Consumer behaviour in unexpected times
Still seeing the all-pervasive ‘customers may experience delays’ pop-ups on your favourite online shopping sites? Decreased opening hours signs in local shop windows?
These are messages consumers got used to during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as retailers and manufacturers went into self-preservation mode – simplifying supply chains, streamlining product lines and cutting back on customer service. It was a reasonable response to the uncertainty of the crisis, and many customers, struggling with their own COVID-borne life upheavals, understood and accepted that things weren’t operating as usual.
Two years later, with disruptions ranging from the pandemic, to war, inflation, supply chain problems, energy crises and worker shortages, PwC’s latest Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey finds customers are beginning to lose patience as companies hesitate to fully re-engage.
The inflation equation
The vast majority of global respondents to the survey, over 75%, plan to sustain or increase their current levels of spending in the next six months across most categories. Although the survey did not focus on inflation, it’s clear that consumers are aware of its effect, particularly when it comes to groceries. Around half of those surveyed, both globally and in Australia, said they expect to spend more on groceries in the next six months. Non-essentials such as fashion, health and beauty and consumer electronics are on the ‘spend less’ list – something to watch if inflation persists.
Supply chain obstacles are continuing to limit consumer choice and making it more likely for them to comparison-shop across retailers and channels. One in four global respondents said they were willing to pay more for what they wanted (in Australia, that rose to 1 in 3), but in both cases, just as many were willing to wait or go without. Additionally, shopping behaviour in-store has changed, with consumers experiencing longer queues and unavailability of products. When shopping online, more than 40 percent of global respondents say they are being impacted by longer delivery times and out of stock products (ranked in the top three). In Australia, the situation is reportedly worse, with 44 percent reporting longer delivery times, and over half saying products being out of stock is impacting their purchasing. Unsurprising, therefore, is the finding that Australian consumers are the most likely to report being affected by supply chain barriers.
Think local and ESG-friendly
Where and how products are made matters. Globally, and in Australia, 8 out of 10 respondents say they have some willingness to pay more for products produced locally or domestically. Most of these want to support their local economies, and around a third to support their country (global, 35 percent; Australia, 28 percent). ESG factors are also continuing to affect shopping behaviours, with millennials and Gen Z significantly more likely to keep them in mind when purchasing. All ESG factors – governance, social and environmental – seem to affect trust and advocacy, with around half of those surveyed saying it affects their trust in a company or brand, and the likelihood they will recommend it to others. Paying a fair share of taxes is a major influencing factor for 36 percent of global consumers and 39 percent of Australian consumers, as is admitting past mistakes (global 41 percent ; Australia, 46 percent).
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