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Survey: Customers like store associates – for some things

Retailers should be selective in what aspects of the in-store customer experience they automate.

According to the new 2020 Consumer Shopping Trends survey of more than 1,100 consumers from Sensormatic Solutions, 64% of respondents still prefer to engage with in-store associates. Thirty percent prefer a retailer’s mobile app, while only 5% prefer robot assistants.

While consumers prefer to connect with humans for in-store assistance, they don’t think it’s necessary at the point-of-sale (POS). Over half (55%) of respondents said they “always” or “usually” use self-checkout to make a purchase in-store. Additionally, those who shop more frequently are more likely to use self-checkout. Findings revealed 30% of everyday shoppers “always” use self-checkout, compared to 17% of those who only shop a few times a week.

The survey also explored the rise in consumer adoption of emerging fulfillment services such as buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, return in-store (BORIS). Nearly half (40%) of consumers use BOPIS regularly, followed by BORIS (31%), and curbside pickup (15%). Thirty-six percent of consumers don’t use any of these services on a regular basis.

When leveraging these services, many respondents found themselves making “impulse purchases,” (e.g. buying something they didn’t intend to before entering the store). Over half of consumers (55%) were either very likely or moderately likely to make an impulse purchase when using these multichannel fulfillment services.

“There is a growing dialogue that technology will replace the need for face-to-face interactions and promote the ‘digitalization’ of everything, but that is not necessarily the case,” said Bjoern Petersen, president at Sensormatic Solutions, the global retail solutions portfolio of Johnson Controls. “While there is no denying that technology and automation are helping businesses streamline processes and decision making, our survey proves that traditional customer engagement is alive and well.”