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Shopper Fulfillment Expectations Up, Satisfaction Still Elusive in Study

Zebra Technologies has released its "2017 Global Shopper Study," which measures how well retailers are keeping up with shopper expectations at physical stores and online, with an eye toward improving those numbers with RFID and IoT technologies.
By Claire Swedberg

Although retailers continue to invest in their physical stores, as well as providing sales associates with the technology tools they need, shopper expectations continue to grow. For example, two-thirds of shoppers indicated that they prefer next- or same-day delivery. "Fulfillment expectations have heated up in the last 24 months," Moore reports, as shipping times for online shopping have been reducing.

The respondents indicated, at a rate of 58 percent, that they have sometimes conducted a practice known as "show rooming," in which they have looked at items at a store but then purchased them online. Meanwhile, out-of-stocks remain the greatest cause of lost sales. Seventy percent of respondents said they have left a store without purchasing what they sought. The study finds that retailers could recover six in 10 of these sales losses by offering discounts or alternative fulfillment options to customers, such as having a product shipped to their home.

Approximately 66 percent of respondents said they wanted next- or same-day delivery of their purchases, but 27 percent indicated they would not want to pay for shipping. These days, shoppers also expect some versatility in their purchase delivery. They indicated that, at times, they may choose from any of the following models: buying online for orders shipped to their homes, buying a product in-store and bringing it home, buying online and picking up at a nearby store, buying at the store and having the item shipped to their home, or buying online and having the goods shipped to an alternative location.

The survey illustrates opportunities for technology-based improvements in stores, Moore says. For instance, he notes, RFID use reduces the risk of out-of-stock incidents. The technology also offers opportunities for retailers to ship from the closest available store, based on inventory visibility, thereby opening up more fulfillment options for shoppers.

Moore says he has observed that retailers investing heavily in technology are beginning to see greater shopper satisfaction than stores not using technology such as RFID. Many retailers are presently restarting RFID projects that they may have postponed due to not having achieved immediate gains with their initial deployments. "We're seeing renewed interest in how to figure out inventory visibility in non-food products" such as apparel, Moore reports.

Some companies are strengthening their ability to provide consistency between the online and physical shopping worlds. Therefore, customers can be assured that if they find a product online, they can physically pick it up at a nearby store. Conversely, if a shopper is at the store, technology such as apps, tablets and RFID can aid the retailer in providing ordering options, so that if the item is not physically on the shelf, a consumer can order it to be delivered to his or her home.

According to Moore, the dollar amount of lost sales due to consumers not finding a desired product in a store has increased throughout the years. He says department stores are finding that the average lost sale can cost a store $164.

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