Retailers at critical juncture due to severe tech gaps: SOTI study

A new study released today reveals that the retail industry in Canada and elsewhere around the world faces major challenges as a result of consumers experiencing a major “disconnect between their shopping expectations and the in-store reality.”

The study, conducted by Mississauga-based SOTI, a provider of mobile and IoT device management offerings, concludes that while consumers “crave technology to improve their in-store shopping experience, those offered by retailers do not always meet expectations.”

An example of those expectations can be seen in the fact 45 per cent of those polled expect to be able to pick up an item ordered online from a physical store on the same day. Further, “74 per cent of global consumers expect to always knows the status of their orders, highlighting the need for efficient supply chain visibility.”

Based on interviews with 11,000 consumers from nine markets – Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the U.K., Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands. and Australia – conducted in September 2023, findings indicated that:

  • Security is a significant concern in the retail industry. More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of consumers globally express concerns about entering personal details online or through in-store devices, indicating a pervasive lack of trust in the data collection and payment technologies used in retail.
  • Security concerns extend to fraud, with 35 per cent of global consumers worrying about becoming a victim of financial fraud, and another 35 per cent expressing concerns about identity fraud.
  • Consumers cite challenges in-store such as lack of staff to assist with issues relating to self-serve machines (51 per cent of users), and as many as 35 per cent of users complain about Wi-Fi connectivity when using an in-store device.

During a press briefing held last week to discuss the findings, Stephanie Lopinski, vice president of global marketing at SOTI, said the company first launched a study into retail trends five years ago.

“During the pandemic, our research showed that customers went online in droves and retailers invested heavily in perfecting online shopping,” she said. “Fast forward to our 2024 report, the data we are seeing is that consumers are heading back in store, but they are noticing the tech available in stores is lacking the personalization they came to see as table stakes online.

“(This) report highlights that new technology is often poorly deployed and not fit for purpose. Consumers are frustrated. Batteries in tablets and in scanners in stores, they are dying. Self-serve checkouts are not easy to use, and consumers often need assistance.”

Lopinski went on to say that findings show, “there are no staff available to even address these device issues, leading to cart abandonment and frustration. Retailers need to focus on managing their devices and optimizing their tech investments to regain consumer satisfaction.”

Shash Anand, senior vice president of product strategy at SOTI, said it is “crucial to recognize that artificial intelligence (AI) plays a significant role in harnessing deeper intelligence from devices. AI-driven diagnostic intelligence and proactive support solutions empower retailers to identify and resolve issues before they impact the consumer experience.

“By integrating location, signal strength, and data speed with critical business information such as inventory levels and delivery status, AI can ensure that in-store hyper-personalization can replicate the seamlessness consumers expect from online shopping.”

Over the next three years, said Anand, the “focus should be on building trust, safeguarding data and providing seamless experiences that bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping.”

Canadian shoppers, like their counterparts around the globe, are now demanding real-time information, efficient product availability, and rapid delivery, in-store and online, a release from SOTI states.

The report indicates that 41 per cent of consumers will look elsewhere if delivery or pick-up of an item is more than two days away, and that 77 per cent expect to always know the status of their orders, highlighting the need for efficient supply chain visibility.

“When reflecting on the overall retail experience, Canadian respondents continue to expect change and see value in technology to enhance their interactions with retailers, but gaps between expectations and reality continue to jeopardize brand loyalty and sales,” said Anand.

“Looking to the future, retailers must focus on the technologies and infrastructure around them and ask how these applications, devices, and technology solutions are being managed, monitored and maintained.”

Intelligence offerings, he said, “can not only help you visualize your retail operations and entire supply chain – in real-time – but also allow you to uncover operational issues immediately by merging both business and device data, creating a holistic view of your operations both in-store and online.”

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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