With store closings and slumping sales dominating the news, the retail industry is aligning around digital technology to reinvent shopping and drive the next era of retail. From personalization and artificial intelligence to robotics and virtual reality, retailers are turning to digital innovation to stand out among discerning shoppers who demand a compelling experience in every channel. But which innovations being piloted today will hit the sweet spot for shoppers in holiday 2017 and beyond—and which ones are downright creepy?
Omnichannel personalization firm RichRelevance has released its 3rd annual Creepy or Cool international survey that provides insight into consumer preferences and opinions around the newest technologies shaping the retail customer experience. The survey finds that while consumers are willing to share more data for a better experience, there is no silver bullet for improving the shopping experience.
“Retailers need a technology cool factor but can’t afford to alienate shoppers,” said Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance, in a news release. “This survey offers new insight into consumer attitudes and preferences to help retailers determine which customer experience initiatives should take priority—and which ones risk damaging their brand.”
Creepy vs. Cool overview
More than 3,500 global consumers in the US, UK, France & Germany were surveyed on customer experience innovations, including opinions on data collection. Respondents also ranked several cutting-edge customer experience innovations as creepy, cool, or indifferent. Overall, the survey found that Europeans are more comfortable with new technologies than their American counterparts, and more willing to share customer data in exchange for a superior customer experience (81 percent vs. 63 percent).
Creepy vs. Cool U.S. findings
The majority of U.S. respondents (63 percent) said they would allow retailers to collect more customer data to improve the customer experience—and most say it should be collected anonymously (40 percent). Younger U.S. Millennials (age 18-29) responded much more positively to cutting-edge technologies such as robots and VR glasses than older generations. Comparative survey highlights include:
Top ‘cool’ technologies according to U.S. consumers:
- You can search and order products verbally using voice recognition technology. 46 percent Cool vs. 22 percent Creepy
- You can use fingerprint scanning to pay for items and get automatic home delivery, all from the store floor. 46 percent Cool vs. 34 percent Creepy
Top ‘cool’ technologies according to US Millennials:
- Digital screens/interactive mirrors/virtual reality glasses display additional products that complement what you are trying on. 52 percent Cool for Millennials vs. 41 percent Cool Overall
- Robots guide you to specific products within store aisles upon request. 51 percent Cool for Millennials vs. 40 percent Cool Overall
- Instead of checking out at a register, you simply leave the store with your items and your account is charged. 45 percent Cool for Millennials vs. 39 percent Cool Overall
Top ‘creepy’ technologies according to US consumers:
- Facial recognition technology identifies you as a loyal customer and relays your preferences to the salesperson in-store. 69 percent Creepy vs. 18 percent Cool
- Companies understand your shopping habits so well that they are able to use artificial intelligence / data to choose and order products on your behalf. 69% Creepy vs. 15% Cool
- Computer programs (such as chatbots) use artificial intelligence to help you with customer service questions, rather than a real person. 50 percent Creepy vs. 23 percent Cool
“One important thing to keep in mind is that creepy can simply mean that something is too relevant or hits too close to home,” continued Kegley. “Retailers should take note as this may indicate areas that will be valuable in the near future as consumers grow accustomed to new technologies.”
The survey was conducted online in June 2017, and included 1,000 U.S. adults, as well as 2,500 European respondents. Full European results are available here.