A study launched this week by Gekko, a marketing agency, titled – ‘Service not Sci-fi’ reveals that UK shoppers would rather deal with real people not robots or artificial intelligence when it comes to shopping.
The study found that 81 per cent of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32 per cent) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. And half of those polled think that companies in the UK are using technology to save money, rather than improve customer experience.
Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and experience. Only 30 per cent said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22 per cent smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16 per cent a virtual reality changing room, 14 per cent augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and nine per cent a talking robot assistant.
When it comes to buying online, 43 per cent of UK shoppers have had their screen freeze while trying to make a purchase, so when asked what makes a great bricks and mortar shopping experience, 49 per cent of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49 per cent) and staff that go the extra mile (47 per cent). Coupled with this, 61 per cent of the nation would prefer to deal face-to-face when complaining, 59 per cent when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73 per cent when getting a refund.
And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22 per cent) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, incrementally adding to sales. Over a third (34 per cent) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer.
The research also highlights the impact of the decline of the local shop, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them, 16 per cent confessing they preferred the days when they could talk through a purchase with a someone in-store, and a quarter saying online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop. The convenience of a store’s location is also stated as important by 43 per cent of respondents, which means that as retailers consolidate their estates, many will notice the effects, further emphasising the need to carefully consider the experience being provided in-store and the staff needed to deliver the experience.
According to the research we waste almost an hour and a half a month interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help. In addition, 47 per cent of shoppers have experienced self-service checkout failure that’s had to be rectified by a shop assistant.
In fact, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option.
Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko, said: “Everyone is talking about technology and innovation within retail, but our research clearly shows that what consumers really want is the human touch. With traditional retail under more pressure than ever and an astonishing 81 per cent of people feeling that the personal touch has disappeared from shopping, businesses need to focus on the customer experience in these tough trading times to help keep the high street alive.”