Self-checkout, VR rank high on consumers' priority lists

For consumers, self-checkout was deemed the most useful technology to improve their shopping experience. (Image: Walmart)

When it comes to the latest in retail technology, consumers are most familiar with self-checkout (71%), virtual reality (68%) and virtual assistants (35%). According to GPShopper's "Reality of Retail Tech" report, chatbots (19%), smart mirrors (10%) and smart shelves (7%), ranked the lowest in consumer consciousness. 

The study, conducted online with help from YouGov, uncovered what consumers really think about technology trends and how they want this technology to impact their shopping experience. 

Maya Mikhailov

“Developments in mobile are further giving way to more advanced technology like virtual reality and chatbots, being brought into the shopping experience. However, with so much technology available to retailers, it currently feels like everyone is just throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks,” said Maya Mikhailov, co-founder and CMO of GPShopper. "Smart retailers know how crucial it is to keep their finger on the pulse between an increasingly savvy shopper and the potential for technology to drive the industry forward. We commissioned this research to gain that critical insight into how consumer awareness and opinion of this technology stacks up against what retailers are actually putting into play."

For consumers, self-checkout was deemed the most useful technology to improve their shopping experience, at 51%. On the other hand, only 21% said that virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, would improve their shopping experience and 9% said that chatbots could positively impact their shopping experience. 

In addition, as many as 59% of those surveyed don't actually want to use chatbots when shopping. When it comes to virtual reality, 46% of consumers who would like to use VR while shopping hope to use it to try on clothes or accessories without entering a store and 58% who would like to use augmented reality want to use it to see how certain items might look in different colors. 

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According to Mikhailov, the study showed the disconnects between what makes the trade industry press and what shoppers actually find valuable. She warns that retailers should be careful to not get too caught up with technology trends. however, there is also a lot of demand to use technology to empower the shopper outside of stores. For instance, using augmented reality to see furniture inside a home may serve as inspiration for later purchases. 

Mikhailov said that the more than 50% of consumers wanting to use self-checkout was a surprising find, especially since a lot of national retailers have started and then stopped self-checkout projects based on efficiency concerns.

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"What you are likely seeing here is a frustration with the general checkout process from consumers overall. For example, grocery shoppers have to pack groceries into a cart, take them out, repack them into bags, move them to a car and unpack them again. It seems like a process ripe for improvement for both shoppers and the retailer," she said. 

Moving forward, retailers will need to find ways to weave technology into existing systems to create better experiences for customers. Mikhailov's advice: "Always think about what pain points or experience enhancement you are solving for, rather than jump toward the next-thing piece of tech. Look at the data and ask yourself if you are really helping your customer or just creating another obstacle in their experience."