Savvy global consumers take control: Retailers lag behind

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  • New study from PwC unveils key trends driving change in the retail industry in 2012
  • Retailers must Find new ways to engage consumers as social media continues to transform the shopping experience

TORONTO, March 14, 2012 — Today’s consumers are more empowered than ever before, with social media and mobile technology transforming the shopping experience. With over half (53%) of global internet shoppers expecting to spend more online in the future and consumers becoming increasingly sophisticated, retailers need to act now to insure a seamless multi-channel experience, according to a new study from PwC. The study, Customers take control – How the multichannel shopper is changing the global retail landscape, identifies key trends that will shape and transform the retail industry in 2012.

Alain Michaud, Canadian National Leader, Retail and Consumer, PwC, commented:

“With more than 70% of customers engaging in multi-channel shopping, it’s clear that the convergence of in-store, online and mobile shopping has arrived. Retailers should leverage this convergence and re-evaluate their organizations to create a winning customer experience focused on integrating channels, taking mobile technology to new heights and creating a personalized shopping experience. Retailers who do not deliver this seamless experience and invest in the necessary changes to their business models, run a very real risk of losing market share.”

Key Study Findings:
The survey of over 7,ooo online shoppers across three continents covering eight markets, shows a remarkably consistent picture across the world, with internet shopping becoming an integral part of day-to-day behaviour.

  • Growing push to Online: A fifth (22%) of all those surveyed are new to online, having made their first purchase within the last year, illustrating the continuing growth in online shopping globally. There has also been a noticeable jump in the frequency of shopping among those who already shop online – Chinese consumers are shopping nearly four times as often as some of their European counterparts - 70% shop online at least once a week compared with around 40% in the US, and 20% for the Netherlands, France and Switzerland.
  • Local vs. Global: Globally, online retail is overwhelmingly local in many markets. However in Canada, the exchange rate and the appeal of U.S. deals means that Canadians are buying more online the US. Globally, only five of the top 15 online stores are popular across multiple countries, with local players such as Taobao,, and CDiscount winning in their home markets.
  • In-Store vs. Online: UK and North American multi-channel consumers are more pulled towards stores – UK consumers are attracted by ‘collect in store’, while North American consumers are attracted by ‘store returns’. Meanwhile, free returns and fast delivery are important to German shoppers, but are of limited interest to the French, who are instead drawn to strong web propositions. Chinese and Hong Kong shoppers are attracted by availability, rewards and prices.

Alain Michaud commented:

“The reasons why shoppers choose a favourite are quite different in each country, which means it’s going to be difficult to serve multiple countries, using one website and product range - unless, like Amazon, you have an extremely broad offer or, like Apple, a unique and globally compelling product range. In essence, consumers are creating their own multi-channel experiences by leveraging multiple retailers across a single category or product.”

  • Social media and mobile and its ability to connect with customers is a powerful tool: Forty-four per cent of respondents in Hong Kong, 40% in China, 32% in the US and 20% in the UK follow specific brands and individual retailers via social media.

    The integration of social, mobile and location-based technologies is providing a whole new locally-specific shopping experience. Retailers can send offers to encourage nearby customers to enter their shops and customers reap the benefits of coupons delivered on their mobile devices as they stand in front of the product.

Alain Michaud commented:

“Achieving retail growth in 2012 and beyond requires a 360-degree approach to customers, using accessible technologies like video, mobile, email and social media to improve traditional tactics. In order to communicate more effectively with customers, retailers must use innovative ideas to differentiate their brand.”

The future is multi-channel: What global retail could look like in 2020

  • Retailers becoming far more innovative online – using graphics, video, interactivity and personalization to enhance the consumer experience. (ex. “augmented reality” fitting rooms).
  • As online evolves, so too will mobile and tablet shopping (ex. location and context aware promotions, the online and mobile shopping cart and mCommerce for micro payments)
  • Social media will influence a larger proportion of sales.
  • Supply chains will have undergone a complete transformation – more products will likely be delivered to homes, and online ordering and in-store pick-up will also gain in popularity, enabling streamlines and free return.

For further information on how the multi-channel shopper is changing the global retail landscape and a copy of the report, contact Abby Yung at 416 687 8644. You can also visit

Follow PwC on Twitter at @PwC_Canada_LLP and on Facebook at

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