REPORT: Rapid change driving a radical rethink of the customer journey

Rapid change driving a radical rethink of the customer journey according to PwC Canada’s 2020 Consumer Insights Survey

COVID-19 is accelerating the need for retailers to adapt

TORONTOJuly 9, 2020 /CNW/ – PwC Canada has worked to understand the consumer pulse through its 2020 Consumer Insights Survey. Focused on the lifestyles and shopping habits of urban consumers, this year’s Consumer Insights report has the advantage of surveying consumer behaviours just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in March 2020  after it began to hit countries around the world.

“It’s hard to overstate the impacts of COVID-19 on the retail sector. While many consumers say they’re more comfortable resuming previous habits around shopping in stores than in other categories, COVID-19 has accelerated many of the shifts retailers have been dealing with for several years. Retailers will need to adapt their product mix to reflect the trends shaping the new environment, including the rising interest in locally made, environmentally sustainable and socially conscious products,” says Myles Gooding, National Retail Leader, PwC Canada.

Consumer confidence hit by COVID-19

Before the pandemic, consumer confidence was healthy, with significantly more Canadian respondents (34%) saying they expect to spend more in the next 12 months than those looking to decrease their spending (20%). But as confidence lags amid ongoing economic uncertainty, we can expect consumers to be more careful with their spending as the lockdown eases, suggesting they’ll gravitate towards products or services that they judge as providing superior value.

Three shifts that will shape the retail sector future

Even as consumers are saying they likely will return to previous behaviours in some areas, retailers will need to focus on several key shifts in setting out their long-term strategies. Retailers will need to pay attention to Gen Z, who’s shopping habits will shape buying behaviour. They are 25% more likely to shop online, and those that go into a store to shop will do so if they can justify the trip. 40% look at a shopping trip as a source of fun and are more likely to want additional services. As more organizations settle into new ways of working, including remote working over the longer term, e-commerce is expected to increase and retailers will need to put more effort into their online and in store experiences.

“The changes required are by no means easy, especially with the added challenges created by COVID-19. While some consumers will return to prior shopping behaviours, change is inevitable and it’s the time for retailers to be bold and embrace creative solutions while adapting their operations and transforming their customer journey,” says Gooding.

An opportunity to adapt retail landscape

Retailers should determine where and in what circumstances it makes sense to have a physical store and where they need to repurpose their store format and size to respond to consumer shifts and preferences. In the grocery category, for example, some larger stores may adapt certain spaces for micro-fulfillment of e-commerce orders to support express pickup or delivery. By rethinking the role of the store, investing in seamless digital solutions and offering the right product mix, retailers can position themselves to win in this new environment.

Click here to access the full report.

About PwC Canada

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. More than 7,850 partners and staff in offices across the country are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax, consulting and deals services. PwC Canada is a member of the PwC network of firms with more than 276,000 people in 157 countries. Find out more by visiting us at

PwC refers to the Canadian member firm, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details.


  • The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the retail sector will vary by category, but several consumer shifts that were already underway have been accelerated.
  • Many of these shifts, such as expectations around and the increasing use of e-commerce as well as changing patterns of in-store shopping, correlate strongly with other key trends. Namely, the rising influence of urban Generation Z consumers and the growth of work-from-home arrangements.
  • While some consumers will return to their pre-pandemic behaviours, the pace of change will continue to pick up, requiring retailers to be bold in embracing creative solutions to transform the customer journey.
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