Study: Shoppers, retailers have opposite views of robots in retail

It’s no secret that Amazon and e-commerce, in general, is killing retail. And retail is responding in kind, by beefing up their brick-and-mortar stores and online portals with increased technology and personalization, plus often transforming their physical sites into Instagram-friendly “experiences.” But what do customers actually want?

“The Future of Retail,” a new study conducted by Oracle NetSuite in partnership with Wakefield Research and The Retail Doctor, a retail consulting firm, examined 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives across the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

As it was discovered in the study, the retail industry is far out of step with what shoppers’ desires. While the retail industry is seemingly complicating matters with needless tech, most shoppers want to keep it simple, pay with their phones, and avoid robots.

  • Retail execs think that they’ve made the environment in their stores more welcoming. Customers didn’t agree. 73% believe that the ambiance in retail stores has become “more inviting” in the past 5 years. Unfortunately, only 45 percent of consumers agree. 19 percent actually felt stores had become less welcoming.
  • No one wants to talk to a robot to shop. Although 79% of retail executives believe chatbots are helpful to customers, 66% of customers disagree – in fact, they consider chatbots an unhelpful scourge on the shopping experience, either in-store or online. Only 5% of consumers said they’d want more technology allowing them to talk or interact with a robot or chatbot.
  • Retail execs think that blinding consumers with shiny technology will increase sales. 79% of retail executives think enhancing stores with virtual reality and artificial intelligence will increase sales. Only 14% of consumers agree that these technologies will affect their buying decisions.
  • The faith in tech continues, but only on one side: 98% of retail execs think virtual reality and artificial intelligence tools will increase foot traffic. 48% of customers do not think these things would influence whether or not they go into a store.
  • Retail execs want to reach out and connect with customers on social media. Customers do not. Nearly every retail executive (98%) thought that they needed to “engage” with customers on social media in order to build relationships. Only 12% of customers thought this actually had an effect on how they viewed or interacted with a brand.

So what’s the good news?

People still agree that there’s a reason to set foot in a shop (97%). Customers like it most when brick-and-mortar stores have items that are consistent to what they’ve seen online (36%) and have a smooth store layout (35%). What they would like to see in the future at stores are self-checkout options (38%) and mobile payments (15%).

“These findings point to a clear and urgent need for better customer service,” said Bob Phibbs, CEO, The Retail Doctor, in a release.

“No retailer wants their customers to be confused or anxious, yet more than half of respondents have felt that way while shopping … contrary to popular belief, millennials want store employees to help them. With nearly every respondent reporting that they value brick-and-mortar stores, now is the time to craft every in-store interaction to keep shoppers coming back.”