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New research challenges assumptions of younger consumers and discovers polarised perceptions of targeted advertising

11 May 2022

  • Report finds that more than half of under 35 year olds would pay more for an enjoyable shopping experience 
  • Three in five under 35 year olds prefer shopping in-store rather than online if they have time 
  • A third of consumers think targeted ads are helpful, one in four usually click on them
  • This is despite more than half of all consumers thinking targeted ads are “creepy” 

New research has found younger consumers are willing to head into high streets and physical stores and spend more money whilst doing so. The catch? Retailers must ensure they’re offering an engaging and personalised experience. This is according to a new report titled The Consumer Reconsidered from PwC, which shares insight into the reality of most shopping behaviours.

Demand for engaging in-store shopping, but perhaps not from who you think.. 

The growth of online retail over recent years has been well documented. Pandemic shopping habits significantly bolstered growth rates as physical stores endured prolonged periods of closure. Pre-pandemic, online accounted for 20% of retail sales, it then peaked at 37% in February 2021 during the third national lockdown, and it has now fallen back to 26%.

One big debate is whether online retail penetration will fall back to pre-pandemic levels of growth, with the shift to online contributing to the record levels of store closures seen in recent years in PwC’s Store Openings and Closures report for 2021.

The research shows there to be encouraging, and perhaps surprising, news for retailers with in-store and high street presence. This is particularly true of some segments of the population which will be largely responsible for the growth of retail, regardless of channel: 

  • Of those under 35, 50% said they would pay more for an enjoyable shopping experience. Only 1 in 4 consumers disagreed with this statement. Source: PwC Consumer Reconsidered Research, 2022
  • Three in five under 35 year olds prefer shopping in-store rather than online if they have time. Source: PwC Consumer Reconsidered Research, 2022. 

Younger consumers were also found to express more enthusiasm in visiting physical stores in general, with 65% of 18-24 year olds and 63% of 25-34 year olds saying they “love” visiting stores in-person. 

“These findings were surprising; we see the attitudes of younger consumers directly challenging more typical assumptions around their preference to increasingly shop online. This flows through to sources of help and advice, where only 1% of consumers thought that social media and influencers were the most trusted pieces of advice for their purchases.

“While online has largely won the battle for price, range and convenience, the under-25s, as digital natives, are used to it. They now have higher expectations and are less wowed by its capabilities. As a result, they’re more enthusiastic about stores, with 65% of under 25s and 63% of 25-34s telling us they love going to physical shops. A similar number would also prefer to shop in store than online if they had the time.

“It’s not the end of the high street, but its saviour is likely to be younger customers, so the focus for physical store owners is how to attract these age groups seeking a fulfilling shopping experience.”

Lisa Hooker, Leader of Industry for Consumer Markets at PwC UK

Targeted ads: What makes them creepy, makes them worth clicking on

The research finds that online targeted advertising is a polarising concept. Over half (57%) of all consumers thought targeted ads were creepy, yet this doesn’t limit them clicking on them. 

  • One in five people who thought targeted ads were creepy said they still usually click on them. Source: PwC Consumer Reconsidered Research, 2022.

The research suggests that a common reason why consumers may deem the ads creepy, in the collection of their information and preferences, could well be the same thing that makes them deem the ads helpful - as they in turn cater to their individual shopping interests. It would seem that despite hostility towards online advertising shown by some, this doesn’t hurt its effectiveness, as the research found a third of consumers agreeing that it is generally helpful:

  • One in three people think targeted ads are helpful. Source: PwC Consumer Reconsidered Research, 2022.

Additionally, younger audiences are particularly receptive: 57% of under 25s and 41% of 25-34s find targeted ads helpful, with over 40% of those groups likely to click on them.

About the report

  • With shopping boundaries continuing to blur, and technology’s influence only set to grow, businesses need to challenge their assumptions of consumers. The Consumer Reconsidered report looks at why shopping preferences are polarising, what that means for individual buying journeys, and how delivering an exceptional experience will build trust and connect better with consumers.
  • The Consumer Reconsidered features the findings of bespoke consumer research undertaken on behalf of PwC, including focus groups with shoppers during 2021, and a nationally representative survey of 3,002 adults undertaken between 21 January and 3 February 2022.
  • For further information on The Consumer Reconsidered, please visit: 
About PwC

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Robert D'Arcy

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