As the general population becomes more and more accustomed to technology pervading every aspect of their daily lives, new research by retail technology expert Conversity has revealed that almost seven in ten (69 per cent) of consumers – rising to 86 per cent amongst the millennial generation – believe that technology will be a powerful tool in helping retailers build stronger relationships with their customers.
While this indicates that shoppers are becoming increasingly comfortable with technology in retail, there is also strong evidence to suggest that it can be used to retain and enhance the human element of the customer experience, rather than supersede it.
The survey polled 1,000 UK-based consumers divided evenly between baby boomers (ages 54-72), Generation X (ages 38-53) and millennials (ages 21-37), and is summarised in Conversity’s Shopping, but smarter report. Alongside their general belief that technology in retail is a positive, two-thirds (66 per cent) of respondents stated that the quality of advice provided online is crucial when purchasing high-value products, and almost half (47 per cent) said that comprehensive sales information being available is important when shopping in a physical store.
For Dave Stark CEO of Conversity, this clear desire for comprehensive advice, allied with consumers’ openness to the use of technology, presents an opportunity for retailers to leverage technology to empower their human staff to serve customers more effectively.
Stark said: “The era of technology ubiquity that we live in has created a landscape where consumers (especially millennials) are comfortable with the sight of a computer screen or iPad in a high street store, or are perfectly happy making most of their purchases online. At the same time, customers are becoming much more discerning in terms of the quality of advice and guidance they receive before making a purchase. Retailers should be looking to jump on this, and adapt their approaches to the customer experience to suit these requirements, especially as millennials become an increasingly dominant demographic.”
To support this point further, a majority of survey respondents (56 per cent, including 64 per cent of millennials) believe it is important to speak to someone in-store before making a high-value purchase. This reveals a clear desire for an additional level of personalisation and guidance provided by a human member of staff, and proving that the human touch in retail is far from dead.
Stark added: “The growth of automation has led many to fear that people may lose their jobs to machines, and the retail sector hasn’t escaped these concerns. However, what this research has shown is that consumers still consider human input an essential component of the shopping and purchasing process.
“With this in mind, retailers need to focus on how they can use the power of technology to complement and support the roles of human sales and customer service associates. Intelligent guided selling (IGS) tech is one of many ways this can be achieved, by making it considerably easier for a member of staff to walk a customer through a range of product choices and configurations.”
He concluded: “Consumers believe in technology. If it can be used to empower, rather than inhibit, the role of staff, retailers can reach a happy medium where customers are given the right balance of technological efficiency and human intervention, and staff continue to feel valued in their positions.”