OPERATIONS

Study: Store checkout areas becoming ‘less necessary’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

New technologies are leading to less traditional checkouts at store level.

That’s according to a study by Zebra Technologies Corp., in which nearly 80% of retail decision makers said they believe staffed checkout areas are becoming less necessary due to new technologies that can automate checkout. Also, 52% of retail decision makers are converting point-of-sale space to self-checkout, and 62% are transforming it for online order pickup.

The “11th Annual Global Shopper Study” also revealed that store employees are feeling positive about the level of customer service they provide — especially when armed with technology. Sixty-six percent associates believe that if they are equipped with tablets, they could provide better customer service and improve the shopping experience. And 83% of retail decision makers and 74% of store employees concur that shoppers can have a better experience with technology-equipped sales associates.

With 51% of customers believing they are better connected with their smartphones than store associates, retailers are increasingly investing in technologies to combat this gap. Nearly 60% of retailers plan to increase their spend on handheld mobile computers by more than 6%, and more than one-in-five retailers (21%) plan to spend greater than 10% on rugged tablets over the next three years.

Mobile solutions will also improve operations for the 55% of associates who believe that that their company is understaffed, and nearly one-half (49%) who feel overworked. Most of their frustration stems from their inability to assist customers, as 42% find they have little time to help shoppers because of pressure to get other tasks completed. Another 28% claim that it’s difficult to get information to help shoppers.

In other findings from the Zebra study:

• As expected, only 49% of store associates are comfortable with the idea of fully-automated front-end models. However, 68% of U.S. employees reported that electronic shelf-labels (ESLs) would have a positive impact on the customer experience, and 54% of surveyed shoppers are likely to read them.

• For all of the benefits of technology, there is a downside. Only 13% of surveyed shoppers completely trust retailers to protect their personal data, the lowest level of trust among 10 different industries. Seventy-three percent of shoppers prefer flexibility to control how their personal information is used, the study revealed.

• In the U.S. alone, a mere 11% of shoppers completely trust retailers to protect their personal data, the lowest level of trust in any surveyed vertical industry, including healthcare, financial institutions and technology companies.

“Shopper expectations are on the rise,” said Jeff Schmitz, senior VP and chief marketing officer, Zebra Technologies. “While retailers are addressing fulfillment challenges, they also need to provide a more trusted, personalized shopping experience that gives customers what they want, when, where, and how they want it.”

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