At the dawn of a new decade, retailers are finally making headway in catching up to the demands of digital-era consumers. According to Zebra’s 12th annual Global Shopper Study, which analyzes data culled from over 6,000 customers, store associates and retail executives, shopper satisfaction is up overall.
Retailers are recognizing that future success hinges on being able to move at the speed of technology. Though many retailers are on the right track, work still remains to meet the elevated customer expectations of the internet age. To start, retailers will have to start thinking more like shoppers themselves.
All Ages Have Unique Expectations
For many retailers, however, differences between generations can make things more complicated. Digital natives come to retail — whether they’re shopping in-store or online — with a set of expectations shaped by the constant connection of the digital economy. For example, millennial shoppers can be more exacting than other generations in the experience they expect in stores.
Today’s shoppers research online and know what they’re looking for before entering a store, underlining the importance of inventory management and transparency for retailers to make sure they have items in stock. Seventy-five percent of millennials and 53 percent of Gen Xers reported leaving a store without making a purchase and buying online due to out-of-stocks, while only 26 percent of baby boomers did the same. The situation stands to get even more complicated as members of Gen Z age into their peak spending years.
However, the arrow of time is rarely straight, and there’s plenty of “what’s old is new again” happening in the world of retail as companies evolve to optimize physical and online commerce into one streamlined, multichannel shopping experience.
Infusing Tech With a Human Touch
Clashing generations makes for good headlines, but it isn’t the whole story when it comes to evolving the retail experience of the future. Though digitally native millennials and Gen Zers value the ability to shop online and via mobile, as do all generations in increasing numbers each year, they still appreciate the physical store. Perhaps more so than their older counterparts, as 67 percent of millennials prefer to shop with online retailers that have brick-and-mortar locations, while only 55 percent of Gen X and 40 percent of baby boomers said the same.
Physical stores offer elements that e-commerce cannot; namely, hands-on product experience and personalized customer service. The ideal store of the future will feature a calibrated blend of tech and talent, bringing together the things that make shopping in-store special, with the convenience consumers have come to expect from e-commerce. Such technologies include interactive mirrors, which allow shoppers to order products from the convenience of their fitting rooms, or augmented reality, which provides consumers with product information and specials in-store.
Though shoppers expect a certain overlap between online and offline commerce, they don’t visit stores just to interface with screens. Stores will have to embrace solutions that really improve the shopper experience, including behind-the-scenes technology that increases operational efficiency.
These days, most customers are equipped with smartphones and expect in-store associates to be as informed, if not more, than the computers in their pockets. Fifty-eight percent of surveyed shoppers reported having better experiences when store associates used the latest technology. Nearly three-quarters of associates themselves agree they could be more helpful to shoppers if equipped with mobile technology. Onboarding, of both associates and customers, is key to the successful rollout of new technologies.
Store design and staff will have to be flexible to meet the evolving needs of multiple generations while simultaneously delivering personalized service to each individual customer. Technology can help retailers deliver this personalized experience and empower associates to offer the best customer service possible.
To learn more about retail technology solutions that help sales associates deliver better, faster service to give customers what they want and when, please click here.
Bree Bergman is director of North America vertical and field marketing at Zebra Technologies. Zebra builds enterprise-level data capture and automatic identification solutions that provide businesses with operational visibility.
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