Shoppers return to stores as optimism increases among vaccinated and flexible workers, PwC study


  • Optimism is 23 percentage points higher among those at least partially vaccinated, and 10  points higher for those working from home
  • In-store shopping is bouncing back while mobile shopping continues to grow; 41% shop daily or weekly via mobile or smartphone
  • Fifty-nine percent have become more protective of their personal data over the past six months

London, 30 November 2021 – Consumers are returning to in-store shopping in greater numbers, and out-of-home entertainment and travel are on the rise as three in five (61%) express optimism about the future, according to the latest PwC 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey.

The survey of 9,370 consumers across 26 territories found that when asked to consider their country’s COVID-19 situation, those who are vaccinated are much more positive about the future versus those who are yet to be – 66% of those at least partially vaccinated are optimistic, compared to 43% of unvaccinated respondents.

Work arrangements also influenced optimism levels, with those working from home or in a hybrid way being 10 percentage points (68%) more optimistic than their away-from-home counterparts (58%).

As optimism rises, consumers plan on spending more on out-of-home activities: from in-store shopping to entertainment and travelling:

  • In-store shopping is recovering with about half (48%) of respondents saying they visit a physical store at least once a week and nearly three quarters (72%) being ‘likely’ to visit a shopping mall in the next 6 months.
  • Consumers also plan to spend more on groceries (41%), fashion (33%), and health and beauty (30%) further boosting economic recovery.
  • Of the nearly one third (31%) of consumers globally who expect to increase their spending on travel in the next six months, 82% are at least partially vaccinated.

Sabine Durand-Hayes, Global Consumer Markets Leader, PwC France, said: “It is promising to see consumers feeling more optimistic. It’s particularly important for business leaders to note the factors influencing optimism that they can control or affect, such as flexible work and vaccination. Supportive workplace policies that facilitate health and well-being will not only help companies rewrite the social contract with their people but could also create a ripple effect of activity and spending that yield business benefits.”

Shopping patterns are evolving

The Baby boomers grew up on in-store shopping, however the survey has found that Gen Z – defined in our survey as those  between 18 and 22 years old –is as likely (45%) to shop in-store over the past 12 months as boomers (44%).

The survey has also found a continued shift to mobile devices for online shopping. Nearly half (41%) of respondents said they are making purchases by smartphone at least once a week compared to 30% in 2020 and 17% in 2018. Millennials are embracing mobile shopping enthusiastically, with 50% shopping via their smartphone at least weekly.

Consumers are taking sustainability into account in shopping decisions more than ever before. Fifty-two percent of respondents say they are more eco-friendly than they were six months ago. Half of respondents (51%) also say that when considering a purchase, they factor in whether the product was produced with a traceable and transparent origin. But price and convenience still matter most to consumers. Almost 70% of respondents prioritise getting the best deal when shopping either in-store or online and more than half say an efficient delivery or collection service is always or very often important.

Data protection is top of mind

While companies can take heart that consumers generally believe they are living up to their purpose and promises, they need to recognize that this trust is fragile. The survey data shows that across all industries, more than one in ten consumers do not believe companies are living their values or delivering on what they promised. The level of distrust is greater among younger consumers, with nearly three in 10 (28%) Gen Z respondents saying companies are not doing the right thing.

How companies are using data emerged as one of the key factors affecting trust. Eighty-three percent of respondents stated that data protection practices influence their trust in a company and nearly half of global consumers (47%) say that the use of their data has become a top priority for them. This is now deemed much more important than receiving a tailored customer experience which stands at 22%. As three in five (59%) consumers believe they have become more protective of their data over the past 6 months, nearly the same amount (55%) also said they are unwilling to trade their data for financial compensation or discounts.

Sabine Durand-Hayes, concluded: “Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the power of their data. Companies seeking personal information from their customers must be mindful of the criticality of keeping that information secure and avoid over-targeting their customers with bespoke offers. Instead, they need to re-think how they use their privileged access to personal information and use it to strengthen their value proposition and foster trust in their brands.”


Notes to editors

The 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey is a biannual study seeking to keep a closer watch on changing consumer trends. With a ‘pulse’ approach, PwC put a pulse survey into the field in March and September 2021. For the second pulse survey of 2021, we polled 9,370 consumers across 26 territories. Download the full report here.


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Global Corporate Affairs & Communications, Managing Director, PwC United States

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