It’s no longer enough to be able to browse products and try our purchases before we buy. Instead, shoppers want to be able to access in-store digital content, as well as social media channels, to help compliment their retail experience.

Cisco’s recent global study surveyed 1,511 consumers across 10 countries about their desired shopping experience. The results revealed that over half of customers (52%) prefer self-service stations to manned checkouts, and a further 61% are willing to shop in a self-service, completely automated store. Consumer interest in a more automated and interactive shopping experience is undoubtedly on the rise and is reinforced by a preference for a virtual (rather than physical) customer service.

Convenience and personalisation are not only driving the desire for a self-service and automated buying experience, but is also driving the rise of omni-channel retail for shoppers.  The growth of internet connected devices from tablets and smartphones to PCs is transforming the way consumers shop, and visiting the store has long ceased being the sole retail channel. Instead, a third of shoppers (34%) are using a mix of online and physical retail to make their purchases.  Cisco’s report revealed that 23% of users now make purchases in-store based on research they’ve done online, while 11% made purchases online after seeing it in a retail store. This apparent growth of omni-channel retail is just one example of how instrumental technology has become in augmenting the shopping process for consumers.

The key here for retailers is being able to provide the opportunities for digital engagement in-store. No matter how they prefer to shop, customers have become accustomed to digital content across a variety of touch points and devices.  Consumers expect to be able to buy out of stock products in store via a touchscreen, and receive tailored offers based on their purchasing habits. The key is providing an integrated experience which allows customers to move across touch points without even knowing it.

With these advancements in technology and the growing number of mobile devices comes an explosion of data. ‘Big Data’ is getting bigger at an unprecedented rate, and retailers are expected to process and act on it at ever-increasing speeds. Obtaining real insight from this kind of data represents a significant opportunity for retailers and manufacturers to gain competitive advantage, and deliver the personalised and targeted experience consumers are craving.

Consumers have become increasingly savvy regarding the trade-off of their personal data in return for savings and customisation, and it’s down to retailers to tap into this by offering continual value to users in return for such data. Increasing demands for a more personalised service means consumers are willing to provide personal data and engage via apps or social media to achieve this. Over half of consumers (54%) are using mobile phones when shopping in store, and 65% of these are happy to receive retail advice based on their location through their mobile phone.

Underpinning these results is the fact that the retail world is changing – and it’s a change which is largely being driven by technological developments both in and out of store. There is a wealth of consumer interest in a more automated shopping experience – a connected store with its self-service vending machine and kiosks, and a virtual customer service that will deliver the personalisation and convenience which customers are craving. What is made clear through this survey is that the physical and virtual worlds are merging to create a new retail reality, one that retailers must embrace to retain competitive advantage.

Cisco.com