WHILE in-store shopping is still the preferred channel for consumers’ daily or weekly shopping, preference for e-commerce continues to accelerate.

Audit and consulting firm PwC Global surveyed over 8,700 consumers in 22 territories, including the Philippines, to see key changes in consumer behavior — both in the online landscape and in-store shopping — and has identified four key customer groups.

“Our March 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey finds that many consumer behavior trends have accelerated during the pandemic, and four essential fault lines have emerged that split global consumers into distinct cohorts,” PwC said in its report.

In the Philippines, 42% of respondents said they bought clothes, books, and electronics in physical stores in the past 12 months.

Some 36% highlighted that the “ability to quickly and conveniently navigate the store to find products” is important when shopping and also said they “prefer to see and touch the products.” The “enjoyment of the social aspects of going to a store” is also noted by respondents.

Consumers from the Philippines also said increased health and safety measures, certification that the store meets coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) safety standards, the availability of local products, having knowledgeable and responsive sales associates, diverse product range, and the opportunity to pay contactless are important to them when shopping in-person.

However, the survey also showed the preference for mobile shopping continues to increase, even in places in the world where pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

Respondents emphasized the need for a fast and reliable delivery. Emphasis is also given on the following: reliable service, item availability, and website user experience.

In the Philippines, consumers also tend to look for online customer reviews, good returns policy, extended range of stock compared to physical stores, personalized offerings, and memberships or loyalty programs.

The study showed YouTube, Google, Facebook, and Instagram to be the top social media platforms most consumers engage advertising in.

Meanwhile, PwC also identified four “fault lines” of consumer behavior, which are: the Zoom effect, the generation gap, the “conscientious consumer,” and East-West differences.

The Zoom effect noted that employees who work from home are “[embracing] a more digital, environmentally friendly lifestyle” compared with those working away from their homes.

“People primarily working from home are significantly more likely to say they expect to increase their spending across all product categories,” PwC reported.

Work-from-home employees are also “almost 10 percentage points” more likely to get their groceries online as well.

“We think at-home workers are likely to stick with habits that have formed during the pandemic, even when restrictions are fully lifted. This at-home cohort could therefore drive an even faster decline in physical shopping than we’re already seeing,” PwC said.

Consumers who work from home are also “much more likely to consider the effects of their purchases on the environment,” with older consumers more willing to pay a premium for sustainable products.

The second fault line observed by PwC is the generation gap, which they explain as: “The youth of today are more likely to shop online and be optimistic about future spending than their older counterparts.”

The study also noted that millennials are not as brand-loyal.

The firm also said that this does not mean younger consumers are more frivolous. They are even found to be more price-conscious than older consumers, who “place a greater priority on convenience, health and safety than on price or quality.”

Meanwhile, the “conscientious consumer” is described as shoppers who have developed new shopping habits as health and safety concerns rose, and are pivoting to a “more at-home life.” These consumers shop in-store less in all product categories.

It was also found that the rising concern on health and safety expanded to concerns regarding the environment and society.

“These values are unlikely to change, even after the safety concerns brought on by COVID-19 subside,” PwC added.

On the other hand, consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are found to be more “sustainably-minded” and are “less likely to be concerned about health and safety in their physical store experiences” compared with their Western counterparts.

“It’s safe to assume that this could be because the virus has subsided earlier in these countries than in the West,” PwC said. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte