Companies around the world are working towards finding the best way to make the last mile the most efficient and most enjoyable for everyone involved.
One of the tools companies have implemented to make this possible is Self Service Technologies (SSTs). Today, we see many malls, supermarkets, restaurants and branded stores implementing self-service technologies to improve end-to-end retail experience.
But is this working? Do customers have favourable experiences with self-service technologies or unfavourable ones?
The numbers show positive results
In a study, 73% of 526 respondents confirmed that they preferred engaging with self-service technologies in grocery stores and malls rather than interact with an employee. They confirmed that implementing mobile tools at the last point of purchase improved their shopping experience. Self-service technologies like self-check-outs, RIFD-enabled scanning devices (Zara) and app-based instant checkout (Nike) have all received positive reviews from customers.
But this didn’t mean that respondents wanted the human experience eliminated. Many respondents confirmed that the presence of a shop assistant nearby made the self-service experience more enjoyable. One of the self-service technologies that the study found excited the least customer enthusiasm was – voice-activated shopping assistant. A 2018 research showed that voice-enabled shopping accounted for less than 1% of all e-commerce sales in the US.
So, why is it that some self-service technologies spark positive responses from customers, while others don’t?
Factors that create positive/negative self-service customer experiences in retail logistics
Customer satisfaction with self-service technologies in retail depends on five important factors:
Tech savviness of the customer
Customers who are inherently tech-savvy are more open to experimenting with new self-service technologies. However, those who experience high technology anxiety may shy away from self-service technology and prefer human interaction.
Introducing innovations to customers who are uncomfortable with technology can lead to the creation of negative brand perceptions.
Proper technology implementation is one of the most important factors that develop positive self-service retail experiences.
Faulty technology that doesn’t work properly, where the screen freezes, where products aren’t recognised, where network connectivity is low and so on can ruin shopping experience and can make customers have unfavourable experiences.
Security is another implementation-related concern that affects customers’ self-service experience. Customers who have experienced lax security on self-service devices are more likely to avoid them and choose people-managed checkouts.
It is extremely important that organisations work towards fixing and improving the quality and safety of their self-service devices both in-store and in e-commerce to prevent customers from moving to other companies/brands due to a poor experience.
Need for person-to-person interaction
Employee interaction becomes necessary when customers perceive a shift in the way the service progresses. If the newly introduced self-service technology is changing the service design, then customers may hesitate to use the technology. They may even stop shopping if an employee is not present to help. In these cases, self-service technology causes unfavourable experiences for the customer.
One way companies can eliminate this problem is to have staff present on the floor to help customers use the new self-service technology. This way they engage in value co-creation – working with customers to add value to their customer journey.
Speed, convenience and accuracy of transactions
Self-service in retail experience has been observed reducing order placement times and checkout times. This is one of the main reasons why customers prefer using self-service kiosks and mobile apps during purchase.
Self-service technologies have allowed customers to place orders at their own pace and according to their bespoke needs, without worrying about the people waiting to make their selection or check-out after them.
This has, in turn, improved the accuracy of orders. The autonomy provided by self-service technologies ensures that customers take greater responsibility for their own transactions and make fewer mistakes during order placement and payment.
Together, these make for very comfortable experiences for customers and work towards increasing customer loyalty.