Stronger tech prevails in consumers’ connected, seamless and digitized shopping journey

Consumers said delivery time and speed are the most important to them. They’re also aware how supply chain issues are affecting their shopping experience.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
Elizabeth Christenson profile picture

What it means: As the balance of power between digital and physical channels within retail settles, the consumer experience still has a lot of room for improvement. Consumer experiences with out-of-stock items, limited inventory transparency and delivery challenges still leave the online channel with hurdles that can hurt brand value. Transparency in delivery and availability are challenges the industry must solve, especially in the aftermath of supply chain constraints during the past few years.


Supply chain issues made it difficult for U.S. consumers to shop, even if they embraced online shopping, found SOTI’s “The Tech Effect: Strengthening the Omnichannel to Meet Consumer Demands report. When online shopping, 85% of U.S. consumers experience availability, pricing and shipping issues. More than half (55%) of U.S. consumers found items to be more expensive, and on the delivery side, 62% said delivery charges are more expensive, while 36% said delivery times are slower than usual.

“It is clear that consumers are becoming more aware of the economy and hindering supply chain issues and will opt for any retailer that offers a seamless omnichannel experience with the shortest delivery time,” Shash Anand, SOTI’s senior vice president of product strategy, told Retail Leader Pro

In fact, SOTI found close to two-thirds of U.S. consumers expected to know where their order was at every step of the delivery process, while 60% of consumers continued to shop with brands that delivered products the fastest. More than one-third of consumers also agree that knowing a retailer's delivery partner determines whether they will complete an order.

“Retailers are required to rapidly adopt technologies that enhance the relationship and communication between the retailer and its supply chain partner to obtain real-time information, remain transparent with consumers of any supply chain disruptions and give online shoppers the choice of how they want items fulfilled,” Anand said.

The days of waiting and hoping for deliveries to arrive are over, as nearly 70% of U.S consumers said delivery time and speed are still the most important to them, SOTI reported. In the way consumers want visibility, choice and real-time information about the products they are buying, they also want similar information  about the delivery process. The report found the top two options for U.S. consumers: in-home delivery by any method (66%) and delivery in-store or to a designated drop-off point (28%). In addition, 55% consumers stated that they are more likely to shop from an online retailer that provided multiple options to return a product.

“With delivery charges increasing and delivery options broadening, retailers need to carefully vet their logistics partners to ensure they can fulfill the heightened consumer expectations,” Anand said. “Today, consumers expect to know where their order is from the moment they click purchase to the moment their items have arrived.”

Make it personal

From SOTI's report, 51% of U.S. consumers also prefer to shop with retailers that provide a personalized shopping experience — from start to finish both online and in-person.


“Consumers are searching for a connected, seamless and digitized shopping journey, so retailers must communicate any critical information to them, whether it be online, in-person shopping or via an app,” Anand said. “For in-store shopping experiences, consumers want retailers to deploy more mobile device technology to speed up the shopping and checkout process, offer real-time availability information on goods, and give buyers a choice of how they want items fulfilled.”

When shopping experiences are personalized, consumers are 110% more likely to add additional items to their shopping carts and 40% are likely to spend more than they had planned. 

“It makes sense for retailers to invest in personalization, and the easiest and fastest way to do that is by using existing technology,” Anand said.

For chain store retailers such as grocery, drug and convenience stores, developing a personalized consumer experience and scaling their own mobile solution can be a challenge. “With more than hundreds of thousands of mobile devices across these stores, it can be costly and time consuming to make updates in real-time when consumers need accurate information to complete their purchase,” Anand said.

He suggested essential retailers use an enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution that can enable efficiency and ease with a simple and quick update to all devices remotely within minutes.

“By having full visibility into the performance of all devices, IT teams can prevent mobility risks like unwanted device downtime and security breaches,” Anand said. “An EMM tool makes it easier for retailers to onboard future stores and train employees on how to use the solutions right on the device, simplifying the management of their business-critical mobile solutions.”

Showing value 

At a time when goods and delivery costs are high, retailers need to be transparent with consumers. Retailers must be able to provide information about inventory stock levels, status of goods within the supply chain and the delivery process – whether it be via drones, BOPIS and so forth, Anand said.


Another way retailers can win consumers over is by thinking about sustainability. As consumers become more conscious of their spending and the brands they shop from, carbon impact is becoming a new deciding factor, SOTI's report found. More than half of U.S. consumers (55%) agree that they prefer a more sustainable way to return goods. Additionally, 41% of respondents said that they would prefer to shop with a retailer who offered carbon offset and recyclable packaging.

“As retailers increase the deployment of mobile devices across the entire supply chain for sustainable, smooth delivery and returns while creating a flexible hybrid business model, communication across business operations will become vital in mastering the consumer-retail experience,” Anand said.

Seamless in-store experience 

Consumers are leaning more towards in-store experiences, with an increase of 39% expressing a preference for in-store shopping, the report found. 

“With this data, retailers must invest in the right technology to provide consumers accurate product availability so they get the most value for their money when shopping in-store,” Anand said. “Now more than ever, a mobile-first strategy is needed to enhance the retail experience. When combining e-commerce and in-store shopping, retailers are realizing they need multiple tools to manage the retail journey.”

Shoppers are returning to in-store shopping because of the desire to touch and feel items, SOTI found. 

“Consumers want more information beyond product pricing and control than simply putting products in a shopping cart,” Anand said. “Scanners, self-serve kiosks and similar technology bring the e-commerce experience of tapping and swiping into the store and give consumers control over how they shop.”

Anand believes retailers will continue to achieve this through technology such as:

  • Handheld scanners,
  • Smart shopping carts,
  • Self-serve checkout kiosks located across a store, and
  • Retail robotics that provide personalized answers, discounts and information relevant to the shopper.

“When consumers feel like their unique needs are being met across all touchpoints, brand loyalty is formed,” Anand said. “That’s the moment when consumers feel like they’re getting value for their money.”

Finding the sweet spot between personalization and technology investments will enable grocery, drug and convenience stores to thrive in the resurgence of in-store consumer foot traffic. Providing targeted offers (favored by 62% of consumers) and coupons (67%) based on past purchases when consumers enter a store is one way to provide personalization. SOTI research found:

  • 24% of consumers said if retailers provided mobile devices upon entry, it would result in a better in-store experience.
    • “Ensuring these mobile devices have a prolonged battery life will enable consumers to shop faster and limits interactions with store associates,” Anand said. “Scanners that are unavailable or fail mid-shift due to poor battery life result in a poor customer experience. An EMM solution can help IT teams catch which devices need battery replacement before the issue becomes major.”
  • 31% would like to bypass the cash register altogether and use anytime, anywhere checkout.
    • “Managing printers is vital,” Anand adds. “Anytime a printer goes down, especially at the self-serve checkout can impact the final consumer purchase journey on whether they walk out with those items if they’re unable to have a receipt.”
  • 41% of consumers would use smart shopping carts that automatically detected and tallied items as they’re placed inside it.

Moving forward, the merging of physical and online worlds in retail is ushering in new consumer demands more so than any other sector. To accommodate consumer changing behavior, retailers have to deploy strategies and build new business models to merge both online and offline shopping experiences.

“The customer experience can be enhanced with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) – sensors, smart displays, digital mirrors, geo-locations or devices,” Anand said.” AI devices help deliver intelligent insights and get customer feedback to be more responsive and in tune with their needs to personalize in-store and the online shopping journey. With the right technology, retailers maintain corporate privacy, deploy devices quickly, eliminate downtime and help manage business operations.

What’s next: Transparency across the retail experience is the ultimate goal, but as e-commerce solutions take longer to implement, making the in-store experience easier can alleviate some consumer pain points. In-store technology like smart carts can create  seamless trips for consumers and improve the overall shopping experience. If retailers increase transparency where it’s easier to do so, they can extend that to other channels in the long term.