Mobile shopping surges as shoppers return to store – Consumer sentiment fragile

30 November, 2021

Irish consumers have become more digital and are spending more online. In-store shopping remains important. Value is front of mind when choosing where to shop while protecting personal data is key to building trust. Consumer sentiment is fragile. These are some of the key findings from PwC's Global and Irish Consumer Insights Pulse Survey launched today including 9,370 consumers across 29 territories, including over 500 in Ireland. This press release deals with the Irish findings.

A photo of hundreds of people walking on a street as the sun shines overhead.

In-store shopping returns as mobile surges

In-store shopping has recovered with nearly half (45%) of Irish consumers visiting a physical store at least once a week and is back to 2018 and 2017 pre-pandemic levels (45%).

At the same time, 47% of Irish consumers say they have become more digital in the last six months. The survey shows that online shopping continues on an upward trajectory. A third (32%) shop by mobile or smartphone at least once a week, up from 19% in 2019 and 9% in 2017. However, there is still some way to go to catch up with global levels (41%). Fashion is top for online shopping (58%) while grocery continues to lead for in-store (40%). Consumers plan on spending more on out-of-home activities: from in-store shopping to entertainment and travelling.

A generational gap is closing when it comes to shopping via mobile. Whilst it has long been recognised that the older generation prefers to shop in-store, this is changing. Over one fifth (21%) of those aged between 55 and 64 now shop at least weekly via mobile or smartphone, a six fold increase from 2017 levels (3.5%). At the same time 44% of 18-24 year-olds shop at least weekly via mobile or smartphone.

The study reveals that 34% of Irish survey respondents are hybrid working, with 16% working from home all of the time. Half (49%) are required to be in their physical workplace all of the time. The most optimistic consumers are those who are hybrid working with 76% of these workers feeling optimistic versus 57% for non-hybrid.

Consumer sentiment is fragile

Consumer sentiment is fragile. Around half or more Irish consumers expect no change in their spend over the coming six months compared to the previous six months. For example, 48% expect no change in their spend on fashion, 55% will hold their spend on groceries and 58% will hold their spend on health and beauty. 60% said they expect to spend the same as last year on Christmas presents.

John Dillon, Leader, PwC Ireland Retail and Consumer Practice, said: "The events of the last two years have changed how we live, work and shop. The evolving Irish consumer is responding to the current macroeconomic challenges with an increasing focus on savings, price sensitivity, purchasing online via multiple channels, customer service expectations and sustainability expectations.

"However, faced with cost of living increases and threatened by rising COVID-19 levels, it is not surprising that half or more than half of Irish consumers plan no change in spending levels in the next six months. Understanding the new and emerging consumer needs will be key to winning in these ever changing times".

Increased focus on savings, value and sustainability

60% of Irish consumers increased their focus on savings and prices in the last 6 months. Getting the best deal is the top priority whether shopping online (77%) or in-store (75%). Other important shopping priorities are buying from a variety of retailers to suit customer needs, an efficient delivery or collection service and buying locally.

Irish consumers care more about sustainability than ever before. 50% of Irish respondents stated that they were more eco-friendly focused compared to six months ago. Helping to make healthier or better lifestyle choices (45%) is one of the most important factors when shopping. Other key considerations are retailers taking responsibility for staff wellbeing (44%) and providing products with a traceable and transparent origin (42%). Those aged between 54 - 73 (baby boomers) are most concerned about product origin.

Protecting personal data critical for brand trust

Protecting personal data (47%) is the single most important driver of trust in a brand, according to the survey. A quarter (25%) are unwilling to trade their data for financial compensation or discounts. Other important drivers of brand trust are exceptional customer service (38%), always meeting expectations (37%) and sharing relevant discounts (34%). However, sustainable practices are also a key attribute for driving trust amongst Irish consumers. This is particularly so for millennials (age 25-30 year-olds) - 76% of this group reported that taking positive steps to limit environmental impact plays a role in building brand trust.

Owen McFeely, Director, PwC Ireland Retail and Consumer Practice, concluded: "Environmental, Social and Governance factors are of growing importance for Irish consumers. They want to do the right thing for society and for the environment. Products can't be one dimensional when it comes to consumer expectations and need to satisfy the multiple needs of the increasingly complex consumer.

"While consumer sentiment is fragile due to COVID-19 uncertainties, we see a retail sector having to adapt their models to account for current market complexities with consumers continuing to evolve with these changing market dynamics. Consumer focused organisations need to take 3 key actions to ensure they remain relevant to this evolving consumer: understand and segment your customers in order to deliver on their specific needs, take steps to robustly protect data and avoid over-targeting their customers with bespoke offers and build a sustainability strategy that supports the climate challenges whilst also exceeding customer expectations".

Notes to editors

The report identifies three key actions for retail and consumer companies to take now:

  1. Take steps to robustly protect your data
  2. ESG needs to be fully understood, the opportunities grasped and risks mitigated
  3. Build an integrated digital strategy

About the survey

The Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey 2021 is a biannual study seeking to keep a closer watch on changing consumer trends. We polled 9,370 consumers across 26 territories including 508 in Ireland.

About PwC

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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

Johanna Dehaene

Corporate Communications, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

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