Shoppers are returning to stores, but it doesn’t mean they’re happy with the experience.
According to the new “2023 Retail Customer Service Survey” from mobile communication platform Theatro, 63% of surveyed consumers are doing most of their shopping in-store now that the COVID-19 pandemic has eased. However, results also indicate the recent holiday shopping season offered several key warning signs about the in-store experience.
Four in 10 (41%) respondents said their in-store shopping experiences are “less enjoyable” than they were prior to the pandemic. Almost two-thirds (64%) of these respondents cited poorly trained or prepared retail staff, and 60% blamed inadequate staffing levels. Another 21% said in-store shopping is “more enjoyable,” and 38% said it is about the same as pre-pandemic.
When asked to rate their in-store shopping experience by retail category, shoppers said they were most likely to have an unenjoyable experience at supermarkets (38%), followed by department stores (34%), and convenience stores (30%). Respondents said they were least likely to have an unenjoyable experience at clothing stores (16%), furniture stores (14%), and mattress stores (12%).
What frustrates in-store customers
When asked what aspects of shopping at physical retail stores they find most frustrating, 71% of respondents cited long lines and crowds, followed by 39% who cited high prices, and 32% who cited limited product availability.
In addition, three in 10 (29%) respondents cited “difficult or rude staff,” and one-quarter of respondents (24%) complained of “unknowledgeable or unhelpful staff.”
When asked to specifically identify the most common problems they encounter with the employees at physical retail stores, 41% of respondents complained about lack of helpfulness or willingness to assist, and 41% cited rude or unprofessional behavior.
More than one in three (35%) respondents complained about lack of product knowledge or expertise, and 33% cited lack of knowledge of where products are located in the store or whether they are in stock. Half of respondents said they have stopped shopping at a specific retail store because its employees were unknowledgeable or unhelpful, while 45% said they have not and 5% weren’t sure.
When asked if they shop at physical retail stores more often, less often, or about the same amount today as they did pre-pandemic in 2019, 39% of respondents said they shop “less often” and 24% said they shop “more often.” The remaining 38% said they shopped in-store about the same amount today as in 2019.
Consumers prefer physical
The survey also compared the frequency of consumer in-store and online shopping, finding most respondents favor visiting brick-and-mortar stores. Nine in 10 (91%) respondents said they do at least half of all their shopping in physical retail stores compared to online, with nearly two-thirds saying they do most (37%) or all (27%) of their shopping in stores. Close to three in 10 (28%) respondents said they do about half of their shopping online and half at physical stores.
Close to nine in 10 (87%) respondents said they shop in retail stores at least once weekly, with nearly one-third saying they shop in retail stores either once (19%) or multiple times (13%) per day.
Among those respondents who said they do most or all of their shopping at physical stores, 76% said they prefer in-store shopping because they like being able to see and touch the product, while 44% said they like the immediate gratification of taking the products they buy home with them.
In addition, 25% of respondents who favor brick-and-mortar stores said they like the social aspect of shopping; 21% said they like being able to ask questions and get help with purchases from in-store employees; and 20% said that it’s easier to return items at a physical store.
Among the 9% of respondents who said they do most or all of their shopping online, the majority (62%) cited convenience as a reason for this preference.
Theatro used the third-party survey platform Pollfish to conduct an online retail customer experience survey of 600 U.S. adults on Jan. 9, 2023.
[Read more: Here’s what consumers want from in-store shopping]