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Consumers respond to waves of disruption

June 2022 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey

Consumers haven’t given up on expectations of quality, choice and service. What does that mean for the companies that serve them? 

Consumers may have shown patience during the early days of the pandemic, as companies simplified supply chains, streamlined their product lines and cut customer service. But that patience seems to be wearing thin, according to our latest Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, which surveyed 9,069 consumers across 25 territories.

The good news? For companies that can manage multiple disruptions concurrently, there may be an opportunity in this era of seemingly perpetual upheaval.

Consumers face similar obstacles to shopping—both online and in stores

Consumer expectations are shifting as inflation, supply chain issues, ESG awareness and activism, and a possible recession affect availability, competition and values.

Although our survey wasn’t focused on inflation, it’s clear that consumers are aware of it, particularly in groceries. Longer queues in store, longer delivery times for orders from online stores and the unavailability of products have consumers facing similar issues in every shopping channel.

Q

Which of these issues is having the greatest impact on you when shopping?

(Showing answers only from respondents answering ‘occasionally’, ‘frequently’ or ‘almost always’)

In a physical store
(% rank 1-3)

Rising prices for groceries

  • 70%
  • 60%

Unable to purchase a product due to it being out of stock

  • 50%
  • 40%

A product taking longer to be delivered than you were told at time of purchase

  • 30%
  • 20%

While shopping online
(% rank 1-3)

Rising prices for groceries

  • 80%
  • 70%

Unable to purchase a product due to it being out of stock

  • 60%
  • 50%

A product taking longer to be delivered than you were told at time of purchase

  • 40%
  • 30%
Global Australia Brazil Canada China Egypt France Germany Hong Kong, SAR India Indonesia Ireland Japan Malaysia Mexico Philippines Qatar Saudi Arabia Singapore South Africa South Korea Spain Thailand United Arab Emirates United States Vietnam
Rising prices for groceries 65%,56% 60%,44% 71%,67% 76%,59% 43%,41% 67%,60% 61%,54% 68%,58% 59%,52% 52%,51% 56%,47% 75%,56% 76%,62% 67%,60% 65%,56% 68%,55% 54%,59% 58%,54% 57%,57% 76%,62% 65%,64% 69%,57% 57%,54% 48%,48% 73%,60% 66%,59%
Unable to purchase a product due to it being out of stock 37%,43% 55%,52% 25%,30% 46%,47% 26%,35% 24%,35% 34%,47% 40%,40% 49%,49% 31%,44% 41%,44% 46%,51% 44%,50% 42%,44% 30%,39% 29%,38% 35%,39% 30%,38% 36%,47% 35%,51% 30%,39% 34%,35% 33%,34% 29%,38% 56%,58% 38%,31%
A product taking longer to be delivered than you were told at time of purchase 20%,42% 18%,49% 22%,44% 16%,44% 30%,46% 22%,43% 25%,40% 15%,38% 20%,44% 24%,39% 20%,44% 16%,45% 15%,31% 19%,45% 16%,41% 21%,51% 23%,44% 28%,41% 17%,41% 15%,38% 28%,44% 16%,39% 24%,42% 25%,43% 20%,40% 24%,48%

Supply chain issues directly affect consumer behaviours

Even in the midst of supply chain disruption and inflationary pressure not seen in decades, consumer appetites for seamless shopping experiences have not diminished.

Consumers empowered by technology are more likely to use comparison sites to seek product availability and shop across multiple retailers. However, with supply chain snarls and inflation ramping up prices and wait times for delivery—both online and in-store—consumers are switching between channels to find what they want. That could create new opportunities for companies ready to handle them.

Q

How frequently have you taken any of the following actions as a result of these issues?

(Showing answers only from respondents answering ‘frequently’ or ‘almost always’)

  • Use more comparison sites to look for availability 00%
  • Switch to buying products online 00%
  • Shop at multiple different retailers to meet your needs 00%
  • Switch to buying products in‑store 00%
  • Change the retail store/outlet you usually shop in (in order to get the product you want) 00%

Global values for comparison

Global Australia Brazil Canada China Egypt France Germany Hong Kong, SAR Ireland India Indonesia Japan Malaysia Mexico Philippines Qatar Saudi Arabia Singapore South Africa South Korea Spain Thailand United Arab Emirates United States Vietnam
Use more comparison sites to look for availability 0.4 0.33 0.62 0.29 0.42 0.47 0.32 0.33 0.42 0.31 0.49 0.51 0.24 0.52 0.45 0.46 0.43 0.37 0.37 0.45 0.48 0.35 0.47 0.46 0.31 0.51
Switch to buying products online 0.37 0.33 0.56 0.25 0.45 0.4 0.31 0.28 0.43 0.23 0.52 0.6 0.18 0.54 0.45 0.37 0.34 0.37 0.34 0.35 0.47 0.33 0.5 0.37 0.31 0.5
Shop at multiple different retailers to meet your needs 0.37 0.42 0.43 0.35 0.39 0.43 0.23 0.33 0.47 0.41 0.47 0.45 0.15 0.44 0.31 0.4 0.49 0.33 0.35 0.55 0.3 0.28 0.3 0.39 0.41 0.42
Switch to buying products in-store 0.29 0.35 0.36 0.27 0.3 0.33 0.27 0.21 0.29 0.29 0.37 0.31 0.12 0.27 0.36 0.24 0.34 0.28 0.27 0.33 0.17 0.38 0.2 0.35 0.32 0.32
Change the retail store/outlet you usually shop in (in order to get the product you want) 0.29 0.32 0.38 0.24 0.29 0.35 0.23 0.21 0.24 0.25 0.37 0.37 0.12 0.35 0.34 0.37 0.38 0.29 0.24 0.39 0.23 0.25 0.24 0.37 0.26 0.33

Among consumers who use virtual reality, a surprising number report using it to buy physical products and luxury goods

  • 32% of those who used VR used it purchase products as a result of testing them/browsing stores via VR
  • 31% of those who used VR used it to purchase digital products/non-fungible tokens (NFTs) (e.g., avatars, digital artwork)
  • 19% of those who used VR used it to purchase luxury goods
32% of those who used VR used it purchase products as a result of testing them/browsing stores via VR

Omnichannel experiences are more important than ever—and evolving.

More than 80% of respondents reported shopping across at least three channels over the last six months, with one in three saying they’d used a virtual reality (VR) channel. When asked how they used VR, a surprising number reported using it to buy retail products and luxury goods. Notably, trust is indispensable in an omnichannel world—perhaps even more so as consumers move into the metaverse. Retailers seeking to build trusted relationships with consumers need to invest in data analytics to better understand customer wants and needs, as well as their behaviours.

ESG concerns influence half of all consumers

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors continue to affect consumer shopping behaviours.

Interestingly, though, social and governance factors, such as a commitment to human rights and diversity and transparency in business practices, seem to be more of an influencer than environmental factors when it comes to purchasing decisions. Young people are particularly tuned into ESG concerns, with millennials and Generation Z significantly more likely to consider ESG in relation to trust, advocacy and purchasing from companies.

Q

To what extent would a company’s environmental, social and governance actions influence your behaviour to purchase a product or service from the company?

(Showing answers only from respondents answering ‘often’ or ‘always’)

  • Environmental factors
    e.g., commitment to reducing carbon emissions, using recycled materials or reducing plastic waste in its products
  • Social factors
    e.g., supporting human rights, supporting diversity and inclusion of workers and staff, or supporting local communities
  • Governance factors
    e.g., being transparent and ethical, complying with regulations, or managing customer data and privacy appropriately
  • 00%
  • 00%
  • 00%

Global values for comparison

Global Australia Brazil Canada China Egypt France Germany Hong Kong, SAR India Indonesia Ireland Japan Malaysia Mexico Philippines Qatar Saudi Arabia Singapore South Africa South Korea Spain Thailand United Arab Emirates United States Vietnam
Purchase a product or service  41%,40%,30% 42%,38%,34% 55%,49%,39% 34%,35%,28% 45%,43%,34% 51%,44%,34% 26%,28%,16% 28%,32%,20% 37%,32%,23% 50%,53%,44% 50%,43%,33% 39%,37%,25% 19%,12%,10% 50%,49%,38% 51%,54%,35% 56%,52%,38% 49%,41%,33% 45%,45%,35% 32%,31%,21% 50%,52%,39% 41%,34%,28% 43%,42%,27% 44%,42%,30% 46%,46%,35% 35%,39%,29% 59%,51%,46%

On the horizon

Recent waves of disruption are likely to continue shaping consumer behaviours even as new waves emerge. Here’s where many retailers and consumer goods manufacturers need to adapt most urgently:

If retail companies had any doubt that they need to reach consumers across all channels, the pandemic, gnarled supply chains and inflation have made the imperative clear. The surprising reach already achieved by virtual reality channels leaves little room to delay. 

Over the coming years, ESG will only grow as both a disruptive force and a driver of value. But if inflation continues to boost prices, consumer commitment to ESG values may falter. Those with cash in their pockets can afford to remain deliberate, but what will those with tight budgets do?

 

Political polarisation and geopolitics continue to keep online security and privacy protection front of mind for retail companies. The industry may need to redouble its investment in the infrastructure that ensures data privacy.

 

 

As people decide to buy domestic products out of patriotism and perceptions of greater quality, an increasingly polarised world may impinge on international brands.

 

A recession in major markets would inevitably affect consumer behaviours. But decreased demand might alleviate some pressure on strained supply chains, which could ease inflationary trends.

Contact us

Jeff Blue

Jeff Blue

Executive Director, PwC New Zealand

Tel: +64 21 892 758

Greg Doone

Greg Doone

Partner, PwC New Zealand

Tel: +64 21 863 396

Indy Sena

Indy Sena

Partner, PwC New Zealand

Tel: +64 21 382 696

John Schellekens

John Schellekens

Partner, PwC New Zealand

Tel: +64 27 489 9541

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