Self-serve drives shoppers’ improved satisfaction with retail, Zebra reveals

Tom Christodoulou, Sales Vice President for ANZ at Zebra Technologies

Zebra Technologies Corporation, an innovative company at the front line of business with solutions and partners that deliver a performance edge, recently they released the findings of its 15th Annual Global Shopper Study. The Annual Global Shopper Study study confirms shoppers are returning to shop in stores in similar numbers seen prior to the pandemic.

Shoppers worldwide have also embraced self-serve habits as they increasingly use “do-it-yourself” (DIY) technology in stores, allowing retail associates more time on the floor to help those that require their assistance. The survey was conducted between June and July 2022, collecting feedback from more than 4,000 retail decision-makers, retail associates, and shoppers around the world, including APAC respondents from Australia, and New Zealand.

“The findings from the study are clear,” said Tom Christodoulou, Sales Vice President, ANZ, Zebra Technologies. “Shoppers and retailers in the region are ready and willing to embrace new self serve technology for a smooth and personalised omnichannel shopping experience.”

“Zebra’s research highlights all the opportunities retailers in Australia and New Zealand can take advantage of to boost their business, even in a rapidly evolving retail landscape. With omnichannel retail coming to the forefront, there is room for both traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers to thrive as shoppers adjust to life, in the post-pandemic era.”

Do shoppers prefer a mobile-first retail experience?

While nearly 75% of shoppers around the world (68% in APAC) say inflation has caused them to delay their purchases, they are still returning to stores for shopping. However, most of these shoppers (76% globally, 68% APAC) want to get in and out as quickly as possible. They are willing to help make that happen with their growing affinity for self-serve technology.

Globally, shopper interactions with self-serve solutions continue to rise, with nearly half of shoppers citing they have used self-checkouts, and almost 4 in 10 used cashless payment methods to their convenience. A similar trend is observed in APAC whereby self-checkouts are used by 47% of shoppers, while 46% of those surveyed opt for cashless payment methods.

Forty-three percent of shoppers around the world (50% in APAC) surveyed prefer the ease of paying for shopping items with their mobile device or smartphone. Over half (50% globally, 48% in APAC) prefer self-checkout, while preference for a traditional check-out register staffed by a store associate has similarly declined over the years (55% globally, 51% in APAC).

Majority of retailers (77% globally, 79% in APAC) believe staffed checkouts are becoming less necessary with automation technology. Around the world, nearly half are readying their stores, converting traditional check-out spaces to self-serve spaces and contactless options.

This particular trend is echoed across APAC as well – 79% of retailers around the world view staffed checkouts as gradually less necessary and a take up of more resources, while 53% have converted store space to self-serve areas and 52% are offering contactless options.

“Readily available in-store talent is getting hard to come by lately in markets like Australia and New Zealand at present thanks to the low levels of unemployment,” said Christodoulou.

“However, the rising preference of consumers for self-service checkouts and other self-service technology in-store is providing conventional shopfront retailers with an incredible opportunity to give customers convenience and exactly what they want. This is happening with automated tellers giving existing staff the chance to connect with customers better on the shop floor.”

“With the addition of self serve technology such as automatic task distribution, the management of existing team members can be further streamlined to support the efficiency of the business, both offline and online. This has proven to be convenient for retailers.”

Meanwhile, consumers also continue to rely on their smartphones and mobile devices during shopping trips. This year’s increased mobile retail usage indicates general price sensitivity as over half of the shoppers surveyed are checking for item sales, specials, or coupons (51% globally, 48% in APAC). Aligning with a good majority of shoppers (68% globally, 67% in APAC), most are concerned about having to reduce spending to make ends meet and keep afloat.

Overall, shoppers globally are ready for technological advancements, with about 8 in 10 expecting retailers to have the latest self serve technology. This is clear from the study.

What are the expectations of shoppers?

Consumers expect a seamless experience when they shop. 7 in 10 (globally and in APAC) prefer shopping both in-store and online as well to favour online retailers that also offer brick-and-mortar locations. Convenience is king for fulfillment: most shoppers (75% globally, 73% in APAC) prefer the option to have items delivered and opt for retailers who offer in-store or curbside pick-up (64% both globally and in APAC). The same is true for reverse logistics.

About 8 in 10 shoppers (80% globally, 77% in APAC) prioritise spending with retailers that offer easy returns. Nearly half of retailers (49% both globally and in APAC) are converting space in stores for order pick-up, supporting consumer fulfillment preferences. Mobile ordering continues to rise, with around 8 in 10 shoppers and 9 in 10 millennials using it, and around 7 in 10 shoppers wanting more retailers to offer such services (both globally and in APAC).

“With close to three-quarters of shoppers in the local region preferring to deal with retailers that can pick and ship products or offer click-and-collect, the evolution of the traditional brick-and-mortar retailer into a fulfillment centre is very much underway,” said Christodoulou.

“In Australia, the online retail sales volume has fallen from the peak it reached during the COVID-19 Delta outbreak, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), but it remains well above what it was before the pandemic, indicating the continued importance of hybrid retail models as can be realized from the general findings of this study.”

“As retailers convert their operations to support the online fulfillment preferences, Zebra has seen unusual growth in demand for mobile devices and wearables for retail businesses like the Zebra WS50 Android wearable computer, which enables easy hands-free workflows for online order and picking,” said Dan Park, Sales Engineering Manager, ANZ, Zebra Technologies.

“This makes sense. Bringing everything together to make multi-channel retail possible requires technology that melds and conjoins the offline and online elements of a retail business. We expect to see more activity in this particular area in the coming months. We are also witnessing a sharp increase in consumer expectations across Australia and New Zealand where shoppers want a seamless experience as they shift between online and in-store retailing,” added Park.

“With e-commerce as today’s new normal, channels have since converged and retailers know they must offer faster and more efficient experiences for the public. More importantly, to enable these structures to operate smoothly, they need to empower retail associates with the right technology to better perform their tasks, as retail heads into the future of fulfillment.”

While 79% of shoppers around the world (76% in APAC) are concerned about inflationary price increases on everyday essentials, they are not necessarily leaving stores without the items they wanted due to the price, not regularly at least. Retail associates expressed that out-of-stock complaints and queries are their number one frustration (43% globally, 38% in APAC).

Globally, a whopping 76% of shoppers leave without the items they intended to purchase with 49% blaming it on cases of shortages and out-of-stocks. In APAC, the share of shoppers that do not complete their intended purchase order is lower overall (64%), with reasons including out-of-stock products (44%) or having found much better deals elsewhere (27%).

Retailers are painfully aware of such reasons; 80% of them acknowledge the maintenance of real-time visibility for out-of-stock cases as a significant and persistent challenge, needing better inventory management tools for accuracy and availability (79% globally, 84% in APAC).

How can labour ensure a better shopping experience?

Currently, nearly 7 in 10 shoppers are generally satisfied with help from retail associates, compared to only 37% in 2007. Generally, shoppers, retail associates and retail decision-makers agree that shoppers have a much better shopping experience when retail associates use the latest technology to assist them, which ensures a faster and more efficient process.

But that is not the only benefit, particularly in the face of labour shortages in most countries: the surveyed retail associates (78% globally, 74% in APAC) and retail decision-makers (84% globally, 82% in APAC) agree that stores leveraging retail technology and mobile devices attract and retain more retail associates as well. This is a particularly important aspect for countries like Australia, that are grappling with serious labour shortages in the retail industry.

To further improve the shopping experience, more than 8 in 10 retailers that were surveyed, both around the world and across APAC, aim to enable more retail associates or seasonal staff to help customers pick and fulfill online orders for the 2022 holiday season. This also addresses another challenge cited by three-quarters of surveyed retailers: improving online fulfilment efficiency (78% globally, 73% in APAC) and expense (77% globally, 71% in APAC).

“After several years of analysing shoppers, retail associates, and retailers, one particular thing remains constant — the retail industry continues to evolve rapidly,” said Christodoulou.

“While integrating technology helps retailers keep up with customer expectations, retail associates are a significant touch point to achieving long-term customer loyalty. Where possible, retailers are tapping into the capabilities of their high-value staff by equipping them with tech to better leverage their skills in the service of evolving omnichannel operations.”

“For instance, we have seen a considerable rise and increase in the adoption of RFID technology, as it becomes crucial for retail workers to have increased inventory visibility across multiple shopping channels. On the other hand, mobility devices such as Zebra’s TC53 mobile computers have been adopted by local retail giants to transform operations across the retail floor and ensure better communication and collaboration among retail staff teams.”

“As retailers look forward to a more challenging retail space, great opportunity arises to embrace smart automation and support staff in delivering high-quality customer experiences.”


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