Report shows how consumers are embracing retail technology

There’s no question that the way we shop for things today is a lot different from 10 years ago. Maybe even three years ago.

From virtual fitting rooms and augmented reality to voice assistants and social commerce, technology has drastically changed the retail sector.

But what do consumers think of all the changes?

A new report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) shows that consumers are readily embracing technology to improve their shopping experience.

According to the latest edition of the NRF’s Consumer View report, 80% of consumers agree that technology has improved how they shop online. 66% said the same for shopping in stores and 63% for mobile commerce.

“Technology has become part of our everyday lives, and consumers are open to adopting technologies that make shopping easier,” said Mark Mathews, NRF vice president for research development and industry analysis, in a press release. “Retailers know this and are embracing investments in technologies that improve customer service and the customer experience whether it’s online, in store or on mobile devices.”

While there’s a lot of focus on what the future holds for retail technology, the report noted that innovations have “already made significant strides in transforming” the shopping experience.

The NRF found that consumers are extremely interested in solutions that remove uncertainty from the shopping experience. And addressing this need is directly shaping people’s decisions on where to shop.

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Positive outlook for retail technology

While it’s still early days in terms of consumer adoption for many of the new technologies retailers are rolling out, the good news is that many of the solutions are being well-received by shoppers.

Take in-app store navigation as an example. The report found that 89% of consumers who have tried this technology are interested in using it again. When it comes to augmented reality, 86% of respondents who have used it for shopping said they would do so again. The same can be said for smart dressing rooms (88%), virtual reality (82%), and visual search (86%).

Plus, consumers are also adopting new ways to purchase items. The report found that 67% of consumers who have bought an item online and picked it up in-store have been satisfied with the process. And 69% said the same about mobile payments.

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Room for improvement

Technology may have improved how they shop, but consumers said they still encounter frustrating pain points in the lead up to making a purchase.

The report found that 37% of consumers find the beginning of the shopping experience (when first researching products and reviews) the most frustrating and 47% are most interested in tech solutions to improve this part of the process. Another 24% reported that right before making a purchase (checking prices and availability) is the most frustrating part of the process.

“Right now, consumers are primarily interested in the use of technology to meet their most basic, tactical pre-purchase needs,” the report explained. “That is not to say that personalization or retail-tainment is not on shoppers’ radar, but they want retailers to deliver on the basics and take uncertainty out of the process first.”

So, what issues are consumers most interested in having technology improve?

Those who responded to the NRF’s survey said it’s “very important” that brands or retailers use technology to indicate if a product is in stock (52%), help compare prices or reviews (43%), and make it easier to find a product or location (41%).

Interestingly, only 25% of respondents said they are interested in having products recommended to them.

For retailers who have been on the fence about investing in new technologies, the NRF report gives a clear indication that consumers are not only embracing these innovations but are increasingly expecting them.

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