NRF: Consumers prefer self-service, but associates still have a role to play
A new survey finds that U.S. consumers are looking for more convenient shopping experiences, and for many that means as little interaction with store associates as possible.
In a survey of 526 adults in the U.S. conducted for SOTI, 73 percent of respondents favored the use of self-service technology to reduce interactions with staff and improve the shopping experience (up nearly 11 percent from the same study a year earlier).
While consumers may be looking to do it themselves in stores, this may be a byproduct of previous experiences when they received subpar support. Providing proper training and technological tools is key to turning associates from a customer experience liability into an asset.
In a session at NRF’s Big Show in New York sponsored by Samsung, a statistic was thrown out that 49 percent of consumers are extremely likely to make a purchase in a store after an interaction with an informed associate, while 39 percent are somewhat likely to do the same.
The panel, which included John Soricelli, director, technology and analytics at Home Depot, and George Lawrie, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, touched on the growing sophistication of store shoppers. Some consumers go as far as to ask associates opening questions to determine if they know enough about a given product or category of products before deciding if they can benefit from the associate’s assistance.
In many cases, the panelists agreed, customers enter a store looking to “touch, feel and see” products and talk to associates that help guide them through their evaluation process before making a purchase. Mr. Soricelli pointed to the complexities of purchasing appliances and the role that Endless Aisle technology, for example, plays in helping customers find the right product match for their needs.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do you think so many consumers prefer self-service technology to interacting with associates in stores? Do you see the role of sales associate becoming more important or less to retail performance over the next decade?