Consumers carry technology everywhere. From smartphones to tablets, mobility allows today's shoppers to carry an online companion with them at all times, blurring the line between the in-store and the online experience. When making purchase decisions, no matter the medium, consumers want easy access to product information and opinions, not exclusively from friends and family, but online reviews and ratings as well. Shoppers still seek the aid of others, but in an independent process that reinforces the average consumer's move toward self-service.
However, Cisco Systems' recent "Cisco Customer Experience Report" highlights that, while many shoppers may prefer self-service, they also desire an experience infused with personalization that brings added value to the transaction. The study, which surveyed 1,514 consumers across 10 countries, examines the average shopper's desired retail shopping experience. The survey's focus on retail explores the impact of automation, self-service, and omnichannel shopping experiences, along with consumer views about providing personal information in exchange for more individualized services.
The following statistics underscore how consumers perceive the integration of technology and the retail experience, as well as their willingness to share personal data with various brands:
- Sixty-one percent of consumers polled are open to shopping at a fully automated store with vending machines and kiosk stations that offer virtual customer service.
- Overall, 52 percent of consumers worldwide prefer self-checkout stations so they may avoid waiting in line to complete their purchase.
- The omnichannel experience continues to gain traction, as 34 percent of consumers use multiple channels during their shopping endeavors. While 23 percent of those surveyed recently purchased something in-store based on research conducted online, 11 percent made a purchase online after seeing an item in the retail store.
- Sixty-five percent of respondents say they are comfortable receiving mobile retail advice based on their current location as detected through their mobile device.
- Though consumers crave increased automation, 58 percent still prefer help from an in-store associate, while online shoppers prefer to instant message with a sales associate (30 percent) or call them on the phone (28 percent).
- While 54 percent of consumers use mobile phones while shopping in-store, only 27 percent were using retail mobile applications. Of those app users, 56 percent were checking for prices, 53 percent were searching for sales, discounts, or coupons, 48 percent were scanning barcodes, and 45 percent were reading consumer reviews.
- Forty-nine percent of those polled will allow retailers to collect personal shopping data online in exchange for a more personalized customer service experience.
- Fifty-four percent of respondents are comfortable with retailers storing their purchase history in exchange for increased personalized value. However, only 32 percent of consumers trust retailers to store their credit card information for faster checkout.
Key takeaway: Many brands believe the proliferation of technology and online retail will ruin the traditional brick-and-mortar experience. However, as Jon Stine, director of Internet Business Solutions Group, Retail-Consumer Products, at Cisco notes, the growing acceptance of an automated digital life will not end the human interaction, but simply change the questions and discussions people want from such connections. With so much information available online, consumers no longer need to ask an associate the price of a given item or its product specifications. Instead, shoppers will seek help when in need of advice, for they will always require a certain level of empathy, reassurance, and insight that cannot be gathered from an online resource. Therefore, the questions they're asking may change, but the value sales associates provide will evolve and grow, not diminish.