There’s a disconnect between what retailers offer customers and what they want in terms of new technologies in the shopping experience, according to a study by Oracle + Netsuite, The Retail Doctor and Wakefield Research.
The global study of 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives across the U.S., UK and Australia found the disconnect spans retail, social media, personalization and the use of advanced technologies such as chatbots, AI and VR.
“These findings point to a clear and urgent need for better customer service,” said Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor. “No retailer wants their customers to be confused or anxious, yet more than half of respondents have felt that way while shopping.”
Phibbs said customers will feel confident when they develop an emotional connection to the brand. This happens when retailers foster positive, helpful in-store interactions. Contrary to popular belief, millennials want store employees to help them.
“With nearly every respondent reporting that they value brick-and-mortar stores, now is the time to craft every in-store interaction to keep shoppers coming back,” said Phibbs.
Despite significant investments in enhancing the customer experience, retailers are not able to keep up with rapidly changing expectations.
The study found 73% of retail executives feel the overall store environment has become more inviting in the past five years, but only 45% of consumers agree, with 19% saying it has become less inviting.
Eighty percent of retail executives believe that consumers would feel more welcome if in-store staff interacted with them more, while just 46% of consumers agree, and 28% said it would be annoying.
Seventy-nine percent of retail executives believe chatbots are meeting consumer needs, while 66% of consumers disagree, with respondents noting that chatbots are more damaging than helpful to the shopping experience.
In one of the starker contrasts, the study found 98% of retail executives think engaging with customers on social media helps them build stronger relationships, while only 12% of consumers think it has a significant impact on the way they think or feel about a brand.
Forty-two percent of consumers and 63% of millennials noted that they would pay more for improved personalization, but only 11% of retail executives believe staff have the tools and information to do so.
Eighty percent of consumers feel they aren’t provided with a personalized shopping experience, either in store or online. Fifty-eight percent said they’re comfortable with how stores use technology to improve personalization, while 45% reported negative emotions when receiving personalized offers online.
Ninety percent of retail executives said they’re not confident in the use of new technologies like AI and VR to customize the shopping experience and meet shoppers’ needs.
While 79% of retailer executives believe having AI and VR in stores will increase sales, only 14% of consumers believe they will have a significant impact on their purchase decisions. Similarly, 98% of retail executives believe AI and VR will increase foot traffic, while only 48% of consumers don’t think they have any impact on their decision to enter a store.
Despite the popularity of online shopping, physical stores aren’t going anywhere. Ninety-seven percent of consumers agree there is a need to go into a physical store, and 70% believe the most appealing retail stores have features that simplify and streamline the shopping experience.
The top features attracting consumers to stores are, providing options consistent with ecommerce sites (36% of respondents), simpler store layouts (35%), staff orders on a mobile device (29%) and in-store kiosks that allow purchase of items unavailable in stores (23%).
The top technology advancements for consumers are self-checkout kiosks (38%), VR try-on (23%) and mobile payments (15%), the survey found, with only 5% selecting robots and chatbots.