

The Conductors

A resilient, multi-talented and multi-dimensional group able to adapt and respond to change, while enjoying new sensory experiences.

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