While a majority of consumers, 58 percent, continue to prefer in-store shopping to online, usage of technology and digital tools jumped during the pandemic, according to Zebra Technologies Corp.’s latest survey.
Surveying more than 5,000 shoppers, store associates and retail executives globally for its 13th annual study, the tech company found that a retailer’s digital presence has become an increasingly important tool for shoppers before they arrive at a store. Forty-five percent of shoppers said they looked up store information online, 14 points higher than last year. Twenty-nine percent said they checked a product’s inventory before visiting a store, a 10-point gain compared to 2019. Mobile app usage climbed five points to 72 percent.
When consumers reach the shop, they are more willing to use technology, Zebra also found. Asked what in-store tech they are likely to use, 60 percent of shoppers said smartphone self-checkout, 59 percent said a store-provided personal shopping device and 59 percent said auto checkout. Each of these numbers represented a five-point increase from 2019. Additionally, 63 percent of shoppers agreed self-checkout solutions enhance the customer experience.
A vast majority of associates in Zebra’s survey, 85 percent, said technology helps them provide a safe, comfortable and convenient experience for customers. Sixty-one percent said they view their employer more positively for providing them with a mobile device and technology. However, this sentiment did not extend to at least one area: automation. Forty-four percent of store associates said they were concerned about being replaced by a robot, a 12-point increase over last year.
The e-commerce boom also does not appear to be entirely bad news for brick-and-mortar locations. In Zebra’s survey, nearly two-thirds of shoppers said they preferred to shop with online retailers that have physical locations, a seven-point increase over last year. Fifty-seven percent of shoppers said they had placed an order online for store delivery, a 13-point jump compared to 2019.
Shopper Satisfaction Falls
A large perception gap in overall in-store satisfaction opened up this year, according to Zebra’s data. While 90 percent of retail executives said they believed customers were satisfied—an eight-point increase over 2019—shoppers’ in-store satisfaction fell six points to 76 percent.
Drilling down into the specific aspects of the in-store experience, product availability saw the largest drop in shopper satisfaction, falling 11 points year over year to 74 percent. This still left it above shopper satisfaction regarding product selection, down eight points at 73 percent, and ease of finding correct prices, six points lower at 67 percent.
Cited by 41 percent of shoppers, a desired item being out of stock ranked as the top reason for leaving a store without making a purchase. The checkout line being too long came in second at 32 percent, a 12-point increase from 2019. Thirty-one percent of shoppers cited being unable to find the item on display, a 13-point leap.
Zebra found that several safety issues have emerged in light of the pandemic. Concern regarding unsanitized surfaces and social exposure, held by 67 percent of respondents, ranked as the most common. Additionally, more than half of respondents identified “long wait times to enter store or check out,” “lack of self-checkouts lanes or contactless checkouts” and “lack of contactless payment methods” as concerns.
Online shopper satisfaction saw a similar decline to in-store, falling five points from last year to 73 percent, Zebra said. On a more granular level, satisfaction fell six points to 66 percent in terms of delivery timing and slid eight points to 54 percent when it came to delivery cost. Eighty-four percent of shoppers, however, said they were willing to pay for delivery speed, up eight points from 2019.