Retail execs sold on in-store AI and VR, but shoppers apathetic

Retail execs sold on in-store AI and VR, but shoppers apathetic

Survey finds only 14 per cent of consumers say the technologies have impact on buying behaviour

More than three-quarters of retail executives believe equipping bricks and mortar stores with artificial intelligence and virtual reality will boost sales, despite the fact shoppers of all generations don’t think the technologies will influence their purchasing decisions, a survey has found.

The study – commissioned by New York-based retail consulting firm The Retail Doctor and Oracle NetSuite and conducted by Wakefield Research – surveyed 400 retail executives in Australia, the US and the UK, and found 79 per cent believed having AI and VR in stores would increase sales.

However, only 14 per cent of 1,200 consumers questioned thought the technologies would have a significant impact on their buying behaviour.

Nearly all executives (98 per cent) also believed the technologies believed AI and VR would increase footfall, while half (48 per cent) of consumers said such offerings would have no impact on how likely they were to go into a store.

A generational nuance was detected in the results. Half of the millennials (born from 1980) said they were attracted to the tech in-stores. Just over a third of Gen Z (born from 1995) and Gen X (born from 1965) agreed, and only a fifth of Baby Boomers (born from 1946).

Considering virtual reality alone, 58 per cent of Gen Z believed availability of the technology in-stores would have ‘some influence’ on their purchasing decisions. The same proportion of Baby Boomers meanwhile said VR would have ‘no influence’.

“The results of this survey show that while the retail industry is often considered to be at the forefront of consumer experience innovation, there’s still a long way to go to meet shopper expectations,” the report concluded.

The personalisation problem

Social media and online advertising has allowed retailers to provide offers specific to the individuals that view them.

However, almost half (45 per cent) of consumers reported negative emotions when they received personalised offers online. That sentiment carries to the in-store setting with more than half (58 per cent) of consumers saying they were uncomfortable with the way stores use technology to improve personalisation in their shopping experience.

The favoured features for consumers in physical shops were options consistent with online (36 per cent rating this as their top attracting feature) and simpler store layouts (35 per cent).

“Retailers have fallen behind in offering in-store experiences that balance personalisation and customer service but there’s an opportunity to take the reins back,” said Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor.

“The expectation from consumers is clear and it’s up to retailers to offer engaging and custom experiences that will cater to shoppers across a diverse group of generations,” he added.

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