Consumers increasingly are asking retailers to give them their ideal shopping experience. Retailers, meanwhile, are scrambling to put technology in place to make sure customer expectations are met and exceeded.
“The biggest shift we’ve seen is the eovluiton of expectations that shoppers have about fulfillment, and the rising expectations of technology and solutions that retailers need to deploy in the supply chainto meet shopper expectations,” Tom Moore, industry lead, Retail & Hospitality Industry at Zebra Technologies told EBN.
Those are some of the takeaways from the 11th annual Global Shopper Study from Zebra Technologies Corp. published this week. The survey polled 4,725 shoppers, 1,225 retail associates and 430 retail decision makers about the attitudes, opinions, and expectations of consumers.
“Our study reveals shopper expectations are on the rise,” said Jeff Schmitz, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Zebra Technologies. “While retailers are addressing fulfillment challenges, they also need to provide a more trusted, personalized shopping experience that gives customers what they want, when, where, and how they want it. Retailers will likely make huge investments in these technologies to meet customer expectations.”
Staffing issues are perhaps the biggest stumbling block to retailers delivering the service that customers want. The survey found that 55% of retail store associates say that their company is understaffed, and nearly one-half (49%) feel overworked. The pressure of other tasks inhibits their ability to assist customers according to 42% of those surveyed. Meanwhile, 28% report that it is difficult to get information to help shoppers.
The answer may be having the right tools. Two-thirds of associates said that having a tablet in their hands would allow them to enhance customer service and provide an improved shopping experience. Currently, half of shoppers believe that their smart phones are a better resource than store associates. Most retail decision makers (83%) think that technology equipped sales associates can do a better job for customers.
On the technology front, automation, especially in the area of checkout, may be the secret to making the buying experience easier on customers. “There’s been a big movement toward self service,” said Moore. “At the end of the day, the checkout process hasn’t changes since the invention of the cash register. We’ve just developed faster equipment that captures more data. It’s an area that is ripe for transformation.” Nearly 80% of retail decision makers and half of store associates believe that new technologies that automate checkout can make staff checkout areas less necessary. Automated checkout can address staffing challenges and save the organization money.
Customers, meanwhile, are concerned about the privacy and safety of their personal data with only 13% saying that they completely trust retailers to protect their personal data. “There have been a lot of stories in the media about data breaches,” said Moore. “Whether you are impacted or not, it creates and overall tone that makes customers questions whether to trust their data retailers.” Three fourths of those surveyed said that they would prefer having flexible control around how stores use their personal information. Also, more than one-half of retail decision makers (52%) are converting point-of-sale (POS) space to self-checkout, and 62% are leveraging it for online order pickup.
Customers also reported a preference (63%) for being offered the option of ordering their desired products in-store and having the item shipped to their homes. Currently, only about one third of stores offer this as an option, the survey found. That is likely to change. Three out of four retailers offer or plan to offer these types of alternative fulfillment options in the next year.
Take a look at the infographic below to see the survey results in more detail.