Canadian consumer insights: Retail evolution

Combining tech and human interaction to redefine the customer experience

Canadian consumers want convenience, choice and control when they shop. For that reason, and to deliver to constantly evolving expectations, retailers are looking for inspiration outside the retail environment, using emerging technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI) and mobile-first initiatives and payments to better meet consumer demands and reinvent their shopping interactions.

Our survey of more than 1,000 Canadian respondents explores the main tech-enabled approaches retailers are using to give shoppers a superior customer experience.

Unlocking the power of AI and customer data

Advanced analytics offers new ways to understand customers, sometimes even before they understand themselves. And AI gives retailers the opportunity to tap into the preferences of potential customers before creating new products—combining the best of human experiences with the best of machine learning.

68% of Canadian CEOs believe AI, robotics and blockchain will disrupt their business in the next five years

23% of Canadian consumers plan to buy an AI device

28% of Canadian consumers expect retailers to have up-to-date information on how they like to interact with them

32% of Canadian consumers are comfortable when retailers monitor their shopping patterns to tailor offers specifically for them

Digital prowess = profitability

Top performers who value digital and embrace customer-facing technology activities report revenue growth and profit margin increases above 5% for the past three years.


Embracing early digital adopters and the mobile trend

Early digital adopters—typically consumers aged 25 to 34—expect more, buy more and spend more. Our survey found that these shoppers are less price conscious and have higher expectations. They’re more upbeat about the economy, buy in bulk and pay using their mobile devices.


digital adopters

Early digital adopters


High expectations

65% expect same-day delivery

Bulk buyer
(coffee, detergent, diapers)

19% buy daily items in bulk

35% plan to buy daily items in bulk


50% are positive about the economy

39% expect to spend more

Tech savvy

39% are more likely to use mobile payment for everyday purchases

The rise of mobile

Our survey found that 33% of Canadian consumers have used some form of mobile payment at least once. Of those, 35% said mobile payment is their preferred option for in-store shopping—and they’re more likely to shop with a retailer that offers it.


Creating a frictionless checkout experience

Waiting in line to check out, the final touchpoint before leaving the store, is often the most frustrating step for shoppers. Taking a cue from the payment convenience of ride-sharing apps, retailers are experimenting with new forms of digital checkout, using scan-and-pay systems, in-app payments and click-and-collect options.


No more checkout lines

Retail evolution: Before

Grab cart. Load cart. Wait in line—often a long one—to check out.

Retail evolution: After

Check in to store via smartphone. Load items pre-tagged for smartpay via smart shelves. No checkout line; when you leave, smartpay checks you out.

Reimagining the store as brand ambassador

No longer just a space for inventory, today’s reimagined stores are outlets for product discovery, forums to educate and entertain and channels to reinforce the brand. The goal is to create a boundaryless environment that combines commerce and community, finding new ways to make shoppers feel at home.


All about the experience

Today’s consumers are more focused on the overall shopping experience. Our survey revealed that 58% of consumers spend their disposable income on products, while 42% spend it on experiences. Canadians aged 18 to 24 are particularly engaged by this community of commerce. They spend on experiences like socializing with family and friends (71%), events (55%) and travelling/vacations (51%).


The future of retail

Retail is transitioning into a wider community of commerce, one that effortlessly combines entertainment with shopping. Whether in a single store or at a shopping centre, retailers are finding new ways to keep customers engaged.

As companies continue to adapt to the future of retail, only those willing to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technology will be able to find new ways to satisfy the increasing demands for convenience, choice and control. The time is now to take bold steps into the future.


Contact us

Myles Gooding

Myles Gooding

National Retail & Consumer Lead, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8598

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