Wiring the Customer Experience

How consumers are embracing fast-emerging digital technologies

Consumers are adapting to, and even demanding, digital retail experiences. One of the primary challenges today is keeping up with these tech-savvy shoppers. Not sure where to start? We’ve uncovered key trends that are already shaping the future. WD Partners surveyed 2,300+ people nationwide about the appeal, awareness, and usage of 14 current and emerging retail-specific technologies. And what we found surprised us.

Participants revealed a high level of awareness and interest across the entire range of technology-driven retail experiences covered in the study, from Buy Online / Pickup In-Store (which appealed to 86 percent of participants), to Interactive Vending Machines of which 93 percent of respondents were aware).

Still, despite generally high levels of both appeal and awareness, respondents reported lower than expected usage for a number of these technologies. The likely reason is that retailers haven’t yet implemented these technologies in-store – so their customers haven’t had the opportunity to try them. But as our survey showed, demand is on the rise, so retailers need to catch up quickly.

The bottom line: Consumers want to move seamlessly across in-store, online and mobile shopping experiences. They seek tools and features that integrate product content and technologies mapped to their real-life needs for convenience, ease of use, access, and support.

Here’s some of what you’ll read in the report:

Using digital to drive traffic

Many retailers use digital retail technologies for “pre-shopping”— helping customers with online or mobile tools before they ever step foot in a retail location. Effective pre-shopping tools take into account individual shopping behaviors and what customers want to accomplish, so that shoppers have a great retail experience once they’re actually in the store.

Appealing or unappealing? It all depends

Disinterest in some digital retail technologies stems from the simple fact that they’re new. Some aren’t yet in common use, so people either know little about them, don’t know how to use them, or both. Plus, there are important differences of opinion along generational and ethnic lines. The most “unappealing” technology in the survey is still appealing to nearly two-thirds of Millennials.

Digital Divides and Gender Gaps

Men and women often have differing views on digital retail technologies. Retailers need to develop clear ideas about what content and which digital technology their customers find most useful and appealing.

Empowering sales associates

More than two-thirds of consumers think it is helpful for store employees to carry devices such as tablets or smartphones to help answer customers’ questions. They’re frustrated about actually getting such help, however. Successful in-store use of digital retail technologies is carefully planned and implemented, and supported by first-rate employee training and educational programs.

THE TOP 5…

MOST APPEALING DIGITAL RETAIL TECHNOLOGIES

  1. BUY ONLINE/PICKUP IN-STORE
  2. CUSTOMER IDENTIFICATION
  3. ENDLESS AISLE TECHNOLOGY
  4. INTERACTIVE VENDING MACHINES
  5. MOBILE-BASED COUPONS*/MOBILE CHECKOUT*

*Tied for 5th place

Research Methodologies

Quantitative:

An online survey of a national sample of more than 2,300 participants, segmented by generation (Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers).

Qualitative:

Focus groups with Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers, including their reactions to the 14 digital retail technologies.

Please visit wdpartners.com/research for more information.

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