Trust is the sought-after experience for consumer-facing companies

Consumer markets findings from PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey

Consumer-facing companies were dealing with changing consumer preferences and business models in flux well before the current crisis, which is serving to further catalyze these existing forces. The situation is grim. However, companies combining a strong digital presence with a human connection to the qualities that define their brand are well-positioned for recovery. For a reopening at scale, transparency will matter more than ever, as will brand trust — far more than the relentless quest for experience, pre-crisis.

Safety is paramount

As states begin to loosen shelter-in-place restrictions, consumer-facing companies are planning ahead — to reopen their doors in phases. Safety is paramount: 60% of CFOs in consumer markets (CM) say they are very confident they can provide a safe working environment for employees while 69% are very confident they can meet customers’ safety expectations.
 

When returning to the workplace, how confident are you in your company's ability to do the following? (Respondents who are “very confident.”)

Consumer markets
All industries

Meet customers’ safety expectations
%
%
Provide a safe working environment
%
%
Retain critical talent
%
%
Balance needs of all stakeholders
%
%
Manage employee well-being and morale
%
%
Build skills for the future
%
%
Identify new revenue opportunities
%
%
Source: PwC COVID-19 US CFO Pulse Survey
May 6, 2020: base of 288; CM base 45

Protecting people and productivity

Finance leaders are implementing workplace safety measures, reconfiguring work sites to promote physical distancing and alternating work crews to limit exposure. These measures are important to consumers: 39% of respondents to a PwC survey of 1600+ consumers conducted May 4 to 7 said they would shop in stores if physical distancing and other safety measures were in place.
 

Which of the following is your company planning to implement once you start to transition back to on-site work? (Select all that apply.)*

Consumer markets
All industries

Change workplace safety measures and requirements
%
%
Reconfigure work sites to promote physical distancing
%
%
Change shifts and/or alternate crews to reduce exposure
%
%
*Highest-ranked choices from a list of 10 options.
Source: PwC COVID-19 US CFO Pulse Survey
May 6, 2020: base of 288; CM base 45

Grim outlook for now...

After an initial spike, consumer spending is starting to stabilize for essential goods and services, while continuing to plummet in other areas. This reflects CM CFOs’ projections about the adverse impact of the current crisis: More than three times as many (20% vs. 6% for all sectors) project a decrease in revenue and/or profit of 50% or more in 2020.
 

What impact do you expect on your company's revenue and/or profits this year as a result of COVID-19?

Consumer markets
All industries

Decrease > 50%
%
%
Decrease 25% to 50%
%
%
Decrease 10% to 24.9%
%
%
Decrease < 10%
%
%
Decrease but range unknown
%
%
We do not expect any impact to revenue and/or profits
%
%
Difficult to assess
%
%
Increase revenue and/or profits
%
%
Source: PwC COVID-19 US CFO Pulse Survey
May 6, 2020: total base of 288, CM base of 45
Note: Numbers do not add up to 100% due to rounding

...with hope on the horizon

The current situation has necessitated new ways to serve customers (51% vs. 44% for all sectors), which will allow CM companies to emerge stronger over the long term. CM CFOs told us they will also rely on improved resilience and agility (76%, in line with all sectors at 72%), leaner operations (58% vs. 47% for all sectors) and technology investments (49%, the same as all sectors).
 

What about the current situation will make your company better in the long run? (Select all that apply.)*

Consumer markets
All industries

Better resiliency and agility
%
%
Work flexibility (e.g., hours, location)
%
%
Leaner operations
%
%
New ways to serve customers
%
%
Technology investments
%
%
*Highest-ranked choices from a list of 6 options.
Source: PwC COVID-19 US CFO Pulse Survey
May 6, 2020: total base of 288, CM base of 45

Forge lasting customer connections

Consumers are cautiously optimistic about the recovery. While almost 40% told us they would shop in stores if safety measures were in place, a scant 12% of respondents said they would shop in stores immediately after reopening. And 30% said they would shop in stores only if a product wasn’t available online immediately. In fact, consumers are signaling that they will likely stay loyal to new brands they’ve tried over the past few weeks, which offers CM companies the opportunity to nurture these nascent customer relationships while also cementing existing brand trust.

Contact us

Tyson Cornell

Consumer Markets Industry Leader, PwC US

Eric Shin

Consumer Markets Tax Leader, PwC US

Tom Puthiyamadam

­Global Digital and Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC US

Melissa Palmer

Consumer Markets Assurance Leader, PwC US