Research about Africa, for Africa.

2022: Builders Zambia

The push for higher sales is constant in the retail environment and communication is a valuable strategic lever. Builders, a chain of hardware stores in Africa, wanted to use communication to increase effectiveness, innovation, and efficiency in their cross-border Zambian market.

In 2018, we created and implemented a comprehensive communication system for Builders which led to an immediate roll out of “The Builders Way of Communication”. Following the success of this project, Builders wanted to explore the opportunity of using strategic efforts to create more traction in the cross-border Zambian market in 2022.

Our implementation

The purpose of this project was to gain an in–depth understanding of the market, using customer insights for improved customer service to increase sales and margins. For this, it was critical to benchmark and understand the perception Zambian customers had of the brand, to determine what to keep and what to revise. Problems included Builders having a cluttered brand and messaging strategy, the South African marketing teams’ approach to Zambian customers and their spending, customer behaviour and competitors.

Our full research project included tools like focus groups facilitation, data analysis and findings design. The purpose of this research was to inform strategic decisions and enable measurable results. Local Zambian team members were an invaluable resource during the research with their local knowledge, networks, resources, and language facilitation. We could be agile when a marketing opportunity was identified in field, and the research schedule was adapted which contributed significantly to the results of this project.

The foundation of in-depth research from the Builders Way internal communication process provided a full picture of the brand, the Customer Promise, and informed key strategic decisions in that market, yielding some quick wins. Through the Builders Way, they were already using dialogue to communicate, test and action projects, messages, and initiatives.

We used a mixed style of message testing for customer segmentation allowing us to understand how the brand was understood according to certain research questions. Reliable marketing segmentation and data around their customers informed the research’s segmentation. We then acquired data from the existing business segmentation to better understand the audience preferences. The Zambian audience segmentation was done with secondary and primary research via surveys, from South Africa. The in-country research could explore all the main ideas in qualitative format, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding and test the brand’s campaign message.

Our impact

We were able to understand the shopping habits, channel, and message preferences of each target group and how it relates to the Customer Promise. For instance, the data provided insight into the brand perception everyday Zambians had regarding pricing and delivery systems as compared to their competitors. A significant element of this project was that the team were taken seriously during the research, and all the aspects they communicated around their business were explored, understood, and incorporated in the business case for the region going forward. During the research process, the local team discovered huge marketing opportunities on the Congo border and a need for a regional strategy. They were also empowered to implement all the activities from the research recommendations in their own way in their local market, instead of this being done from a Head Office perspective and they did this with resounding success.

Before the research study, Builders Zambia invested most of their marketing budget into billboards, but after gaining insight into their audiences’ channel and message preference, it was clear that their audience have become unmoved by billboards. Through this insight, the team was able to focus their marketing efforts on channels and messages that their audiences preferred, including WhatsApp dramas, hosting events, training opportunities with tradesmen by Builders employees who are tradesmen, and erecting signage to attract customers, to name a few.

The goal was to improve sales in the Zambian region by end of financial year 2022. By the end of August 2022, the sales showed a 15,55% growth compared to the previous year. In short, this project led to improved use of local messaging, an improved local digital strategy, sales, and margin. This project illustrates the value of understanding the market and using this knowledge to tailor marketing messages towards customer needs and in doing so grow the business in that market.