As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across countries, consumer habits are changing in all sectors to avoid the spread of the contagious virus which has turned out to be a mysterious enemy that has led the world to speak in one common medical language of washing hands, social distancing and staying at home, while those feeling unwell to visit hospitals for proper check up. The virus has seen governments shift their budgetary allocations towards curbing the unknown enemy that knows no class, no social status or position. World leaders are coming out more often than ever to give updates on the pandemic as they await scientists to come up with a lasting solution. This pandemic has generally changed the behavior of consumers’ world over, Kenya included.
The most notable consumer behavior change is on information dissemination through technology. Broadcasting through television and online video streaming platforms are winning more screen time since most people are at home due to the current situation. Churches and organizations are carrying out online meetings to achieve their goals as they wait for the time this pandemic will be over. Institutions are not left out too on this. The learners are getting KICD and school tailored content from the comfort of their homes though with some learners facing challenges due to lack of internet connectivity.
A research conducted by Consumer Grassroots Association(CGA) early this month shows that more content has been consumed online during this time of the outbreak than previous days where by coronavirus related updates taking a higher percentage, followed by online shopping. On broadcast, Citizen TV and Radio Maisha were the most preferred media channels across the country.
Most consumers are spending more time connecting virtually and consuming digital data. Cell phone usage is on the rise as more consumers rely on them as a source of information. Most people are getting their news and alerts on their cell phones.
With the social distancing, social media has created a great platform for Kenyans to conduct business, hold virtual meetings and conferences. Online buying and selling has become the new way of life in town. However, increased online shopping has come with a fair share of setbacks ranging from substandard goods to fraud. It was recommended that there is need to enact e-commerce regulations to protect consumers from unscrupulous businessmen and women. The Association warned that most Kenyans will be victims if action is not taken early enough bearing in mind that no one knows the period this pandemic will last.
The research also shows that the partial lock-down measures imposed by the government has not been easy for most Kenyans because families lack the daily bread they earned from their hard labor. Most Kenyans live from hand to mouth. It was established that about seventy percent of the workforce is from SMEs whereby a large number are directly earning a living from fresh produce related businesses.
Paying rent for most urban dwellers has become a great challenge. Majority of the respondents are calling upon the government to intervene by asking Landlords and Tenant Associations to waive rents.
Water and sanitation issue was outstanding during the research. Although the ministry of water and sanitation issued an order for constant water supply to consumers in vulnerable areas, it is reported that water is still being sold. The Association is therefore asking for immediate action by the concerned parties to ease pressure on communities.
As most Kenyans stay at home, the power consumption in homes has also increased. With the declaration made by the President on VAT reduction, consumers expected the cost of power to be cheaper. However, during the research, most consumers complained of the high costs proving unaffordable regarding their current economic status. The Association is therefore calling upon the ministry of Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority to consider the reduction of energy costs for consumers.
The research was carried out by CGA team from 1st April to 17th April and one thousand three hundred respondents from five counties were interviewed.