99% of Australian consumers don’t want to talk to a robot when shopping: study

| February 5, 2019

Australians do not want to speak with robots while shopping in-store or online, according to a new study.

The global study of 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives across the US, UK and Australia found a huge disconnect between shopper demands and what retailers deliver in areas spanning the overall retail environment, social media, personalisation and the use of advanced technologies such as chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR).

The study was conducted by Oracle NetSuite in partnership with Wakefield Research and The Retail Doctor, a retail consulting firm created by expert consultant and business mentor Bob Phibbs.

“The Australian retail industry is rapidly changing and this is making it very difficult for retailers to keep up with consumer needs and expectations,” Oracle NetSuite GM ANZ David De Laine said.

“The results of this survey show that current approaches to personalizing the shopping experience are not working and that emerging technologies are not yet the silver bullet. Instead, Australian retailers need to focus on gaining the visibility and control required to deliver a simple and streamlined shopping experience, both online and in-store, that aligns with consumer expectations.”

Australian Disconnect: Retailers and Consumer Are on Very Different Pages
Despite significant investments in enhancing the customer experience online and in-store, Australian retailers are not able to keep up with rapidly changing customer expectations and this is creating a huge disconnect.

— More than half (54 percent) of Australian retail executives believe thatAustralia consumers will plan to do more in-store shopping in 2019, whereas just 33 per cent of consumers agreed, with 14 per cent stating they plan to do less shopping in-store.
— 87 per cent of Australian retail executives believe that consumers would feel more welcome if in-store staff interacted with them more. Less than half (46 per cent) of Australian consumers agree, with 29 per cent noting they would feel more annoyed.
— 100 per cent of Australian retail executives think that engaging with customers on social media is important to building stronger relationships with them. Only 10 percent of Australian consumers think it has a significant impact on the way they think or feel about a brand.

Personalisation is Proving a Problem
Despite almost half of Australian consumers (40 per cent) noting that they would pay more for improved personalisation, only 3 per cent of Australian retail executives fully believe that their staff has the tools and information needed to give consumers a personalised experience. The gap between consumer demand for improved personalisation and retailers’ ability to deliver is damaging the customer experience.

— 85 per cent of Australian consumers do not feel they are provided with a personalised shopping experience both in-store and online.
— More than half (58 per cent) of Australian consumers are uncomfortable with the way retailers use technology to improve personalisation in-store, while 53 per cent feel negative emotions when they receive personal offers online.

Emerging Technology Not Yet the Answer
While Australian retailers are aware that they don’t have the tools and information needed to meet rapidly changing customer expectations, the study found that hyped technologies such as AI and VR are not yet the answer.

— 79 per cent of Australian retail executives agree that the use of advanced technologies to customise the shopping experience is meeting customer’s needs.
— 78 per cent of Australian retailer executives believe having AI and VR in stores will increase sales; only 14 percent of Australian consumers believe the technologies will have a significant impact on their purchase decisions.
— 48 per cent of Australian consumers never use AI-assisted chat windows, whilst only 4 percent opt to use them all the time.

A Simple and Streamlined Future
Despite the popularity of online shopping, physical stores aren’t going anywhere. As long as Australian retailers keep the experience easy and seamless, consumers will keep shopping in-store.

— Nearly all (97 per cent) of Australian consumers agree that there is a need to go into a physical store to purchase items and the majority (67 per cent) believe the most appealing retail stores have features that simplify and streamline the shopping experience.
— The top features attracting Australian consumers to physical stores are
simpler store layouts (41 per cent), staff orders on a mobile device (36 per cent), and options consistent with online (33 per cent).
— The top technology advancements that Australian consumers want to utilize when shopping in-store or online are self-checkout kiosks (30 per cent), VR try-on (26 per cent) and mobile payments (14 per cent).
— Only 1 per cent of Australian consumers want to utilise robots and
chatbots while shopping.

“These findings point to a clear and urgent need for better customer service,” The Retail Doctor Bob Phibbs said.

“No retailer wants their customers to be confused or anxious, yet more than half of global respondents have felt that way while shopping. Customers will feel confident when they develop an emotional connection to the brand. This happens when retailers foster positive, helpful in-store interactions; contrary to popular belief, millennials want store employees to help them.

“With nearly every respondent reporting that they value brick-and-mortar stores, now is the time to craft every in-store interaction to keep shoppers coming back.”