Underwhelming in-store device experience tempers consumer excitement for AI in retail

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New research from SOTI has found that while 95% of UK consumers have used in-store tech, only 23% believe in-store devices – such as kiosks, tablets, scanners and mobile computers – enhance their experience.

The data suggests this is having a knock-on effect on enthusiasm for next-generation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered retail tech, with only 20% of consumers excited for its arrival in the retail market.

The findings come from SOTI’s latest report, Techspectations: Consumer Demand for Digital Transformation in Retail, which surveyed 11,000 global consumers, including 2,000 in the UK. The study found that retailers are failing to meet shoppers’ expectations for in-store tech, with security concerns and lack of staff support compounding consumer dissatisfaction. 

When provided with a list of several in-store device options – including self-serve checkouts, in-store tablets and point of sale (POS) devices – only handheld store scanners were considered by the majority of respondents (51%) to improve the shopping experience. Common tech complaints included issues with self-serve checkouts (51%) and a lack of guidance on how to use various in-store technology (46%). 

Given these frustrations – with only 23% of consumers believing in-store devices improve the customer experience – interest in next generation retail tech is limited. Only 20% of consumers are excited for how AI will improve and personalise the retail experience and only 19% expect to use no-touch shopping.

“With many retailers struggling to nail the basics of in-store device implementation, it is unsurprising to see that expectations for AI and other advanced retail tech are subdued,” said Stefan Spendrup, VP of Sales, Northern and Western Europe at SOTI. “For brick-and-mortar retailers, it is important that in-store tech and devices elevate the retail experience and align with increasingly fluid online offerings.

“Retailers must revise their tech strategies now, so that when we make the transition to AI and other more advanced in-store tech that can transform the retail experience, consumers are receptive, excited and optimistic to use these technologies and devices.”

Managing Security Concerns and Driving Loyalty 

Further compromising adoption of in-store devices is a lack of trust in the data collection and payment technologies used in the retail industry. More than three-quarters ( 76%) of consumers globally expressed concerns about entering personal details online or through in-store devices. 

Security concerns extend to fraud, with 34% of UK consumers worrying about becoming a victim of financial fraud and another 33% expressing concerns about identity fraud because of using in-store devices. Potential exposure of personal details and the risk of the next user seeing personal information were of equal concern (26%) for consumers. 

Unsurprisingly, the elements of the retail experience that were particularly critical to UK consumers were the delivery and return process – with real-time information, efficient product availability and rapid delivery in-store and online now expected. 

The report found that 42% of UK consumers expect to be able to pick up an item ordered online from a physical store on the same day. Moreover, 73% of consumers expect full visibility of where their order is within the delivery process at all times. When it comes to returns, 66% of consumers are more likely to shop with retailers that provide multiple options for returning a product.

“Beyond the immediate need to manage and integrate in-store tech more effectively, the focus for retailers should be on building trust, safeguarding data and ultimately minimising any consumer frustration with the in-store shopping experience,” said Spendrup. “This starts with more strategic device implementation and ensuring that this strategy can scale effectively. Retailers may want to consider device intelligence solutions such as SOTI XSight Live View, which can not only help them visualise their retail operations and entire supply chain in real-time, but also uncover operational issues immediately by merging both business and device data.” 

Report Methodology

SOTI’s research was conducted between September 3 and September 14, 2023, via 11,000 self-completed interviews from nine markets around the world. All interviewees were consumers aged 18 to 65. The markets represented were: The U.S. (2,000), Canada (1,000), Mexico (1,000), UK (2,000), Germany (1,000), France (1,000), Sweden (1,000), the Netherlands (1,000) and Australia (1,000). In addition to presenting global, overarching trends, the results were broken down into these individual market tables and regional sets for Europe and North America.

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