top of page

Understanding new consumer segments- how to communicate to consumers in the new normal

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

Consumer patterns are changing as Kenyans continue to feel the impact of the pandemic differently. Initially, Kenyans were largely concerned about their health and safety over their economic well-being. However, the economic decline in the country has made Kenyans more fearful of the negative socio-economic impact of the virus rather than its health implications. These fears are grounded in reality as there’s been a significant decrease in economic activity leading to unemployment, business closures, pay cuts, food shortages and so on.

Understanding the new Kenyan consumer segments

Socio-economic realities existent before the pandemic have played a role in how various social classes have been affected. While for some it’s meant a change in lifestyle, for others it’s been a serious threat to their survival. The most prudent response as a business would be to first understand the new audience segments that have emerged from the pandemic.

You can categorise the current Kenyan consumers into these three groups:

1. Enduring

These are the people who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. They have lost most if not all of their household income and are increasingly reliant on external financial support. They have trouble accessing essentials due to informal trade and transport restrictions. Their primary news and entertainment sources are free to air radio and TV. They have no Wi-Fi connection and access to mobile data is limited. Their biggest fears are everyday survival and the uncertainty of the future.

2. In limbo

This category is made of households that have only lost a portion of their income but can manage to stay afloat, for example side hustlers. These people have access to mobile data and can create income at home. They also mainly use free to air radio and TV as their news and entertainment sources. They stockpile (likely every month) on essentials depending on their income. Their biggest fears are the long-term effects of the pandemic on their career and aspirations.

3. Well-Off

These households are those that have felt little to no financial impact but have experienced changes in their social lives. They have access to WIFI and Fibre services that make working remotely possible. They also use streaming platforms such as Netflix, Apple TV, DStv and mobile for entertainment. They’ve moved to shopping online and are likely to buy from niche local businesses. They fear the effects of the pandemic (lockdowns, the global economy) but are best positioned to deal with them.

In 2009, the Harvard Business Review published an article that explained how consumers prioritise goods and services:

  • Essentials - These are necessities and central to one’s well-being

  • Treats - These are indulgences whose immediate purchase is considered justifiable

  • Postponables - These are needed or desired items whose purchase can be put off

  • Expendables - These are items whose purchase are perceived as unnecessary or unjustifiable

If we were to apply this same knowledge across our audience segments, then we could predict how their purchasing decisions would change depending on the product category.

Consumer Segments' Changing Behaviour

Bringing solutions to various consumers

Understanding these new audience segments and their priorities is what will help you develop appropriate messages and propositions that will be meaningful to your target customer.

Consider those in the enduring category. This group’s desire is relief from their current situation. They aren’t concerned about brands in the current climate and are likely to limit their spending to essentials. If you sell essential items, the messages you send to this group can include offers and discounts or even reward systems that can help alleviate their financial situations. For example, Safaricom introduced the Bonga For Good initiative which allowed their customers to use Bonga points to pay for goods and utilities. They turned their loyalty program into a solution for Kenyans in dire economic situations.

For consumers in the limbo segment, they want reassurance for their future ambitions. They could similarly benefit from offers and deals since they’ve still lost some source of income. This group can benefit from brands that offer educational based services and products that will help them grow their skills from home. For example, Nikon made its online photography classes free throughout April and May.

Those in the well-off consumer segment are looking for release. They want solutions that will ensure their health and safety but still mimic the life before social distancing. As a business, you should strive to make your products or services purchasable online if you want to target these consumers.


We are facing an unprecedented crisis that has disrupted various aspects of our lives at different levels and intensities. One strategy won’t work for all. Therefore, it’s necessary that you understand how your target consumers are changing and what role your business will play in fulfilling their new needs and desires.

You can start by downloading your Buyer Persona Template and develop your ideal target customer profile.

Download your buyer persona template

Related topics:

Sign up to join the QM Club
Register for our events
Talk to our strategists


bottom of page