PwC study shows what consumers want for better in-store experiences

Helpful sales associates are key to an enhanced in-store experience.

Helpful sales associates are the No. 1 reason customers will shop in-store.

That’s according to PwC’s latest Global Consumer Insights Survey, in which consumers ranked access to knowledgeable and helpful sales associates as the top (27%) factor that would enhance their in-store shopping experiences.

Sixteen percent of all respondents said the ability to use self-service checkout kiosks was their most-favored attribute, followed closely by in-store use of a retailer’s website or mobile app to browse for particular products (15%). Next, at 12%, was the ability to use retailers’ “scan-and-go” devices and apps, allowing shoppers to bypass both staffed checkout lanes and self-service kiosks.

Notably, consumers who said they intend to spend more time in brick-and-mortar environments in the coming six months signaled that they expect more technological bells and whistles. They said they’d be attracted by in-store entertainment (34%), immersive digital experiences (30%) such as donning a virtual reality (VR) headset to try out new products, and being able to book appointments with a sales adviser or personal shopper (28%).

In other findings, consumers chose shopping in-store as the most popular channel, at 43%. It was followed by use of mobile phones and smartphones (34%) and PCs (23%). 

Perhaps most important, PwC noted, is that what people expect and experience in all shopping environments—physical and digital—is changing.

“It’s incumbent on market participants to meet consumers in both physical and digital spaces—and to meet their changing expectations,” the report stated. “As is evident throughout the survey, it’s not an either—or proposition. Increasingly, consumers are saying that they want the physical shopping experience to be enhanced, facilitated or mediated by digital technologies: call it phygital.”

Cutting Back

Sixty-nine percent of consumers surveyed said they intend to cut back on non-essential spending during the next six months, with 15% halting non-essential purchases altogether. And fully 96% of surveyed consumers intend to adopt cost-saving behaviors over the next six months.

There are some exceptions, though. More than 70% said that ‘to some or to a great extent’ they’re willing to pay more for food produced by local farmers and for goods made by a company known for ethical practices, such as supporting human rights or avoiding animal testing.

Other highlights from the PwC report are below.

•Seven in 10 of those surveyed said that rising prices are having the greatest impact on their in-store shopping experiences (68%), followed by products being out of stock (42%) and the hassle of standing in longer queues (39%).

Similarly, when asked to identify issues they’ve experienced ‘almost always or frequently’ while shopping online in the last three months, 48% named the rising prices of household goods. Nearly one-quarter cited the inability to buy a product because it was out of stock or that delivery time was longer than they were told (both 24%). 

•  More than half of consumers who opt to shop in physical stores or to place orders online and pick up at the store (54%) said they do so because it offers them the ability to check that products are not broken or faulty and to be certain that they’re the products they ordered.  Another reason, cited by 41% of those planning to shop in physical stores, is that they simply missed doing so during pandemic lockdowns.

The bite of higher costs and concerns over an economic downturn are also playing a role: 40% of consumers who intend to increase in-store shopping and decrease online shopping said it’s because delivery costs are too high.

The Global Consumer Insights Survey is a biannual study that seeks to keep a closer watch on changing consumer trends. For our February 2023 pulse survey, we polled 9,180 consumers across 25 territories: 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 and Vietnam.

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