As Australian in-store customers return to pre-pandemic levels, retailers must recognise that the modern store customer wants a seamless omnichannel experience with optimal convenience. Whether retailers offer that in the form of self-service technologies, personalised experiences or connected interactions across online channels, leveraging retail technology is the absolute key to meet rising customer demands.
Zebra Technologies Corporation, an innovator at the front line of business with solutions and partners that deliver a performance edge, today released the findings of its 15th Annual Global Shopper Study which confirms shoppers are returning to shop in stores in similar numbers seen prior to the pandemic. They 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 shoppers.
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 are clear,” said Tom Christodoulou, Sales Vice President, ANZ, Zebra Technologies. “Shoppers and retailers in the region are ready and willing to embrace new technology for a smooth and personalised omnichannel shopping experience. Zebra’s research highlights the opportunities retailers in Australia and New Zealand can take advantage of to boost business, even in a rapidly evolving retail landscape. With omnichannel retail coming to the fore, there is room for both traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers to thrive as shoppers adjust to life, post-pandemic.”
Gearing toward a mobile-first retail experience
While nearly 75% of shoppers globally (68% in APAC) say inflation has caused them to delay purchases, they are still returning to stores. However, most shoppers (76% globally, 68% APAC) want to get in and out as quickly as possible. And 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 four-in-10 used cashless payment methods. 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 globally (50% in APAC) surveyed prefer paying with a 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 (55% globally, 51% in APAC).
A 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 and contactless options. This trend is echoed across APAC as well – 79% of retailers view staffed checkouts as less necessary, 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 in markets like Australia and New Zealand at present thanks to 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 what they want with automated tellers while giving existing staff the chance to connect with customers better on the shop floor. With the addition of 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.”
Meanwhile, consumers also continue to rely on their smartphones during shopping trips; this year’s usage indicates price sensitivity as over half of those surveyed are checking for sales, specials, or coupons (51% globally, 48% in APAC), aligning with a good majority of shoppers (68% globally, 67% in APAC) concerned about having to reduce spending to make ends meet.
Overall, shoppers are ready for technological advancements, with about eight-in-10 expecting retailers to have the latest technology.
Shoppers demand an “Everything Experience”
Consumers expect a seamless experience however they shop. Seven-in-10 (globally and in APAC) prefer shopping both in-store and online as well as favour online retailers that also offer brick-and-mortar locations. Convenience is king for fulfilment: 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 eight-in-10 shoppers (80% globally, 77% in APAC) prioritise their spending with retailers that offer easy returns. Nearly half of surveyed retailers (49% both globally and in APAC) are converting space in their stores for order pick-up, supporting consumer fulfilment preferences. Mobile ordering continues to increase, with around eight-in-10 shoppers and nine-in-10 millennials using it, and around seven-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 fulfilment centre is very much underway,” said Christodoulou. “In Australia, 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 retailers convert their operations to support online fulfilment, 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 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 the offline and online elements of a retail business. We expect to see more activity in this area in the coming months.”
“We are also witnessing a sharp rise 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 normal, channels have since converged and retailers know they must offer faster and more efficient experiences. 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 the retail sector heads into the future of fulfilment.”
While 79% of global shoppers (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 price. Retail associates expressed out-of-stock complaints as 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 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 better deals elsewhere (27%).
Retailers are painfully aware of such reasons; 80% acknowledge the maintenance of real-time visibility for out-of-stocks as a significant challenge, needing better inventory management tools for accuracy and availability (79% globally, 84% in APAC).
Currently, nearly seven-in-10 shoppers are satisfied with help from retail associates, compared to only 37% in 2007. Generally, shoppers, retail associates and retail decision-makers agree shoppers have a better experience when retail associates use the latest technology to assist them, which ensures a more efficient process. But that is not the only benefit, particularly in the face of labour shortages: most 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, which are grappling with labour shortages in the retail industry.
To further improve the shopping experience, more than eight-in-10 retailers surveyed, both globally and across APAC, aim to enable more retail associates or seasonal staff to help customers pick and fulfil online orders for the 2022 holiday season. This also addresses another challenge cited by three-quarters of surveyed retailers: improving online fulfillment efficiency (78% globally, 73% in APAC) and expense (77% globally, 71% in APAC).
“After many years of analysing shoppers, retail associates, and retailers, one thing remains constant — retail continues to evolve rapidly,” said Christodoulou. “While integrating technology helps retailers keep up with customer expectations, retail associates are a significant touchpoint to achieving long-term customer loyalty. Where possible, retailers are tapping into the full capabilities of their high-value team members by equipping them with technology to better leverage their skills in the service of evolving omnichannel operations. For instance, we have seen a considerable rise in the adoption of RFID technology, as it becomes crucial for retail workers to have increased inventory visibility across multiple 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 teams. As retailers look to the future of a more challenging retail space, there is a great opportunity to embrace intelligent automation and support their teams in delivering high-quality customer experiences.”
The future of Australian retail will increasingly see consumers in the driver’s seat, and retailers who must remain agile in meeting their fluctuating demands and preferences. Today’s retailers must get ahead of the game by investing in emerging technologies to elevate the customer experience, support associates and remain competitive amid future disruptions.