Township-based small businesses agree that not enough research has been conducted on the township economy and it is key to gain insights into the ecosystem. Some believe that collaborative efforts between township brands should complement this research. Internet marketing firm Rogerwilco, in collaboration with Survey54 and Marketing Mix Conferences, released the biannual 2022 Township Customer Experience report. It surveyed 1400 township residents to find out which brands they resonated with, and how they spent their money.
The report found that 44% of the respondents were spending more on the informal economy. It further noted that 74% of the respondents said they were more likely to buy local fashion brands like Bathu and Drip with their store accounts if these brands were made available in stores where they shopped. It also highlighted the lack of research into the township economy, something clothing brand owner Mosa Hlatshwayo agreed with. Hlatshwayo owns Odd, a brand that has a stronghold in Mamelodi, Tshwane.
He told Vutivi News that both the private sector and the government should invest in conducting research into the township economy, as this would make it easier for them to understand an economy that he believed was largely misunderstood. “Government institutions and even the private sector hesitate to invest in our businesses on the basis that they are based in townships and have no infrastructure, even though our businesses are strongly supported by our communities,” Hlatshwayo said.
“Even retail stores find it difficult to trust small business owners and do not want to buy our clothing brands in stock, and if they did, this they would see a surge in support from township residents. This, in turn, will contribute to creating employment.” The report also noted that township residents used social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to shop for and discover new brands and township-based businesses.
Kenneth Klaas, the founder of Soshanguve-based eatery Untrained Chefs, agreed, adding that word of mouth was also an effective marketing method for township businesses. “Social media plays a very big influence in my business, and so does word of mouth,” Klaas said. “We give our customers excellent service and a great experience, and as a result, they spread the word about our business, some even going as far as saying they prefer eating our food to more established fast-food outlets.”
Klaas also noted that when patrons checked in on Facebook while at the eatery, this increased the foot traffic tremendously. “I also conducted my own research to find out why larger fast-food outlets are more successful than local outlets. I learned that branding is the reason and once we started branding our shop, it became easier for people to remember our outlet, thereby increasing the traffic,” he also said. Word of mouth and WhatsApp have proven to be very effective for Hlatshwayo.
“I would get more than 10 customers from one referral, and many of my customers are my WhatsApp contacts, and this makes it easier for me to advertise my products to them,” he told Vutivi News.