Sep 11 2019

NRF: Customers Rely on Technology to Shop, but Want the Process to Be Smoother

A new report sheds light on customer pain points in retail IT, which technologies they want to see retailers adopt and how emerging solutions are filling the gap.

Technology is already helping to upgrade the shopping experience for consumers. According to a new report from the National Retail Federation, 80 percent of shoppers say that tech innovations have improved their online experience, 66 percent say it’s improved in-store shopping, and 63 percent say that mobile shopping is better as a result.

But shoppers also say they’re often frustrated at various points in the shopping process, and they have concrete ideas about IT solutions that could help. 

The NRF’s Summer 2019 Consumer View, based on a survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. shoppers, presents data on exactly which points in the sales process cause problems for customers, and how shoppers would like stores to use technology to improve the prepurchase experience. 

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read about the ways that video analytics help retailers pinpoint customer needs.

Among the NRF’s findings: 

1. Comparison Shopping Is Frustrating

“Consumer frustration goes down significantly at the point of purchase,” the report notes “Whether it’s buy online, pick up in store, mobile payment or self-checkout, consumers have embraced the retailers’ investments in solutions that simplify their checkout experience.”

That’s reflected in the poll; only 15 percent of shoppers surveyed say that they find it frustrating to place or pay for their orders. The frustration comes earlier in the process, with 37 percent frustrated when first researching features and reviews, and 24 percent when checking prices or availability. 

More people also say they’re interested in tech solutions to streamline product research (47 percent) and inventory checking (25 percent) than in solutions to improve the checkout process (17 percent). 

Among customers who have tried checkout technologies such as self-checkout, mobile payment and buy online, pick up in store, around two-thirds say they’ve been satisfied with each solution. 

2. Customers Want More Info Prior to Purchase

“Roughly half of consumers are very interested in solutions that take the uncertainty out of shopping — whether that’s knowing that an item is in stock or getting accurate information on prices and reviews,” the NRF notes in its report. “The ability to address these needs is already shaping consumers’ decisions on the brands and retailers they shop.” 

The report notes that about half of shoppers say they’re “very interested” in various solutions that will give them access to basic information about product prices and availability:

  • 55 percent want technologies that will show them whether a product is in stock
  • 49 percent want solutions that help them compare prices or reviews
  • 47 percent want technologies that make it easier to find a product or location 

Smaller numbers of shoppers say they’re very interested in solutions that would let them try an item, either in person or virtually, before buying it (38 percent), make their shopping experience more meaningful (36 percent) or recommend items for them to buy (25 percent). 


3. Emerging Solutions Are Already Targeting These Pain Points

Some retailers have already experimented with the types of technology solutions that shoppers say they want, but so far only a small minority of customers are even aware that they exist. 

For instance, just one-third (33 percent) of shoppers are aware of in-store navigation apps, just 21 percent realize that some stores are using virtual reality and augmented reality tools, and only 15 percent are aware of smart dressing rooms.

Most consumers who haven’t tried these tools say they would like to, and strong majorities who have tried them say they’re interested in trying them again. 

“While new technologies are still at the cusp of consumer awareness and adoption, there are early indicators of what is capturing shoppers’ attention,” NRF writes. “More importantly, the vast majority of those who have firsthand experience using this type of tech while shopping want to try it again.”

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