Salesforce: Mobile, AI, social technology disrupts retail

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Consumers are increasingly performing shopping tasks via mobile device.

A new consumer survey from Salesforce indicates leading-edge technologies are transforming the shopping experience.

The survey of 2,400 shoppers and 1,125 retail executives in 18 countries (including the U.S.) reveals that 60% of respondents say they now use their mobile devices in-store. Popular usages include researching products online (36%). scanning QR codes (32%), or “scan and go” purchases (18%).

In addition, an estimated 32% of store associates use mobile devices as part of their jobs, a figure Salesforce expects to rise to 41% by 2026. Associates use their devices for a variety of tasks, with loyalty program sign ups, customer service, and point-of-sale activities being the most common.

While Salesforce estimates 59% of transactions took place digitally in 2021, that figure dropped to 51% in 2023. However, digital transactions are projected to grow to 56% of the total in 2025. According to Salesforce, this is driving retailers to invest in unified platforms, with 60% of surveyed retailers in the strategy or execution phase of a unified platform rollout.

Salesforce also examined consumer shopping trends involving several other transformative technologies:

Generative AI

Salesforce measured the percentage of respondents who said they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in the following use cases for generative AI (based on machine learning, generative AI can create new content and ideas, including conversations, stories, images, videos, and music):

  • Getting shopping ideas (53%).
  • Researching electronics and appliances (52%).
  • Getting inspiration for home decoration (48%).
  • Getting inspiration for product purchases (47%).
  • Getting health recommendations (45%).
  • Getting inspiration for outfits (44%).
  • Getting beauty recommendations (39%).

[Read more: Salesforce: Generative AI will help drive holiday sales]

Social media and other emerging channels

Salesforce also measured the percentage of shoppers who have made purchases through a variety of next-gen technology platforms:

  • Social media (59%).
  • Messaging app (36%).
  • Voice assistants (24%).
  • Livestream video (21%).
  • Chatbots/chat/instant messaging (20%).
  • Video chat (10%).

Loyalty programs

  • Three-quarters of surveyed retailers offers a loyalty program, and an additional 22% without a loyalty program plan to introduce one within 24 months.
  • Consumer respondents belong to an estimated average of 3.4 loyalty programs — down from 4.3 in 2021. The most popular loyalty programs among consumers are points (70%) and cash back (44%).

Other findings

  • 59% of respondents say they have made a purchase on social media, a nearly fourfold increase from the 15% who said so in 2021.
  • 57% of respondents have purchased a product online for in-store pick up, and 49% have purchased a product online that was shipped to them from a store.

“Consumers are traversing a number of physical and digital touchpoints throughout the shopping journey – from browsing in stores to buying on social,” said Rob Garf, VP and GM, Salesforce Retail. “Generative AI will be a game changer for retailers to increase personalization and decrease friction – ultimately driving loyalty and increasing share of wallet.” 

Data is from two double-anonymous surveys of 2,400 shoppers and 1,125 retail decision makers conducted from May 18 through June 21, 2023. Data was collected from respondents in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, U.K., and the U.S.