Majority of shoppers reject robot shopping aides
Written by Peter Walker
People do not want to speak with robots while shopping in-store or online, according to a new study conducted by Oracle NetSuite in partnership with Wakefield Research and The Retail Doctor.
The survey of 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives across the UK, US and Australia found a huge disconnect between shopper demands and what retailers deliver in areas spanning the overall retail environment, social media, personalisation and the use of advanced technologies such as chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).
• 73 per cent of retail executives believe that the overall environment in retail stores has become more inviting in the past five years, but only 45 per cent of consumers agree, with 19 per cent stating it has become less inviting.
• 80 per cent of retail executives believe that consumers would feel more welcome if in-store staff interacted with them more, but only 46 per cent of consumers agree, with 28 per cent noting they would feel more annoyed.
• 79 per cent of retail executives believe chatbots are meeting consumer needs. Two thirds of consumers disagree, with respondents noting that chatbots are currently more damaging to the shopping experience than helpful.
• Almost all (98 per cent) retail executives think that engaging with customers on social media is important to building stronger relationships with them, but only 12 per cent of consumers think it has a significant impact on the way they think or feel about a brand.
“These findings point to a clear and urgent need for better customer service,” said Bob Phibbs, chief executive of consulting firm 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 – customers will feel confident when they develop an emotional connection to the brand.
“This happens when retailers foster positive, helpful in-store interactions,” he continued. “Contrary to popular belief, Millennials want store employees to help them. With nearly every respondent reporting that they value bricks and mortar stores, now is the time to craft every in-store interaction to keep shoppers coming back.”
Despite almost half of consumers (42 per cent) and almost two-thirds of Millennials (63 per cent) noting that they would pay more for improved personalisation, only 11 per cent of retail executives fully believe that their staff have the tools and information needed to give consumers this experience.
• 80 per cent of consumers do not feel they are provided with a personalised shopping experience both in-store and online.
• More than half (58 per cent) of consumers are uncomfortable with the way stores use technology to improve personalisation in their shopping experience and almost half (45 per cent) reported negative emotions when they receive personalised offers online.
• The majority of consumers (53 per cent) felt negative emotions the last time they visited a store, with only 39 per cent feeling confident in retail stores today.
While retailers are aware that they don’t have the tools and information needed to meet rapidly changing customer expectations, the study found that hyped technologies such as AI and VR are not yet the answer.
• Nearly all (90 per cent) retail executives are not confident the use of advanced technologies to customise the shopping experience is meeting consumers needs.
• 79 per cent of retailer executives believe having AI and VR in stores will increase sales; only 14 per cent of consumers believe the technologies will have a significant impact on their purchase decisions.
• Almost all (98 per cent) retail executives believe AI and VR will increase foot traffic, but 48 per cent of consumers do not think VR or AI would have any impact on how likely they are to go into a store.
Despite the popularity of online shopping, physical stores aren’t going anywhere, according to Oracle. Nearly all (97 per cent) of consumers agreed there is a need to go into a physical store to purchase items and the majority (70 per cent) believe the most appealing retail stores have features that simplify and streamline the shopping experience.
The top features attracting consumers to physical stores are options consistent with online (36 per cent), simpler store layouts (35 per cent), staff orders on a mobile device (29 per cent) and in-store kiosks that allow consumers to purchase products that are unavailable in-store (23 per cent).
The top technology advancements that consumers want to utilise when shopping in-store or online are self-checkout kiosks (38 per cent), VR try-on (23 per cent) and mobile payments (15 per cent). Only five percent of consumers selected robots and chatbots as the technologies they most want.
“Consumer expectations are not only rapidly changing, but exactly what expectations look like vary from person to person and moment to moment – this makes it incredibly hard for retailers to keep up,” said Matthew Rhodus, director of retail at Oracle NetSuite.
“The results of this survey show that while the retail industry is often considered to be at the forefront of consumer experience innovation, there’s still a long way to go to meet shopper expectations.”