The Hidden Work Behind Great In-Store Tech

By Lisa Avvocato, VP of Product Marketing at Splashtop

The past two years of increased online shopping have changed the way consumers view the in-store experience. From toothbrushes to TVs, consumers expect a new level of personalization, choice, and convenience in every store.

In this environment of high expectations, new technology trends are also changing the customer experience in stores. New hybrid sales fulfillment options like buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup are gaining popularity. Consumers use mobile phones to comparison-shop almost anywhere. New payment options like Apple Pay are becoming ubiquitous. And, consumers are encountering more technology – from mobile checkout devices to kiosks to AR – that are designed to connect online and offline shopping, and enhance the in-person experience.

To meet or exceed customer expectations, retailers need to do more than embrace new technology; they have to make sure it actually works.

A Boom in In-Store Tech

There is a lot of work that a store needs to do to keep tech-savvy customers happy and coming back.  Consumers are less patient, they don’t want to have to search the store for a specific item and they don’t want to wait in line. A Forrester study found that long wait times are the top reason why people abandon their cart in-store, something that 70% of people claim to do. A majority of shoppers now prefer self-check-out options, which is seen as more efficient.

At the same time, the joy that comes from browsing the aisles in person is often a major part of the in-store experience. This leaves the store staff with added work to do. Not only do they need to get customers what they want when they want it, but they also need to surprise and delight them at every turn as well.

 

When stores invest in tech like self-checkout kiosks and interactive digital signage that helps people find items in the store, they actually increase expectations that customers will have a smooth experience. And retailers with mobile POS devices that can reduce lines and wait times for customers reduce the likelihood of cart abandonment and set a tone that they are customer-service minded.

But what happens when that cool in-store technology breaks down or fails to deliver on expectations? A device or checkout monitor that doesn’t work not only slows customers down, it frustrates employees and creates a negative perception of the brand.

The Hidden Work Behind Great In-Store Tech

CB Insights recently reported that funding to in-store retail tech reached a record $3.3B in Q2’21, a jump of 46% quarter-over-quarter (QoQ). The report also called out that as shoppers return to in-store shopping and labor needs increase, retailers will look to robotics, machine learning and other technology means to address the labor shortage and make their stores more efficient.

However, the promise of “frictionless” technology to remove friction from the in-store customer experience is often greater than the reality. Frictionless can, in fact, often lead to increased friction and frustration when something inevitably goes wrong.

Retailers have consistently seen a decline in “ROA” – return on assets – as they invest heavily to keep up with consumer expectations. And, Gartner estimates that the average cost of downtime is $5,600 per minute, which translates to well over $300K per hour.

Technology can provide major value, but companies need a strategy to use it efficiently. Many in-store technologies are very new and subject to problems – creating new customer experience issues that they were intended to solve. Even a seemingly small glitch can bring a bank of kiosks down, or disable a device used by floor associates to help close sales.

Fixing Fast Isn’t Just a Quick Fix

When technology stops working, it needs to be fixed fast. And, often, it’s the software that requires troubleshooting. For most retailers, in addition to navigating the current IT skills shortage, it’s also inefficient and too expensive to have an IT person on-site at every store, yet it’s important to have in-store technology working consistently.

So, what do you do when tech goes wrong? Just like for many workers across the globe – tech support has also moved to a remote workforce – even for retail.

Remote-tech support is a cost-friendly solution that helps employees react in the moment to issues, which can help save more sales and reduce customer frustrations. Compared to tech support that requires a visit from an IT manager, remote-tech support resolves issues faster and gets technology back online. It also empowers employees, who then take more ownership over the store experience.

To make the most of the technology that costs retailers millions each year, brands need to keep their eye on that all-important ROA metric and invest in efficient solutions. Technology is only as good as the weakest link in the support system – with remote-tech – the whole chain is stronger.

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