Navigating new consumer shopping habits

11 July 2018

Behavioural science has consistently found that habits are essential to human happiness - as shoppers, a regular and frequent routine allows us to navigate the myriad of available shopping options. The retail sector has long benefited from stable consumer shopping habits, allowing retailers to predict shopping patterns and generate loyalty. Over the last few years, the digital evolution has disrupted this – consumers are abandoning old routines, changing their habits and discovering entirely new ways to shop.

Our PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey (GCIS) captured the views of over 22,000 respondents in 27 countries (1,005 respondents in the UK) and identified how consumer habits are evolving across the shopping journey, from inspiration to transaction and fulfilment.

Finding inspiration

Our survey shows that UK consumers still find inspiration from individual retailers for inspiration, through their websites (42% of respondents) or direct emails (16% of respondents). But they are increasingly looking to their peers to influence their shopping decisions (25% of respondents tap into social networks). UK consumers also use a mix of other sources including price comparison websites (33%), travel review websites (24%) and ‘deal of the day’ websites (10%).

In response, retailers are reallocating their marketing budgets away from traditional and towards digital media. Retailers do, however, need to be mindful of unwanted communications - 36% of our survey respondents say they are comfortable with retailers monitoring their shopping behaviour but 48% of respondents are adamantly opposed to location-based offers.

Buying stuff

Mobile has more than doubled its importance as a channel through which UK consumers shop (22% versus 8% in 2013) and tablets, to a lesser extent, have also gained some ground (17% today versus 9% in 2013). This growth in the use of mobile and tablets has been at the expense of the PC (falling from 29% in 2013 to 24% today).

The physical store remains very much relevant with 41% of UK respondents visiting a store for their daily or weekly shops – and indeed the store as a shopping channel is on the rise (up from 32% in 2015). What is changing in store is the way consumers shop. For example, just under half of all UK respondents (43%) use smartphones to pay for store purchases (a combination of click & collect, in store apps and mobile payments). Half of UK respondents (54%) have also experienced augmented reality in store.

Retailers are responding by re-defining the role of the store – combining both technology and human interaction to meet customer demands for convenience and engagement.

Getting products delivered

Consumers increasingly want to close the window between transaction and fulfilment - “I want what I want, when I want it”. The majority of UK respondents (96%) told us they expect their online purchases to be delivered within five business days (and 26% expect it the next day). Many UK respondents are also willing to pay a premium for a faster service (40% for same day delivery and 24% for less than 3 hours).

Retailers are recognising that their delivery (and returns) proposition is a source of competitive differentiation in its own right – giving customers choice about delivery locations (e.g. lockers), time slots and communications (e.g. real time tracking).

The next wave of disruption

Looking ahead, emerging technologies will shape consumer shopping habits - AI and drones are two examples. Almost 40% of UK respondents say they already own or are planning to purchase AI shopping assistants (such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod), which is similar to trends seen in the US but way behind the curve of China at over 70%. UK consumers are also open to drones as a delivery method, depending on the type of product being delivered (11% of respondents would accept drones for any product, 17% for low value products).

Consumer habits will continue to evolve – enabled by both retail technologies and retailer innovations. Retailers will have the choice of how best to serve consumers but will need to choose how they focus their investment on the most meaningful moments in the end-to-end shopping journey for their target customers.

Jacqueline Windsor | Partner
Profile | LinkedIn 
Email | +44 (0)7801 074739

Read more articles on