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Consumer and retail digital transformation insights

This content was published in April 2018. While we believe the content remains of interest, it doesn’t take into account major events since that date, including the recent global COVID-19 pandemic.

Find out more on the potential business implications of COVID-19

Graph with PwC ‘Experience is Everything’ 2017/18 survey data showing people would pay more for great customer experience

You know your target customers. And you know they’re increasingly demanding – not just in terms of product quality. They also expect personalisation to their needs. Delivery when and where they choose. And a buying experience that mirrors the speed and convenience they’re used to in other areas of their lives.

What’s more, you know if you don’t give them all this, someone else will.

So, what to do? To win in this environment, you need to build an agile, responsive business that can see and treat every customer as an individual. Tailor every product to match not just their tastes, but their motivations. And grow their loyalty and trust through a brand experience they can’t get anywhere else.

How technology is revolutionising the retail and consumer sector

The need both to use new technology, and also to think beyond it, is underlined by PwC research. Our 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey finds that, despite economic uncertainty, over 70% of UK consumers expect to spend the same or more in 2018 as in 2017. And this spending is increasingly going online. Some 90% shop on Amazon. And over a third are Amazon Prime members – with 82% citing free delivery as their top motivation. Also, while in-store remains consumers’ most frequent shopping channel, online and PC combined are used almost as often. And they add that there’s room for improvement in most aspects of the shopping experience, with fast, easy-to-use in-store WiFi topping the list.

Insight from the Global Consumer Insights Survey

These imperatives apply whether you’re a small start-up or an established player. For a start-up, the challenge may be retaining agility as you grow. For an industry stalwart, it may be transforming to maximise it.

In either case, digital technologies have a part to play. But not on standalone: any business that sets out to achieve “digital transformation” is asking the wrong question. To capture today’s consumers, what we’re really talking about is transformation. At pace. And alongside a deep understanding of technology, this demands two other things: world-class business insight, and leading-edge experience design – getting the best from a blend of technology and people.

Getting the right balance between technology and people in consumer experience

Graph with PwC ‘Experience is Everything’ 2017/18 survey data to show three components of consumer experience that consumers could pay more for

So UK shoppers want all the benefits of digital. But they also want a human touch. In our Consumer Intelligence Series study, Experience is Everything, 60% of UK respondents say the use of technology to enhance customer experiences has seen companies lose touch with the “human” element. And 50% don’t believe digital experiences will remove the need for real people, compared to 43% globally. Finally, asked to rate which elements of a customer experience are worth paying more for, their top three picks are speed & efficiency, convenience, and friendly & welcoming service – neatly capturing the need for a blend of technology and people.

The message is clear. At PwC we believe your business needs to transform as fast as possible – and digital is a vital enabler for doing this. But only if it’s blended with the right insights into business and experience.

Three key things you need to innovate and disrupt in retail and consumer

Disruptive innovation in your industry is enabled and underpinned by digital. But if you think that transformation just means implementing new technologies at pace, think again.

We’ll help you innovate and disrupt your industry in three dimensions. Product, such as finding new ways to personalise. Channel, like gaining greater transparency along your supply chain, end-to-end. And Experience, like embedding virtual reality in your packaging.

This will give you greater agility and responsiveness across all your operations. Deeper insight into what consumers want. Products that adapt to their context and needs. And a cost base aligned with your strategy, providing a platform for future investment and growth.

Then we’ll turn this innovation into competitive edge across core enterprise, supply chain and consumer experience. Ensuring that you become a disruptor and not disrupted.

Consumer experience: keep them coming back – to keep you ahead

For today’s consumers, experience matters. And if yours doesn’t match up to their expectations, you’ve got a problem. A big one. In our Experience is Everything study, only 4% of UK consumers say they’ll keep interacting with a company that provides unsatisfactory experiences. And their definition of what’s ‘satisfactory’ is constantly evolving.

So, how to keep pace? Use data and feedback to innovate, and develop a seamless experience that works for consumers – and for you. You’ll win, engage and retain more consumers, gaining differentiation and competitive edge that unlocks top-line growth.

Graph with PwC ‘Experience is Everything’ 2017/18 survey data, showing 96% of consumers wouldn’t come back if they had unsatisfactory experiences

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Blog: Personalisation in a GDPR world: managing the risks to realise the opportunities

Today, success in retail and consumer is all about delivering "personalised" products and experiences to consumers. But what does this really mean? How can companies achieve it? And will it still be possible in a GDPR world?

'to maximise share of wallet, even the most personalised offer needs another magic ingredient: a brand that consumers find compelling.'

Akiko Karaki, Partner and Jenny Etherton, Director

Core enterprise: be fast and agile – no matter how big you are

In any business, complexity and fragmentation are the enemies of innovation and agility. This holds true in retail and consumer more than anywhere else. It’s an industry where many large incumbents are hampered by their legacy – and where fast-growing start-ups invariably reach a tipping point where rising scale threatens their initial agility. In either case, the solution lies in digitising and simplifying the core enterprise systems at speed and harnessing automation gains. We understand that technology is important but only part of the answer. Success also depends on your people having the right digital skills, so you get the full benefit of that technology by ensuring that adoption rather than implementation are the tenants of change. That’s why we think as much about people’s effectiveness and productivity as we do about the systems you operate. The resulting 'digital core' underpins the business’s ability to adapt rapidly to changing consumer needs and markets, bring employees on the journey, innovate along its supply chain, and provide a consistent and compelling experience.


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Blog: How to navigate the retail and consumer “tipping point” – where scale threatens agility

We’re in an era when agile innovation and personalisation are increasingly vital. Whether you’re a challenger or an incumbent – the bedrock for these is a stable, standardised digital core.

'The dramatically varying fates of fast-growing businesses reflect how well or badly they respond to one key phase of their growth curve: the tipping point at which their rising scale starts to impact their agility.'

Neil McTiffin, Partner

Supply chain: right product, right time, right place – for the right person

Supply chains used to be a one-way street. Companies sat at one end designing and producing products at their own pace. Consumers sat at the other buying and consuming them. But now the polarities have reversed. Today’s most competitive supply chains are multidirectional: using closed-loop feedback – where your people and customers work and innovate together – to improve the buying experience, while also dramatically shrinking product development cycles to a few days. The result: the consumer’s right to authenticity and personalisation is embedded at the heart of your supply chain – unleashing transparency and opportunities for cost savings and revenue growth end-to-end.


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Tom Woodham

Blog: Visibility and adaptability: the keys to predicting and managing demand in your supply chains

It’s all a far cry from the uni-directional, one-speed supply chain of the past. Companies should be doing two things to embed much needed agility into their supply chains.

'When it comes to winning and retaining today’s consumers, your supply chain is a powerful competitive weapon.'

Tom Woodham, Digital Supply Chain Leader

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Dr Colin Light

Dr Colin Light

Strategy& and Customer Led Transformation leader, PwC United Kingdom

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