Digitisation is transforming shopping

New trends like voice commerce and online grocery shopping are making an impact

Dr. Christian Wulff
Retail & Consumer Leader at PwC Germany

New trends are shaping shopping behaviour

Following e-commerce and mobile shopping, voice commerce is going to be the next big shopping trend. Smart voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home are already being used for shopping at least once a week by 8 percent of European consumers and 11 percent of German consumers. Among Germans under the age of 35, this figure is as high as 19 percent. These are the findings of a PwC study surveying nearly 22,000 consumers in 27 countries worldwide, including 10,000 European and 1,000 German consumers.

"The success of voice commerce in retail depends on two key factors: smart assistants need to be simple to use and they must meet demands for data privacy."

Dr. Christian Wulff,Retail & Consumer Leader at PwC Germany

The study at a glance:

Online shopping, mobile shopping – and now voice commerce

Online shopping has become an indispensible part of everyday life in Germany. Three quarters of German consumers shop online at least once a month, while 35 percent shop online at least once a week. The use of smartphones for shopping has also drastically increased, with 23 percent of German consumers and 37 percent of under-35s shopping on their smartphones at least once a week. Voice commerce is now emerging as the next transformation in retail: 13 percent of German consumers currently own a smart voice assistant and a further 19 percent would like to purchase one.

Digital advertising channels are becoming even more important

E-commerce has also changed the way retailers reach potential customers with advertising. German consumers of all age groups still feel that traditional media channels like TV are the most influential (42 percent), but digital media channels are having an increasing effect on consumer decisions. This is particularly true for younger consumers in Germany, for whom social media marketing (33 percent) is already more relevant than traditional TV advertising (25 percent). Just over half of consumers aged 18 to 24 (Generation Z) have already bought products that were recommended by a social media influencer, and three quarters have learned about products in this way.

Strong growth in online grocery retail

Online grocery shopping is gaining popularity among consumers. 17 percent of German consumers now buy groceries online – twice as many as three years ago – while 32 percent of Germans would like to buy their groceries online in the future. The figures are even higher elsewhere in Europe: 58 percent of Polish consumers, 47 percent of British consumers and 46 percent of French consumers stated that they’d like to do their grocery shopping online in the future.

Increasing awareness of sustainability

Whether online or in stores, sustainability is an increasingly important topic. Consumers place value on reducing the negative environmental impact of their shopping habits, with packaging being a particular concern. 53 percent of German consumers actively choose products with less packaging and 47 percent avoid plastic wherever possible. As well as being more conscious about what they buy, consumers are also willing to pay a premium for food that has been produced sustainably. 59 percent of German consumers would be happy to pay a premium for local produce and 49 percent would pay more for organic products. 45 percent are also prepared to pay extra for sustainable packaging. However, around a quarter of German consumers (23 percent) would not be willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly groceries.

How retailers can keep pace with changing shopping habits

Expand digital marketing

Traditional advertising is still influential, but social media marketing is becoming increasingly important. Traditional approaches to advertising – especially TV ads – will still reach parts of the target audience. However, younger generations now spend much more time on social media than watching TV. Companies need to focus their efforts on new media to make sure they reach younger audiences.

Focus on going green

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important. Consumers want to reduce the negative environmental impact of their shopping habits by avoiding plastic and choosing products with less packaging – and they are prepared to pay extra for groceries that have been produced sustainably. This means retailers need to adapt their product portfolios by offering more organic produce and using less packaging, for example.

Get delivery right

Delivery is a make-or-break issue for e-commerce. Companies that are able to guarantee delivery within a tight timeframe – either same-day or next-day delivery – will have a competitive edge. The most important aspects of delivery for consumers are speed, knowing the exact delivery time, and the option of free returns.

Focus on data

Retailers need robust IT systems and high-quality data to offer services such as same-day delivery. As a result, retailers should take an integrated approach to creating data transparency along their entire value chain – from producer to consumer, and vice versa. This is the key factor in enabling companies to take advantage of the transformation from online and mobile shopping to voice commerce.

Create an outstanding shopping experience

High-street stores will remain one of the most important ways of connecting with new customers and winning them over. However, these stores will transform into social meeting places and showrooms. For retailers, this means stores need to be attractively designed and staffed by well-trained employees. To enable staff to fully focus on the customer, it’s a good idea to digitise in-store processes like payment.

"Packaging materials must be reduced where it makes sense to do so. However, the reductions need to be reasonable. As soon as shelf life and food safety are at stake, consumers must be clearly informed about the benefits of packaging, even if it is made of plastic."

Dr. Christian Wulff, Retail & Consumer Leader at PwC Germany

The latest e-commerce trends at a glance:

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Dr. Christian Wulff

Dr. Christian Wulff

Retail & Consumer Leader, PwC EMEA, PwC Germany

Dr. Stephanie Rumpff

Dr. Stephanie Rumpff

Head of Business Development, PwC Germany

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