Shoppers still desire to check out with a sales associate, according to data from Headliner Labs.

Rather than enlist the help of a sales associate, a new survey by HRC Retail Advisory reveals 83 percent of consumers prefer autonomy while shopping — using smartphones for shopping in-store up until the point of purchase where human interaction is welcomed.

Based on a targeted sample of 800 shoppers across two crucial consumer segments, including Millennials and Gen Z, the survey adds clarity to understanding how each of these types of consumers navigates the in-store experience.

Unsurprisingly, the consumer has the power in dictating their shopping behavior, as retailers bend to their preferences for experiential retail and increased omnichannel experiences.

Executing tasks such as cost-comparison deal hunting and social sharing are a few of the ways shoppers use their smartphones to assume authority over their shopping journey. As shown in the survey, 59 percent of shoppers are utilizing smartphones to compare costs or “search for deals or coupons,” while 51 percent used smartphones during shopping to share photos with friends or family.

Another popular information-gleaning tactic is reading reviews before purchase. Instead of relying on a hard-selling testimony or general information from a sales associate, customers can scour hundreds or even thousands of product reviews all while idling in front of an in-store display. The smartphone is essentially becoming a “pseudo-salesperson” for the consumer.

What these consumers crave is control and simplicity, and they are overlooking the “magic mirrors,” instead prioritizing incentives like free Wi-Fi which enable them to solicit permission from peers more readily.

Farla Efros consumer behavior

Farla Efros  Courtesy image.

Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory supports this idea, championing simplicity above all else to create a more successful in-store experience. In this sense, “power is shifted to the consumer” and retailers are playing catch-up to match their immediate demands.

Incentives to increase this blurring of digital and physical spaces include mobile offers, free Wi-Fi and building smarter, more knowledgeable sales associates by arming them with smartphones or tablets for renewed excellence in service.

“Knowledge is power,” and one company demonstrating this is Nordstrom, with the use of tablets as a means for transforming the retail experience for the modern consumer.

Although the consumer is claiming control by shunning assistance during shopping, they forfeit it at checkout, with 72 percent of shoppers still desiring to check out with a sales associate.

This echoes the idea that retail will never truly lose that human component, with Millennials’ and Gen Z’s preference for experiences reigning as a top ideal.

“Millennials are going to keep going to malls,” said Efros, and as studies reveal, the key to earning customer loyalty and creating an enjoyable in-store experience might be as simple as leaving them alone — that is until they are ready to check out.

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