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In-Store Customer Experience is Still the Cornerstone

A new study shows the in-store customer experience is still the cornerstone of the retail industry—with a little help from handheld technology.

In a world where shoppers have seemingly unlimited choices, the in-store experience still stands strong as the cornerstone of retail. That’s what Zebra’s 2019 Shopper Vision Study found when approximately 5,000 shoppers, 1,000 retail associates and 500 retail decision makers from around the globe were asked about shopper preferences and the technology that shapes the experience that both brick-and-mortar and online stores provide.

The study primarily found that shoppers prefer the in-store experience over online shopping in nearly every retail category. Instead of luring the customer away from the in-store experience entirely, eCommerce is transforming the role of the brick-and-mortar store into more of a customer experience space.

The study also found that retail decision makers are aware of the new breed of consumer who demands the benefits of both in-store shopping and eCommerce. Most associates (66%) admitted that giving shoppers in-store access to promotions and coupons is helpful in closing sales, but depending primarily on customers’ smartphones may be short-sighted—mostly due to personal data privacy concerns. Most shoppers (73%) still want to control how their personal information is used, so it falls to the associates to bring the benefits of eCommerce inside the brick-and-mortar establishments. But they can’t do it all by themselves—they need technology to fully enrich the shopping experience.

Transferring the technology to sales associates can bridge the gap.

In the survey, helpful sales assistants scored second-highest (at 41%) after product availability (58%) as factors that entice customers to spend more time in a physical store. A profound majority of retail decision makers (83%) and associates (74%) agreed that sales people equipped with the right mobile technology can enhance the shopping experience by scanning barcodes (71%), checking prices (66%), and monitoring product availability (60%). The right handheld technology can even close the sale when the customer leaves the store empty-handed. Most shoppers would agree favorably to ordering out-of-stock items and having them delivered directly to their homes (62%) or taking a discount (61%) when returning to the store when the desired item is back in stock.

Everybody seems to agree—technology transforms a static, brick-and-mortar situation into the interactive retail daydream that consumers want in their buying experiences. However, many sales associates find they are limited by the technology with which they are armed. In the survey, retail personnel report difficulty with helping shoppers find desired items (28%), and accessing customer data (26%). Perhaps the largest disconnect is accessing product information, with about a third (31%) of employees admitting they are not knowledgeable about more than half of the products in their store.

So, what’s the plan?

Shoppers want more personalized attention during their store trips. For their part, associates want to provide more help, but many feel that they don’t have the tools to do so. Retail decision makers are responding to the changes and are starting to equip associates with the latest mobile technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience.

Decision makers are seeing the value that the human touch brings to the retail equation. The survey says that more than half of retail decision makers (59%) plan to increase investments in scanner-equipped handhelds and rugged tablets by nearly 10 percent over the next three years. Nearly half of retail decision makers (48%) reported that the customer experience is the primary reason for the investments, followed by operating-cost reductions (41%), inventory management (36%), and revenue generation (34%). With the right technology, retailers can offer a better in-store experience, as well as a wider range of order fulfillment and delivery options. Many agree that this is what keeps stores at the center of the overall brand ecosystem—by serving as both fulfillment hubs and product showrooms.

To learn more about how technology is transforming the retail experience, and how you can cash in at the store, check out Zebra’s 2019 Shopper Vision Study. ScanSource and Zebra have exactly what you need to make the brick-and-mortar shopping experience as easy and efficient as possible for your retail customers—including the valuable resources to build your business, and your bottom line.