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‘Are you being served?’

It’s hard to know what to make of a new consumer survey in the US by retail consultants HRC Retail Advisory, which indicates that 95 percent of consumers want to be left alone while shopping – unless they need a store associate’s help.

In a way it’s stating the bleeding obvious, and the 95 percent finding would be unsurprising. Most people don’t feel the need for a constant companion while in a store!
It also contradicts another of the findings – that nearly 52 percent of all respondents said that an ‘in-store personal shopper’ who helps them choose products is important, especially when shopping for technology products. (We think ‘in-store personal shopper’ is a pompous analog of ‘sales assistant’.)

There is something here though for retailers to note.  It would appear that the all-seeing, all-knowing internet is now seen as more credible than knowledgeable store staff: About 29 percent of respondents ranked in-store apps that would provide personal recommendations as an important store feature. Only 17 percent ranked sales associates that would help them choose as important.

Anyhow, keeping in mind that HRC Retail Advisory seems to be pushing a specific agenda in this survey – technology as a substitute for hands-on, personalised service – here are some other relevant findings of the survey:
– Across all consumers surveyed, a good in-store environment ranked as the most important factor while shopping (53 percent);
– Approximately 85 percent of consumers surveyed said they want to be able to check prices at price scanners throughout a store rather than ask a sales associate for pricing information;
– 69 percent said being able to order a technology product online and pick it up in-store is important;
– 76 percent of overall respondents rated an in-store app that provides personal recommendations as important.

Then came a few findings which weren’t so supportive of some of the common wisdom around modern retailing and digital technology:
– Mobile payments weren’t important. Only about 8 percent of those polled said that having the option to pay via a mobile app was important to them.
– Only one third of respondents ranked receiving promotional and sales information sent directly to their smartphone upon entering the store as important.
– Less than one third (30 percent) said that being able to pay a sales associate from anywhere in the store was important.
– Once again, only 30 percent ranked free in-store Wi-Fi as important (the rate was higher among younger generations).
– In-store events weren’t important. Only 19 percent said retailers’ special events designed to create community were an important part of a store’s offering. (This was higher among Generation Z – older children and teenagers – at 24 percent.)

Nearly 70 percent of Generation Z and 63 percent of Millennial respondents are turning to social media to share pictures and gather opinions from their friends and family before they buy. This is particularly true while apparel shopping.

The survey polled 2900 North American consumers from 10 to 73 years of age between February and March.

‘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. The only trouble is, the survey isn’t the unequivocal endorsement of customer service technology over store staff that it claims to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• Social Media. Nearly 70% of generation Z and 63% of millennial respondents are turning to social media to share pictures and gather opinions from their friends and family before they buy. This is particularly true while apparel shopping.

• Wi-Fi. Free in-store Wi-Fi was ranked as important by 30% of respondents overall. In addition, the rate was higher among younger generations.

• In-Store Apps. About 29% of overall respondents ranked in-store apps that would provide personal recommendations as an important store feature. Conversely, 17% ranked sales associates that would help them choose as important.
HRC Survey Methodology

HRC Retail Advisory’s survey was conducted online from February 20 to March 7, 2018. The total sample size was 2,903 U.S. and Canadian consumers between the ages of 10 and 73. Those ages 10–17 were recruited to participate through their parents.

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