From mall to mobile: Adjusting to new consumer habits

PwC's 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey shows that digital disruption is reinventing shopper behaviour and habits.

In this PwC’s report, we explore where habits are developing and changing the most – channels used to shop, delivery speed of online orders, and inspiration of purchases – and how companies can benefit by adjusting their businesses accordingly.

Highlights

In PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey, we explore where habits are developing and changing the most – channels used to shop, delivery speed of online orders, and inspiration of purchases – and how companies can benefit by adjusting their businesses accordingly.

  • The past three years have seen increases in weekly bricks-and-mortar shoppers, from 40% in 2016 to 44% in 2018. The rise in physical store shopping could be attributed to a desire for a more sensory and social experience.
  • Consumers want to know what their peers think: social media was the #1 choice when asked where respondents went online to get inspiration for purchases.
  • Companies can address these trends by paying attention to smartphone dynamics, making investments to artificial intelligence and focusing on store experiences.

How channel habits are shifting

Since we first surveyed in 2010, it seemed people were buying from physical stores less often. By 2015, only 36% of respondents said they shopped at bricks-and- mortar at least weekly. But the past three versions of PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey (GCIS) have seen increases in weekly bricks-and-mortar shoppers, from 40% in 2016 (33% for Belgium) up to 44% (40% for Belgium) in this year’s survey. Physical shopping is,

in fact, not falling out of favour as an activity. ‘Order online, pick up in store’ options may also contribute to physical stores’ continued popularity.

 

26% of all Belgian respondents use smartphones to complete payment at a bricks-and-mortar store, either through customised orders in advance, in-store apps, or a mobile payment platform at checkout.

Sources of inspiration: the new influencers

Another new habit has major ramifications for how companies communicate sales messages: consumers want to know what their peers think. When asked where they went online to get inspiration for purchases, 23% chose social media and 15% other visual social networks (e.g. Instagram, Pinterest). Belgian respondents are in this respect still lagging on the global population, where 37% uses social media and

20% visual social networks. Perhaps most interesting was that emails from brands or retailers were named by just 13% of global respondents, meaning that that mode of outreach doesn’t resonate with consumers rejecting intrusive sales pitches and searching for authenticity.

Addressing new consumer behaviour

Together these new habits — smartphone-based shopping and the in-store experience — offer an opportunity for savvy retailers and manufacturers. They can reduce their on-site inventory and free up space for a more engaging showcase of their products, offering brand-complementary activities. And thanks to the ubiquitous smartphones, these investments may not be so capital-intensive. Instead of making room for large in-store video screens, for example, stores can simply invite shoppers to access videos on their smartphones from the cloud.

Ambitious retailers can go further and offer virtual reality, but this trend is still moving slowly. More than a third of respondents still had not experienced this technology in stores, and of those who did, only slightly over half were satisfied.

Companies should respond to these new consumer habits by shifting their focus and investments accordingly. That means more attention to smartphone dynamics, as well as investments in AI and store experiences. New business practices to support these investments can help companies go with the flow of new consumer behaviours, rather than fight the current.

Contact us

Filip Lozie

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 3259 3348

François Jaucot

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 2710 4122

Steven Van Bael

Director, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 3259 3357

Mathieu Van De Poel

Director, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 2710 4275

Follow PwC Belgium