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Tech Improvements Key to Consumer Happiness, CX Research Shows

Today’s consumers have high expectations, little patience and many options when it comes to retailers at which they shop. Superior consumer tech has become a clear differentiator in the quality of their experience.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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Pro Tip: Retail and technology align in their desires to improve customer experiences and evolve the shopping process. But, even as technology advances, it’s important for the industry to understand the practical applications of these advancements in order to truly solve problems for consumers. (Click here to jump to the full RL Pro Analyst Take below.)

Prioritizing customer experience (CX) has become critical for retailers looking to retain loyal customers. In fact, recent Zendesk research found 70% of consumers spend more with retailers that offer fluid, personalized and seamless CX. In turn, 71% of retail leaders say strengthening business resilience through customer service will become a top priority during this economic downturn, Zendesk reported. One key area retailers plan to spend in 2023 is improving CX technology, and research shows these improvements will be integral to consumer loyalty.

Self-Checkout, Smart Cart and Vending CX

For example, new research from Shekel Scales showed that 90% of consumers believe technology will significantly improve the overall shopping experience. While nearly 60% of consumers wanted technology that speeds up and simplifies the self-checkout process, more than 30% of respondents expressed a desire for technology that helps them get in and out of the store as fast and as easily as possible.

“According to our consumer survey, a positive or enhanced shopping experience could include improved and simplified self-checkout processes,” Nir Leshem, Shekel’s CEO, told Retail Leader Pro. “By implementing consumer-demanded improvements, retailers can increase brand recall and strengthen brand associations. Both of which contribute to brand loyalty and even brand advocacy.”

Key findings of the Shekel’s survey include:

  • 50% of consumers said frequent overrides or cashier intervention as the top concern with the self-checkout experience; 25% of respondents reported difficulties entering produce items and baked goods.
  • In 93% of the responses, more accurate technology, system simplification for ease of use, improved user experience and eliminating the need to individually enter items were cited as reasons a consumer may be more likely to try self-checkout.
  • An overwhelming 90% of consumers said a self-checkout system that could automatically identify produce items would be helpful during the checkout process.
  • 50% of consumers said they were not familiar with the concept of a smart cart. When provided with the definition of “a shopping cart that automatically performs checkout when items are added to the cart,” 74% of respondents said they were very likely or somewhat likely to try a smart cart if the option was available to them.
  • The possibility of recording inaccurate transactions (60%) and potential technical difficulties with using a smart cart (40%) were cited together as the top barriers to smart cart adoption.
  • Consumers cited limited product selection (51%), a lack of fresh products (39%), and no customer service (33%) as the top three frustrations associated with vending machines.
  • The inability to return items or purchase more than one item at a time with vending machines also appeared in a combined 40% of responses.

“The main takeaway for retailers from the consumer survey data is that technology is the key to long-term success,” Leshem said. “As evidenced by the data, many consumer pain points can be solved by implementing technology. As a result, consumers will enjoy positive brand experiences which in turn increases customer retention and brand advocacy and ultimately the retailer’s bottom line.”

AI, Conversational, Personalization CX

Improving CX by investing in technology that creates immersive, seamless experiences is the new standard of customer service and is critical to improve loyalty. Zendesk’s survey found that:

  • 64% of consumers want bots to provide the same level of service as humans.
  • 62% of consumers think companies could do a better job personalizing their experiences.
  • 66% of consumers said a bad interaction with a business can ruin their day.

“Today, customers have even higher expectations, little patience and many options when it comes to who they do business with,” Caitlin Keohane, Zendesk’s senior vice president, global customer advocacy told Retail Leader Pro. “Customers are eager for deeper personalization. 

“Zendesk’s ‘2023 CX Trends Report’ reveals that more than half of customers feel companies could be doing a better job personalizing their experiences in-store and online,” she added. “They know companies have information about them and want it to be used to give them better options and solve problems. This ability to provide deep personalization builds trust, loyalty and lasting relationships for retailers.” 


Zendesk data also shows 90% of customers will spend more with companies that personalize the customer service they offer them. “By getting to know your new shopper, retailers have a complete customer context to build the best experience, uncover trends and gain efficiency,” Keohane said.

Zendesk’s research also shows that consumers want to choose where the conversational experiences go across channels as well as when the conversation pauses and resumes. In turn, 66% of leaders are rethinking the entire customer journey to build a more fluid experience that is available to assist a customer in any way and at any time.

“The retailers that are building a more fluid CX are seeing their customers spend more, which is a key result of allowing customers to start a conversation on one channel and pick it up on another – without needing to repeat themselves, Keohane said. 

This is why it’s important for retailers to meet their customers where they are over any device. 

“Digital-first experiences help retailers engage with their customers through in-store experiences, email, voice, messaging, social channels, text or live chat,” Keohane said. “In building this new standard of CX, brands must also think about how it can work seamlessly across both physical and digital realms.” 

Even when it comes to the metaverse, it’s critical that customer support is easily accessible so retailers can keep customers in the experience. 

“Whether customers are shopping in a digital store, playing in a game or even employees in a meeting, the ease of conversing with a business will exist everywhere you go,” Keohane said. “All opportunities come down to focusing on delivering rich, personalized conversational experiences that are connected across all channels to deliver a seamless brand experience 24/7.” 

Customer Sentiment Tech

Customer well-being and sentiment are reshaping the customer experience, yet businesses are unprepared when it comes to understanding emotions. Only 29% of retail leaders and managers say that customer sentiment is used to personalize the experience a customer receives, Zendesk report.

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Still, a negative experience with a company can cause real, lasting damage — 73% of customers will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences, and more than half will head to the exit after one unsatisfactory interaction.

Retailers can improve the way they respond to customers' well-being and sentiment by leveraging new AI technology. 

“Today’s AI tools take the burden off CX teams by continuing to learn customer behaviors over time and become customized to each company’s operations by continuously incorporating feedback, which improves the overall customer experience,” Zendesk said. 

Zendesk analysis shows that 80% of inquiries can be narrowed down to only 20 issues. When looking to streamline and improve CX processes, the ability to triage requests by leveraging AI tech becomes a critical element for CX efficiency and customer satisfaction. 

“By identifying customers’ intent and sentiment, retailers are able to quickly route questions to the correct agent and increase the rate at which their processes can be improved,” Keohane said. “These factors ensure faster resolutions of customer issues and help CX teams remain agile.” 

Elizabeth Lafontaine
Elizabeth Lafontaine

RL Pro Analyst Take 

As we’ve discussed on RL Pro, retail and technology align in their desires to improve customer experiences and evolve the shopping process. Retailers look to the technology sector for the next big idea, but technology and retail have also seamlessly integrated with each other as e-commerce and supply chains grow. But, even as technology advances, it’s important for the industry to understand the practical applications of these advancements in order to truly solve problems for consumers. Sometimes retailers attempt to bring in technologies that look great but don’t solve for an underlying obstacle in the customer journey. We discussed the rollout of Just Walk Out (JWO) technology in airports and stadiums a few weeks ago. This technology increases efficiency in the customer buying experience and eliminates obstacles in the retail experience and order accuracy. Consumers demand real world solutions to their shopping needs across all sectors, especially within drug, convenience and grocery. Looking ahead, advancements can provide enhanced customer service, additional delivery and pick-up options, and increased transparency into the supply chain and product sourcing for consumers.