The Data Digest: The Role Technology Plays In Brick-And-Mortar Stores

With the increasing uptake of technology and online shopping, consumers are getting more comfortable using technology in the store, as well. Data from our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey shows that consumers like to be informed while they are shopping — they want to be able to access product information instantaneously, and they want to be more independent shoppers (without the help of sales personnel).

The items at the top of the list are those that allow consumers to find product information quickly — with majority of respondents reporting that they found in-store price scanning and computer kiosks valuable (84% and 66%, respectively). The fact that self-checkouts were the second most valuable in-store technology exemplifies how consumers want to be more independent while shopping: It shows that they are willing to take on that responsibility themselves in order to get in and out of the stores quickly.

However, the value that consumers place on these technologies does differ slightly by gender. While early adopters normally tend to be male, it may come as no surprise that women are the ones who find shopping-related technology more valuable. Of all seven technologies, the only one that men were more likely than women to find valuable was electronic devices attached to a shopping cart (61%, compared with 53% of females).

The importance that consumers place on in-store technology suggests large opportunities for mobile within the traditional brick-and-mortar store. Consumers are already using their phones in-store for several activities — from looking up product information to finding or redeeming coupons — and apps such as RedLaser and Amazon Price Check already allow consumers to access information online while shopping in the real world. Stores should start experimenting with in-store technology now to cater to their customers on their platform instead of losing them to the competition — in their own store!


Performance matters in store or online

The operative phrases in the above descriptions are "access product information instantaneously" and "find product information quickly." The self-checkout and self-scanning technologies that I've encountered here in suburban Washington, DC, have been a mixed bag, at best, that are error prone and rarely save the time that they promise. I can only imagine that using my iPhone (on the AT&T network) to look up product information or access coupons in store has the potential to be frustrating, if the performance of these apps aren't well tested and performance tuned.

Even online, where presumably visitors may have more patience, there is research that indicates that a significant percentage of online shoppers will abandon a site and go elsewhere if page they’re seeking takes more than six seconds to load ( I doubt that in-store shoppers are so fickle, but know that I go out of my way to shop at competing grocery stores, after just a few bad experiences with the self check-out at my local chain store, which will remain nameless.

Rob Garretson
Gaithersburg, MD