Over eight out of ten (82%) Irish consumers are of the view that Ireland's economy will perform better or the same in 2018 compared to last year. These are some of the key findings in PwC's 2018 Irish Retail & Consumer Survey, published today.
The survey is part of a global PwC initiative of more than 22,000 consumers in 27 countries, including Ireland.
Over three-quarters (77%) of Irish consumers expect to spend more or the same in the year ahead. Key concerns impacting their spending ability include: Brexit, inflation and other cost pressures such as fuel prices and rents.
The survey highlights resounding support for shopping locally. Almost six out of ten (59%) Irish consumers feel it is important to shop locally, rising to 73% for 65 year olds plus, the main reasons being to support the local economy, quality and product traceability.
Surprisingly, despite the dominance of the big online retailers, stores remain the most important shopping channel, having plenty of room to thrive. Nearly half (46%) of Irish consumers said that they shop in-store at least weekly or more often.
The survey highlights that consumers like to shop in stores and will keep doing so as long as stores provide the right experience, combination of value, convenience, personal service and integrated physical and online services. For example, mobile is very important, with almost a third (31%) of Irish consumers saying mobile is their preferred method of payment in-store (Global: 46%), rising to 66% for those aged under 34.
But there is room for improvement. The majority of respondents are not happy with most elements of the in-store shopping experiences. For example, half (49%) are not happy with sales associates' knowledge of the product range and has deteriorated from 37% last year. Two-thirds (66%) are not happy with in-store WIFI or personalised offers.
According to the survey, a quarter (25%) of Irish consumers shop online weekly or more frequently, rising to 38% for 25-34 year olds. Given that 51% of UK consumers shop online at least weekly, the survey suggests that online shopping in Ireland is set to increase. And with over 60% of respondents never having shopped online for DIY, grocery, furniture, homeware and household appliances, these retailers will see significant disruption to their business models if they don't offer fully integrated, omni-channel shopping.
Demonstrating the importance of relevant and engaging social media strategies to drive spending, social networks (38%) remain the most influential when finding shopping inspiration, and are even more important for those under 34 years.
The survey highlights the potential for greater online grocery purchasing in Ireland. Two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents have not purchased any groceries online in the last year. However, the appetite for online grocery shopping is likely to grow in line with other purchasing trends.
E-commerce is also transforming consumer expectations related to delivery lead times. Irish respondents are less demanding regarding delivery times compared to global counterparts. For example, just over a third (38%) expect goods to arrive within two days of purchase (Global: 62%) but the majority are happy to pay for shorter delivery times. Return shipping is the most attractive service, if free.
The survey reveals that nearly a third (29%) of Irish consumers make purchases via their mobile phone monthly or more frequently compared to 41% in the UK. Based on the UK experience, PwC Ireland estimates that monthly purchasing in Ireland via mobile phone will likely double to at least 50% by 2023.
Mobile is also very important for in-store shopping with almost a third (31%) preferring to use smartphones to pay for shopping (Global:46%). The survey further reveals that a third (33%) of respondents are more likely to shop with a retailer who offers mobile payments (Global: 47%).
Commenting on the research, Director at PwC Ireland Retail & Consumer Practice, Owen McFeely said, "Traditional retailers could be at an advantage as shopping behaviour in stores shifts more to the experience rather than just shopping, but the survey suggests more training of in-store staff is needed. The increasing trend of shopping with a mobile device also creates significant opportunities for retailers to become fully 'interconnected'.
He added, "The trick will be how to optimise the interplay of the in-store shopping experience with mobile and social platforms while ensuring a seamless 'last mile' experience."