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Report: In-store customers want to be left alone

BY Marianne Wilson

Shoppers are increasingly looking to in-store technology for customer service versus personal assistance from store associates.

That’s according to a survey by strategic retail advisory firm HRC Retail Advisory, which found that many shoppers are moving away from hands-on, personalized service from store associates, and instead turning to their friends and family via social media to share pictures and gather opinions before they buy, particularly in apparel.

The survey revealed that 95% of consumers want to be left alone while shopping — unless they specifically need a store associate’s help. Approximately 85% want to be able to check prices at price scanners throughout a store rather than ask a sales associate for pricing information.

“As consumers begin favoring in-store technology over sales associates while they shop, retailers must adapt to shopper expectations in the store environment,” said Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory. “Identifying the right technologies and pairing it with the right in-store experience for shoppers of different generations will be critical to retailers’ long-term success. Those that curate and customize the store experience and services to suit shoppers’ needs will see the benefits.”

In-store environment ranked as the most important factor while shopping (53%). Other factors that shoppers deem as valuable when shopping in –store are receiving promotional and sales information that is sent directly to their smartphone (34%), and mobile point of sale (30%). Free in-store Wi-Fi was ranked as important by 30% of respondents overall, and the rate was higher among younger generations,

About 29% of overall respondents ranked in-store apps that would provide personal recommendations as an important store feature, versus only 17% who ranked sales associates that would help you choose as important. Being able to reserve apparel online, and try it on in-store before purchasing was ranked as important for 42% of Millennials, and 38% for Generation Z.

The survey found that consumers are not all that enthusiastic about several of the popular technology innovations and in-store experiences that many retailers are offering:

• Dressing Room Tech. Technology in apparel-store dressing rooms that assists with shopping was deemed important by only 17% of those surveyed. And only 6% of respondents ranked customized lighting in dressing rooms as important when shopping for apparel and shoes.

• Mobile Payments. Mobile payments ranked only slightly higher, with about 8% of those polled saying that having the option to pay via a mobile app was important to them.

• In-Store Events. Only 19% of overall respondents said that retailers’ special events designed to create communities were an important part of a store’s offering, particularly when shopping for apparel and beauty products. Events may grow in importance in years to come, however, as a slightly higher 24% of Generation Z listed them as an important store feature.

In other survey highlights:

• Sixty-nine percent of shoppers said that being able to order a technology product online and then pick it up in store is important (likely where they can see it and test it before buying), with a similar 65% saying it is important for apparel, according to the survey.

• While the need for store associates is diminishing overall, nearly 52% of all respondents said that an in-store personal shopper who helps them choose products is important when shopping for technology items. However, most respondents still preferred technology over personal service, as a much higher 76% of overall respondents rated an in-store app that will provide personal recommendations as important.

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