PwC 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey - new trends revealed as consumer behaviours change

19 April, 2021

Like many other industries, the retail sector has had to pivot to meet the needs of its customers. This, in particular, is even more important as our analysis shows COVID-19 is creating new cohorts of consumers that could herald long-term patterns in attitudes and behaviour. These cohorts are divided by four “fault lines” which have a very high potential of significantly impacting what choices consumers make in shopping channels, products and brands.

These four fault lines divide:

  • consumers who now primarily work from home from those who generally work away from home
  • younger consumers from older ones
  • consumers who prioritise health and safety from those who aren’t as safety-conscious
  • consumers in the Asia-Pacific region from those in other Regions.
Aerial view of O'Connell Street in Dublin City, Ireland.

Although consumers are globally aligned in some ways, we’ve uncovered four areas in which divisions are emerging that could herald long-term patterns in attitudes and behaviour.

Companies can be more prepared for the future by understanding these emerging cohorts and what their behaviours portend.

Fault line 1: The ‘Zoom effect’

At-home workers embrace a more digital, environmentally friendly lifestyle than those working primarily away from home.

Our analysis shows that those who work from home generally expect to spend more across all product categories included in our survey. 64% of consumers working at home prefer to shop for their groceries online versus 55% percent of consumers who work away from home. Those working from home are also more likely to shop online than physically go into stores to shop. If working from home continues, this could have significant implications for retailers if  physical shopping preferences continue to change or  decline.

Fault line 2: The generation gap

The youth of today are more likely to shop online and be optimistic about future spending than their older counterparts.

35% of Generation Z and 43% of Millennial shoppers are more likely to shop daily or weekly using their mobile phone than older counterparts. According to our analysis, COVID-19 has not impacted younger consumers’ spending habits. They are expected to spend more in the coming months than older consumers.

Fault line 3: The ‘conscientious consumer’

COVID-19 has created a cohort of shoppers who’ve changed their behaviour due to heightened health and safety concerns.

Consumers who prioritise health and safety are shopping less frequently in-store than consumers who are not as safety-conscious.23% of survey respondents rank “increased health and safety measures” as their first or second most important attribute when shopping in-store. These consumers are also willing to pay more for healthier, environmentally-friendly products and are doing more activities at home.

Fault line 4: East–West differences

Consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are sustainability-minded and less likely to be concerned about health and safety in their physical store experience.

45% of consumers in this region shop in-store more frequently than western consumers as health and safety concerns become less of an issue due to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Shoppers in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and the Middle East are more concerned with ESG than other parts of the world. 60% of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region and 61% of consumers in Africa/Middle East intentionally buy products with either environmentally-friendly packaging or less packaging. This is expected to rise as consumers globally become more conscious about the environment and sustainability.

The key action to consider now

The consumer markets industry was experiencing large-scale disruption well before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the virus accelerated the pace of change and created or deepened forks in consumer behaviour.

As companies move forward, they should take advantage of new opportunities evident in the data that we have talked about here.

Focus on sustainability

Looking at the area of ESG, , our research shows that in the wake of the pandemic, survey respondents across the globe are focused on making more sustainable choices. For example, 55% of consumers agreed that they buy from companies that are conscious of protecting the planet, and 54% agreed that they buy products with eco-friendly packaging. Consumers are also willing to pay more for healthier options, for local produce and sustainable packaging, regardless of shopping online or in-store.

Be more agile

More people have been shopping online exclusively compared to shopping in-store (across most product categories), and want fast and reliable delivery.

If consumers who are primarily working at home increase their spending, there might be a significant uptick in COVID-related at-home consumption. Both consumer companies and retailers should be prepared with innovations and changes, such as subscription offers, enhanced e-commerce capabilities, and larger, bulk packages for consumers who are at home more and spending more.

Increase digital marketing spend

Consumers are everywhere now - in stores, on your apps and website, and clicking on social media ads. Winning companies will be able to meet people wherever they are—on their individual terms. Consumer engagement, including online, extends to social networks, too. More than half of global consumers say they interact with the top four digital platforms, and more than one-third of those respondents, on average, say they’re actively clicking on advertising, revealing an opportunity for brands and retailers to explore their digital marketing spend.

Provide healthier food options

With grocery shopping, in particular, consumers across the board say that, out of a variety of product attributes, they’re most willing to pay a price premium for healthier options, local produce and sustainable packaging, regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in-store. Consumers want healthier food options and transparency across the food value chain. Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and retailers have a variety of options. For example, they can offer locally sourced products, mostly for their perceived value, or personalise their offerings to consumers’ nutritional preferences, using insights from biometrics or other technologies.

We are here to help you

There's no doubt that the weeks and months ahead are going to be challenging and the priority now is ensuring your business can progress and succeed in uncertainty. We are ready to help you as you face the future. Contact us today.

Contact us

John Dillon

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 86 810 6415

Owen McFeely

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: 353 86 417 4381

Ruth McNamee

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 87 601 0605

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