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Here’s What Shoppers Really Think About Retail Tech

Consumers are a notoriously savvy bunch when it comes to the latest retail technologies, and data shows they’re starting to wonder why headline-making tech like augmented reality and 3-D printing isn’t featured in your store.

And while shoppers demonstrate a growing interest in cool, connected offerings, there’s evidence that the type of store they’re visiting dictates the tech experience they expect, and what truly adds value to their path to purchase.

In its 2019 Consumer Retail Technology Survey polling 1,000 consumers nationwide, management consulting firm A.T. Kearney uncovered a disconnect between consumer familiarity with retail technologies and the absence of progressive tech in stores—and what retailers can do to meet shopper expectations.

Asked what they know about augmented reality, 3-D printing, cashierless checkout, mobile point of sale (mPOS) and interactive digital screens, A.T. Kearney’s audience seemed up to speed on the latest store tech, though many hadn’t actually encountered these innovations in a brick-and-mortar setting. Printing in three dimensions showed the greatest disconnect; though 60 percent of survey takers claimed familiarity with 3-D printing tech, they also said they had yet to encounter it in store. People were least familiar with interactive screens, as 30 percent said they’d heard of them but hadn’t seen such displays featured in a shop they’d visited.

Despite the chasm between consumer familiarity and retail implementations, shoppers expect tech’s role in their purchase journeys to increase in the future.

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If there’s one sliver of good news, it’s that shoppers are accustomed to big-box stores like Walmart and Target incorporating new tech, but don’t harbor quite the same expectations for specialty stores, like apparel retailers. Just 24 percent told A.T. Kearney that in-store tech had attracted them to a specialty retailer, 21 percent lower than those who said the same of large-footprint chains.

Don’t expect this status quo to last forever, however. A majority (58 percent) of consumers expect tech to factor into their future specialty-store experiences, the report found.

Retailers can’t ignore the link between store format and store tech, according to A.T. Kearney. Because big-box shoppers value convenience, most (77 percent) prioritized time-saving tech that skips the cashier for checkout and quickly finds products in store. Specialty-store shoppers, by contrast, showed stronger interest in retail tech that enhances their shopping experiences (51 percent) and allows for customization (45 percent) in addition to tech that saves times (60 percent).

A.T. Kearney laid out a roadmap for retailers searching for answers on how to embark on a retail tech journey. Pilot rollouts are fairly easy to set up quickly, the firm said, and can offer a quick win that encourages further experimentation. Specialty stores should search out the tech landscape to find the best personalization tech while also increasing store headcount to ensure customers get the hands-on service they crave.

Most of all, any retail tech project should clearly address a documented consumer pain point, A.T. Kearney said, adding that speedy high-tech checkout should be a priority as large swathes of customers want it.

According to Greg Portell, global consumer and retail practice lead, “This finding suggests that retailers still have the opportunity to address and meet consumer expectations by bridging the awareness/experience gap.”