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Study: Rising shopper expectations outpace in-store service

Overall shopper satisfaction is on the upswing, but many customers are still unsatisfied with customer service.

Forty-four percent of surveyed shoppers are still not satisfied with the in-store customer experience — an issue that spans returns and exchange processes, as well as in-store associate knowledge, according to the “2017 Global Shopper Study” from Zebra Technologies.

According to the data, 53% believe store associates armed with the latest technology improve the overall shopping experience. Yet, four in 10 shoppers reported they were better connected to consumer information than store associates. Drilling down further, 53% of millennial shoppers believe they are better connected than store associates, compared to 32% of Gen X shoppers and 15% of boomers.

The good news is an increased use of tablets in stores is improving the shopper experience. More than half of surveyed shoppers (57%) believe technology is improving the shopping experience, and 62% of shoppers appreciate associates’ use of handheld mobile devices in-store.

However, these technology adoptions are not improving returns processes. In fact, 44% of in-store and 53% of online shoppers are still not satisfied with the returns/exchange process.

Out-of-stocks also continue to plague retailers. When shopping in-store, 70% of shoppers have left without purchasing what they were seeking. However, when it comes to out-of-stock issues, retailers can recover six in 10 incidents with discounts or alternative fulfillment options, such as ship to home, according to the study.
Heightened customer expectations are transforming many areas within the retail landscape. While 66% of shoppers want next-day or same-day delivery, and 37% prefer same-day or sooner, 27% do not want to pay for shipping at any speed.

Retail customers also want a variety of fulfillment options. For example, 80% of those surveyed purchase items in-store and either take them home or ship from store to home.  Shoppers are also taking advantage of other fulfillment options, such as buy online, ship to home (64%), buy online, pick up in-store (34%) and buy online- ship to alternative location (15%).

Regional findings include:
• Fifty-eight percent of North American shoppers said they have “showroomed,” or looked at items in a store and purchased them online.

• In Europe and the Middle East, 64% of shoppers would be willing to purchase more merchandise if they received better customer service, and 52% value retailers who use technology to make the shopping experience more efficient.

• Nearly one-half (48%) of Latin American shoppers trust sharing personal data with retailers. Moreover, retailers rank low on the list of institutions that shoppers trust with personal data.

• In Asia-Pacific, 32% of shoppers would prefer to go to a retail store to pick up items purchased online or through mobile channels.

• More than half of shoppers in both Asia-Pacific and Europe are interested in Wi-Fi and location-based in-store services, such as mobile coupons.

“The results indicate consumers around the world believe that retailers have come a long way over the past decade to enhance the in-store shopping experience, but shopper expectations continue to rise at an exponential rate,” said Jeff Schmitz, senior VP and chief marketing officer, Zebra Technologies.

“Retailers continue to invest in their physical stores; we see this with an increasing overall store count and growth in convenience and mass merchant retail,” he said. “Sales associates armed with the right technology tools are better equipped to serve customers and increase revenue by providing the visibility and actionable insight into product information, inventory and fulfillment options that bring the online experience into the physical store.”
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