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How To Attract The Customers Of Tomorrow Tomorrow's customers are more socially and economically conscious than ever before. Is your brand keeping up with the need for transparency and being ethically responsible?

By David Torr

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The FNB consumer confidence index for Q1 2019 reported that confidence slipped to its lowest level in more than a year, in advance of the 2019 elections.

It seems that expectations of an economic recovery in South Africa have dimmed, with economic growth slowing by 3.2%, and the halo effect of a newly appointed Cyril Ramaphosa long since faded.

It's within this paradigm that businesses in South Africa are being forced to find new ways of attracting and keeping their audience – especially in the retail environment.

Staying relevant and top-of-mind

Increasingly, we're seeing that in order to stay relevant, businesses are expected to be exemplary, beyond just the product or service that they're offering, as customers are interested in the detail of what drives them.

Related: How UCOOK Started In A Garage And Grew To A Staggering R200 Million Business

It's the detail that separates the one from the many, the pioneers from the sheep, and the success stories from those who are forgotten. There is an expectation for businesses of all sizes to exist for more than just shareholder gains.

The customers of tomorrow are global citizens and they want to associate themselves with social enterprises that deploy double bottom line strategies, with a set of auxiliary objectives aimed at creating positive impact, for people and our planet.

As we progress into the future, good ideas will no longer be measured against their functional significance, but rather their need to solve a consumer requirement while simultaneously creating positive change.

Collaboration leading the charge

In the case of the food and beverage industry, consumers are looking for companies that are transparent about the origin of their produce.

Related: 4 Ways To Win Over Customers And Boost Your Sales

Traceability from pasture and field to fork is gaining traction, as more information becomes available on the devastating effect that unsustainable practices have on our planet.

We believe that there are customer concerns in every industry that can benefit from transparency – what are yours?

When our business came about, one of the fundamental objectives was to develop a sustainable supply chain. A tough feat, if you consider the ramifications of distributing 130 000 meals a month that need insulation and cooling across South Africa's major metropoles.

Some obstacles have been easier to overcome than others and while we are not entirely where we want to be, we have had some fairly inspirational stories borne from our efforts to date.

Identify the fundamental objectives

One of these stories is the Philippi Economic Development Initiative (PEDI), and the development of the PEDI AgriHub.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

Traditional buyer-seller dynamics are steeped in an "us-versus-them' mentality; your win is my loss and vice versa, with both parties looking to increase the profitability of either buy- or sell-side transactions.

With this kind of relationship there's always a clear winner and loser. So, we decided to redefine that relationship as best we could.

PEDI is responsible for creating gainful employment for many previously disadvantaged members of the Philippi community, in Cape Town.

The PEDI AgriHub is being developed to support emerging farmers from in and around Cape Town and give them access to markets and value add for their seasonal, organic produce. We recognised the special nature of this supplier right up front and decided to attempt to set up a true collaboration.

We started with sitting around a table and unpacking the fundamental objectives of the relationship, for both parties. In this case, we were looking for a way to buttress our ability to source organic produce at scale, and ideally support initiatives that do good while growing such produce.

Related: Leverage Your Customers For Growth

PEDI wanted to improve its infrastructure and its ability to sell products into environments restricted through regulation. Looking at both objectives, we collectively developed a solution comprised of UCOOK-sponsored training programmes, repurposed UCOOK logistics and assets, and transferred learnings.

This has allowed both businesses to improve on their outset objectives. It's been a symbiotic relationship that has enabled us both to flourish. So much so, that we're taking on even more of their products in the coming months.

The key to unlocking this kind of mutual benefit in any supplier relationship is taking a long term view on value and being willing to compromise on short term gains.

It's often far easier to make a quick decision than the right decision. Staying true to your values will be under the spotlight even more with tomorrow's consumer, so opt for relationships that serve for good, rather than profit alone.

With the economic climate looking dim, we see light at the end of PEDI's hydroponic tunnels. Positive change by business for communities is possible, and the effect it can have on individuals makes it worth it. We've said goodbye to the us-versus-them paradigm and are embracing partnerships – it's the only way we can all grow together.

For more information on PEDI, see:

Related: Customers Are The Heart Of Innovative Businesses

David Torr

Serial entrepreneur and UCOOK co-founder

David Torr, together with his business partners, has grown the dinner-kit delivery service, UCOOK, from a garage in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs into an industry leader. He made his first million at the tender age of 24 and hasn’t slowed down since. In addition to UCOOK, David has interests in the SA property market, with specialist real estate investment vehicle, Solace, as well as the Eden Experience, one of SA’s largest music festivals.

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