Retailers may see the future of their in-store business as little more than a data-driven enterprise carried out by robots and virtual reality, but that may not be what shoppers want.
According to research from GetApp Lab, a business and marketing analytics company, about one-third of 500 adult shoppers with income between $24,000 and $150,000 said the mere presence of salespeople in a given store impresses them more than any in-store technology.
Only 14 percent of shoppers surveyed said in-store technology, like navigation interfaces and video screens, impresses them while shopping.
As could be expected, shoppers over age 55 expressed the most enthusiasm for having salespeople present in a store, while only about 24 percent of those under 25 years old agreed. However, almost 20 percent of those falling between the ages of 45 and 54 expressed a high level of interest in in-store tech and only 8 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds showed interest.
Although a majority of the most buzzed-about retail tech — from AI-controlled inventory to a virtual in-store shopping experience and robot helpers — has yet to land in stores. GetApp editor James Thorton said the retail industry’s tendency to push innovation is mostly in “hopes of automating more of the sales process” and not a response to what customers want.
“When the focus is on technology or innovation, customer service often gets pushed aside,” Thornton said. “This is especially evident when it comes to the online shopping experience.”
As brick-and-mortar retail contracts in an attempt to adapt to a consumer base that’s more apt to shop or at least browse online with store closures across the country, others have pointed out that e-commerce differs from in-store shopping beyond the platform.
PVH Corp. chief executive officer Emanuel Chirico recently likened the online shopping experience to “buying a bar of soap” and said in order for retailers to thrive with new technology and a bigger digital presence, the “romance” of retail needs to remain.
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