How COVID-19 Accelerated the Shift Towards Digital Experiences

A new report from PwC finds that consumer spending took a dramatic move away from in person thanks to COVID-19, moving up the timetable on digital transformation in the process.

The world has shifted in a lot of ways over the past six months, and that’s changed how consumers behave, too.

And a new report from PwC aims to help businesses make sense of the shift. The latest edition of the company’s long-running Global Consumer Insights Survey leans heavily on coronavirus-related information, driven by two surveys—one pre-outbreak, with more than 19,000 respondents, and one post-outbreak, with around 4,400.

The results are telling. The report [PDF] finds that 36 percent of consumers globally are spending less due to the outbreak, a sharp shift from the earlier survey, which found that nearly half of consumers (46 percent) were likely to spend more in the next year. And the outbreak has shifted what consumers are more likely to spend money on.

“Since the outbreak, people are spending the most on groceries, in-place entertainment and home projects,” the report states. “For food items, they’re making fewer shopping trips—45 percent say they are shopping less often for groceries—but filling up bigger baskets. For most nonfood items, consumers are buying online and, with the exception of entertainment and media, spending significantly less.”

A Shift Toward Digital Spending

Beyond groceries, digital spending has surged in the past year, with 45 percent reporting more online purchases via smartphones and 41 percent buying more via their laptop. Previously, mobile shopping was below in-store options, but respondents say that their in-store shopping has decreased by roughly half.

The report finds that consumers across the globe are going out far less, which is leading them to spend less. To make up for the lost in-person access, roughly half are spending more time using social media and 56 percent are watching more television. And signs seem to suggest that people’s habits are likely to continue in the more digital-friendly direction even after social distancing practices have ended for good.

PwC says that, as a result, “companies with the technology and imagination to design great experiences in the home” are likely to excel in the given environment.

PwC’s Steve Barr, who heads up their global consumer markets department, says that the results show evidence that trends already on the rise have been pushed forth at an accelerated speed.

“While certain trends have been on the upswing for quite some time, our research shows that the pandemic has sharpened consumers’ desire for transparency, sustainability and convenience,” Barr said in a news release. “The companies that will reap the most rewards are the ones that have established trust with the consumer, invested in a seamless and frictionless end-to-end customer purchase journey and prioritized the consumers’ health and safety.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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