Consumers’ return to in-store shopping and other out-of-home activities is picking up steam as they grow more optimistic about the future. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey found that 61 percent of those surveyed are more confident about tomorrow.

The survey of 9,370 consumers across 26 countries and territories asked respondents to consider their country’s COVID-19 situation and it found that those who are vaccinated are much more positive about the future versus those who are yet to be—66 percent of those at least partially vaccinated are optimistic, compared to 43 percent of unvaccinated respondents. Work arrangements also influenced optimism levels, with those working from home or in a hybrid arrangement being 10 percentage points (68 percent) more optimistic than their away-from-home counterparts (58 percent).

Consumers’ rising optimism has prompted an increase in spending in out-of-home activities, from in-store shopping to entertainment and travel. In-store shopping is recovering with about half (48 percent) of respondents saying they visit a physical store at least once a week and nearly three quarters (72 percent) being “likely” to visit a shopping mall in the next six months. Consumers also plan to spend more on groceries (41 percent), fashion (33 percent), and health and beauty (30 percent), further boosting economic recovery.

Of the nearly one-third (31 percent) of consumers globally who expect to increase their spending on travel in the next six months, 82 percent are at least partially vaccinated.

“It is promising to see consumers feeling more optimistic,” says Sabine Durand-Hayes, global consumer markets leader, PwC France. “It’s particularly important for business leaders to note the factors influencing optimism that they can control or affect, such as flexible work and vaccination. Supportive workplace policies that facilitate health and well-being will not only help companies rewrite the social contract with their people but could also create a ripple effect of activity and spending that yield business benefits.”

The survey also identified changes in shopping patterns. Baby boomers grew up on in-store shopping, however, the survey has found that Gen Z—defined in the survey as those between 18 and 22 years old—is as likely (45 percent) to shop in-store over the past 12 months as boomers (44 percent). The survey has also found a continued shift to mobile devices for online shopping. Nearly half (41 percent) of respondents said they are making purchases by smartphone at least once a week compared to 30 percent in 2020 and 17 percent in 2018. Millennials are embracing mobile shopping with particular enthusiasm, with 50 percent shopping via their smartphone at least weekly.

Consumers are also taking sustainability into account in shopping decisions more than ever before. Fifty-two percent of respondents say they are more eco-friendly aware than they were six months ago. Half of respondents (51 percent) also say that when considering a purchase, they factor in whether the product was produced with a traceable and transparent origin. But price and convenience still matter most to consumers. Almost 70 percent of respondents prioritize getting the best deal when shopping either in-store or online and more than half say an efficient delivery or collection service is always or very often important.

However, consumers’ trust that companies are living up to their purpose and promises is fragile. The survey data shows that across all industries, more than one in 10 consumers do not believe companies are living their values or delivering on what they promised. The level of distrust is greater among younger consumers, with nearly three in 10 (28 percent) Gen Z respondents saying companies are not doing the right thing.

How companies are using data emerged as one of the key factors affecting trust. Eighty-three percent of respondents stated that data protection practices influence their trust in a company and nearly half of global consumers (47 percent) say that the use of their data has become a top priority for them. This is now deemed much more important than receiving a tailored customer experience. which stands at 22 percent. As three in five (59 percent) consumers believe they have become more protective of their data over the past 6 months, nearly the same amount (55 percent) also said they are unwilling to trade their data for financial compensation or discounts.

Durand-Hayes adds, “Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the power of their data. Companies seeking personal information from their customers must be mindful of the criticality of keeping that information secure and avoid over-targeting their customers with bespoke offers. Instead, they need to re-think how they use their privileged access to personal information and use it to strengthen their value proposition and foster trust in their brands.”