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Automation could help resolve store shortfalls, says Capgemini

As consumers become more receptive to in-store technology, introducing automation to improve the retail experience could increase footfall, says Capgemini

More than half of consumers believe automation in retail stores could help resolve common shopping pain points, according to Capgemini.

A study of consumers and retail executives across North America, Europe and Asia found 60% of consumers thought pain points such as difficulty finding products could be solved by automation, with 56% saying the technology could prevent problems such as items being out of stock.

“Automation provides a huge opportunity for retailers to gain back some of the ground they’ve lost to digital-native competitors and protect the market share they currently have through better efficiency, more convenience and better sustainability,” said Tim Bridges, global head of consumer goods and retail at Capgemini.

The future of physical stores in the wake of online shopping has been a concern for retailers for many years, with digital technologies causing an increase in customer expectation and shifting customer behaviour.

Consumers are becoming more open to the idea of automation in the physical shopping process, according to Capgemini statistics, with 59% of consumers saying they would be willing to shift their in-store purchases from retailers not using automation to those using automation to improve customer experience after having visited stores with successful implementations.

The number of customers willing to make this shift is higher among younger consumers – 67% of those aged between 22 and 36 said they would move their spending to stores with automation based on successful visits to stores already using this technology.

Some shoppers claimed well-used automation in stores could also encourage them to make the shift from online to offline. Some 46% of consumers who had a positive experience in a store with automation technology said they would be willing to move some of their online purchases to stores with automated technology.

Much of consumer behaviour is being increasingly driven by the desire for convenience – the percentage of consumers willing to shift from online to offline if stores used automation to improve customer experience was higher for some groups, with this being true of 55% of urban consumers and 58% of customers aged between 22 and 36.

Capgemini statistics show that 59% of consumers would be willing to shift their in-store purchases from retailers not using automation to those using automation to improve customer experience

Around 66% of consumers said a problem area that could be solved by automation was long checkout queues. Some retailers, such as Sainsbury’s, have opted to test till-free technologies in some stores in a bid to eliminate this issue entirely as a result of customer complaints.

But this isn’t true of all consumers, with 43% of consumers claiming to feel like “unpaid sales assistants” when having to use a self-service checkout.

Using technology could lead to a boost in overall sales if used in the right way, with 60% of consumers saying they would be more willing to buy online from retailers which allow returns in store through the use of technology, with many customers claiming they would expect to spend more if this service was available.

Retailers which have implemented automated technology also claim an 11% increase in sales for stores with these technologies versus those without.

For example, Kristian Bjørseth, head of payments and IDs at Coop Norway, explained how the application of automation had benefited certain stores: “Previously, our stores closed at 11pm and couldn’t serve people returning home late at night, often looking for something quick to eat. So we introduced Coop Key, an app that allows consumers to enter an unstaffed store after hours, and self-serve entirely. We’re now seeing substantial revenues between 11pm and midnight, and improved numbers for high-margin products such as frozen pizzas. Security and age-verification are ensured by biometrics in the app that identify every individual customer.”

But what customers are comfortable with varies by region, with 53% of UK consumers, 60% of consumers in the US and the Netherlands, 62% of French consumers and 66% of German consumers saying they would avoid a store if it was using facial recognition, despite retailers themselves believing these figures would be significantly less.

Each retail sub-sector also has its own attitude to what automation technologies are important to implement, with 47% of grocery retailers saying leadership considers automation a “strategic imperative” as opposed to 45% of apparel retailers and 21% of electronics retailers.

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