Consumers want fast, sustainable

PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey reveals how retail is expected to change between now and 2025

December 2019

Consumers have clear expectations about their shopping, and retail has to fulfil them

Sabine Durand-Hayes
PwC France et Maghreb

French consumers have three priorities that apply to shopping, whether it’s online or at the corner shop: shopping needs to be quick, with prompt delivery, and take account of sustainability criteria. These are the findings from the Global Consumer Insights Survey for which PwC questioned 21,480 consumers in 27 regions worldwide, 1,000 of them French.

« Physical stores will continue to be key to customer loyalty in the retail sector. But they will change into social meeting places and showrooms. »

Sabine Durand-Hayes, Leader Consumer Markets at PwC France

Online shopping has been part of everyday life for some time now

42 percent of French people buy online once a month, 24 percent weekly and 5 percent daily, while, 72% of Europeans buy online at least once a month. French consumers say that free returns, knowing the delivery date and quick delivery are the most important features for online delivery. 70 percent think free returns are crucial. The same proportion want to know the exact delivery date at the point of order. 69 percent think that getting the product as quickly as possible is very important.

Delivery needs to be as fast as possible and free

Most consumers expect free delivery as standard for online retail. 75 percent of French consumers are generally willing to pay for delivery. 28 percent of them, expect the delivery fee to cover same-day delivery.

For example, Amazon and Monoprix have partnered to bring items sourced from Monoprix to Prime Now service for consumers in Paris and its neighbourhood, enabling ultra-fast delivery for groceries.

More generally, in Europe, 77 percent of consumers are generally willing to pay for delivery and 24 percent of them are willing to pay only for delivery on the same-day.

Sustainability influences purchasing behaviour

With only 12 percent of French consumers claiming to have no interest in sustainability, such issues are increasingly influencing shopping behaviour.
Sustainability issues are also a factor in purchasing decisions around product choice: French consumers prefer products with less packaging (44 percent), avoid plastic wherever possible (37 percent), or choose products with a traceable and transparent origin (31 percent).

« The pace of sustainable awareness diffusion has been extraordinary over the last months and had a huge impact on consumer buying patterns. We have observed that for all products categories and all consumers segments. »

Anne-Sophie Dulong-Nativelle, Expert in Business Transformation in Retail and Consumer Goods Industry at Strategy&, PwC France

Physical stores as showrooms and social meeting places

Consumers have changed their attitude to physical stores. While they previously expected a broad product range in stores, they now see stores as places where they can experience products and brands, and access additional services. As European consumers, French consumers expect to be able to navigate the store quickly and conveniently (18 percent).

Consumers also expect sales associates to have deep knowledge of the product range (14 percent in Europe and 13 percent in France).

Quick and easy payment

Microtrips, defined as visits that take less than five minutes, are increasingly popular. 6 percent of French consumers stated that they make microtrips more than once daily, 14 percent once a day and 27 percent two or three times a week.

So, it’s important to ensure payment procedures are straightforward. According to Nielsen, hypermarkets and supermarkets in France are increasingly equipped with self-service checkouts (Auchan 99%, Carrefour 90%, Monoprix 74%), which are used by almost one out of five households. There is also a demand for quick and easy payment methods (including mobile and contactless payment): 41 percent of French consumers say that it would significantly improve their in-store shopping experience.

How can retailers meet consumer requirements

Combining new technologies and innovative business models can help retailers meet rising consumer expectations.

To offer digital services such as same-day delivery, retailers must have robust and fast IT systems with high-quality data. Without real-time inventory information, for example, retailers cannot state how quickly an order can be fulfilled. Innovative technologies offer retailers the opportunity to keep pace with customers’ constantly rising expectations.

The following principles have been found to hold true in practice:

Create space for investment

Companies should reduce fixed costs to free up budgets for innovative real-time solutions.

Stick to your strengths

Stick to your strengths Retail companies need to focus on what they are better at doing than their competitors. This gives them the opportunity to offer customers a unique experience.

Build up digital touchpoints

The retail sector needs to create digital touchpoints throughout the value chain, for customers and employees alike. These could be apps for navigating in-store, digital price tags or voice assistants. Other examples include augmented reality in changing booths, influencer marketing or mobile payment.

Work closely with partners

Companies should take the opportunity to develop business models jointly with partners. For example, a number of low-performing stores could be combined to form a successful joint store model.

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Sabine Durand-Hayes

Sabine Durand-Hayes

Associée, Consumer Markets Deals leader, PwC France et Maghreb