Tech fuels retail growth in 2024: Five trends

Tech-savvy consumers continue to have an insatiable appetite for a personalized combination of digital and physical channels to discover, research, comparison-shop and buy the products they want — at the prices that work for them.

With loyalty and trust more fluid than ever, shoppers aren’t thinking twice before switching to brands and retailers that offer that elusive alchemy of price, speed and convenience via a combination of easily accessible channels.

To maintain your competitive edge in the year ahead, stay focused on sustainable growth while fine-tuning your business models to deliver the seamless experiences consumers have to come to expect, even demand.

These are the five key trends we expect will drive retail growth in the year ahead.

1. Channel-switching behavior continues to surge

Consumers expect to be able to combine the best of physical and digital channels for the most efficient shopping experience. Most will browse first in stores. They also look to family and friends for recommendations.

Then they go online for more research at search engines, digital marketplaces, brand sites and social media. For comparison shopping, they use stores and online options. Some consumers even use their smartphones to compare products and prices while in the aisles of stores.

Ultimately, more than half (54%) go to a store for the final purchase while 40% use an online marketplace. Retailers who understand the nuances of customer behavior can provide the type of omnichannel customer experience that keeps them coming back.

2. Gen Z flexes its spending muscle

While millennials — many in their peak earning years — are today’s top spenders, Gen Z consumers (17-25 years old) are poised to expand theirs. During the 2023 holiday season, they chalked up the widest year-over-year percentage increase in spending of any age group.

Gen Z likes to browse for gift ideas in stores (67% vs 58% overall) and on social media (41% vs 31%). They also prefer social media for comparison shopping (34% vs 27%) and learning about sustainable companies (70% vs 51%). Mobile payment is their speed (35% vs 21%).

Gen Z consumer loyalty is available for brands to cultivate. While they don’t yet belong to customer loyalty programs in large numbers, those who do belong outperform other age groups.

3. Emerging tech enriches customer experience

From GenAI product advice to virtual customer service interactions, a few diehard enthusiasts are embracing emerging tech retail help. While they represent a scant 20% of consumers, they are high-earning big spenders partial to wellness-related products.

And they are brand-loyal: 38% told us brand is a very important factor driving purchasing decisions (vs 18% of consumers who don’t use tech-assisted shopping). These extended reality fans spend more than twice the average consumer on entertainment.

Another 20% of consumers told us they may use emtech help in the future while 19% don’t know enough about it. Take advantage of the opportunity to educate the almost 40% of consumers who either don’t know enough about emtech options or would consider using them in the future.

4. Female consumers power new levels of growth

Female shoppers continue to spend more, extending a trend of boosting the economy that started in the summer of 2023 with record-breaking attendance at movies, live concerts and sporting events — often in support of other women.

Laser-focused on value, they scout deals more than their male counterparts. They also care more deeply about price, free returns, convenience and speed. Less brand loyal than men (59% v 67%) they’re more open to switching loyalties based on the values they deem important.

Adapt your strategies to cater effectively to this influential demographic. By focusing on price, convenience, personalization, brand values and digital transformation, you can meet the evolving expectations of female consumers.

5. Home delivery reigns supreme

Across generations, home delivery remains widely popular. Meanwhile, in-store and curbside pickup have stabilized, after a bump during the early years of the pandemic. Ultimately, consumers want to be able to select a combination of physical and digital channels for each shopping trip.

They want the certainty of knowing their orders will arrive as promised. Proof of delivery (83%), easy-to-use tracking (80%) and flexible delivery times (68%) are priorities. For pickup, stores close to home and convenient curbside options matter.

Retailers are well advised to shore up digital supply chains to better serve channel-shifting consumers who want a plethora of options for delivery and pickup.

Build trust and the loyalty will follow

Consumers expect brands to speak to their values; they’re prepared to look elsewhere if they’re not satisfied. As a new generation of emerging technologies gains wider adoption, seize the opportunity to build trust by engaging consumers in ways that cement their loyalty.

Contact us

Barbra Bukovac

Vice Chair, Consumer Markets, PwC US


Kelly Pedersen

Retail Leader, PwC US


Josh Goldman

Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC US


Edward Landry

Principal, Global Customer Strategy Leader, PwC US


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