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How do consumers perceive automation in retail? What are the factors that define their attitude towards technology-driven forms of customer engagement?
‘Automated Commerce’ refers to ways of employing technology to make a process or task simpler (quicker, better), by reducing the number of steps or actions taken by the user.
Reply has conducted a comprehensive research programme in the UK and the study revealed which aspects of the customer journey can be improved using the latest technologies, versus where automation is inappropriate to replace human interaction.
Among the themes explored were biometrics, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, big data, location tracking, and automated payments.
Privacy & Control
Respect & Trust
Relevance to me
The comprehensive research was conducted by Reply in the UK and comprised focus group interviews, nationally representative quantitative surveys, and an in-depth analysis of Millennials: the research counted more than two thousand participants. The main goal was to understand what “automated services” consumers expect from retailers in the digital age.
Dates: 25th - 26th May 2017
Method: 4 x 90-minute group discussion
Sample size: 4 x 8
Sample criteria:mix of SEG, mix of gender, ages 20-55
London & Manchester
Dates: August 2017
Method: online quantitative survey
Sample size: 2000
Sample criteria:Nationally representative
Dates: July 2017
Method: quantitative suvery of students
Sample size: 214
Sample criteria:Current students
Imperial College London
What is the customers perception of automation? And how brands can use this to refine their offering?
"The featured personalized Retail experiences will be driven by the concepts of Empathy Marketing and Automated Commerce. We conducted the extensive, qualitative and quantitative research over a number of weeks to find out what is the customers’ perception of automation and how brands can use this to refine their offering".
Daren Ward, Executive Partner at Reply.
Millennials' comfort levels are particularly high
Technology that fully automates a purchase decision makes people uncomfortable. However assistance with decision-making is welcome. 85% users prefer biometrics in Banking. When it comes to suggestions and advice, 60% of individuals prefer smoother and more convenient processes in actioning a decision as well as when fulfilling a purchase.
Automation needs to be understood in a way that considers users’ feelings of individuality and uniqueness: no one wants to believe that a machine can accurately predict their behaviour or decisions.
In general, users showed strong reluctance to entrust a machine with decisions they consider to be genuinely their own while they value the feeling to stay in control. For all these reasons is always better to automate the process, not the decision.
The subset of Millennials analysed in the research revealed that they are much more inclined to embrace new technologies as part of the brand experience: iris scanning and fingerprint recognition reached more than the 60% of preferences.
However, alarm bells go off when recognition is involuntary, such as when consumers’ location is tracked without their consent, the recognition system to which Millenials are less inclined, with just over 20%.
Consumers are open to automation as long as they feel in control. Where consumers actively choose to participate for example through fingerprint scans, automation is welcome.
Openness to Automation Technology
Trust in automation
Consumers trust e.g. Social Networking Sites with very detailed personal data, but they are less inclined to do the same with most retailers, consumer goods firms, banks, or travel companies. Trust in a brand is as important as trust in a particular technology.
Only 15 % of consumers feel comfortable using one-button ordering, if they do not feel they can trust the brand. With increasing trust in the brand, the acceptance rises to 28%.
Even technologies like automatic replenishment, that automate the decision and are thus per se less attractive, prove the meaning of trust in the brand: While only 11% of consumers without trust in the brand would accept automatic replenishment, it’s already more than one out of five when trust in the brand is given. Acceptance of variable pricing among those trusting the brand, is as high as 36%.
Consumers are aware that their behaviour is monitored, in fact, more than 40% are willing to share their data with trusted brands .
Businesses are now expected to make the most of this knowledge: “Stop showing me ads of running shoes – you should know I already bought some!”.
Although 36% do not want companies to access their own information, the remaining respondents support sharing data, especially if it leads to a greater relevance in communications and offers of the brand.
Use of data
To optimise the customer experience, organisations must truly understand their customers and their journeys, missions and personas. It is important to consider automation features and services that enable a higher rate of interaction with customers and data, which can help us better understand their needs. This can be achieved through services such as click and collect, reserve online and try in store as well as customised services.
Following a human-centric approach, organisations should keep a clear focus on what actually benefits the customer and their relationship with the brand.
Automated Commerce is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. The decision of which processes to automate and how, is closely related to the individual business model, the positioning of the brand and the characteristics of the key target group. Any organisation however, is advised to consider the following points:
If you would like to discuss these topics in more detail, or learn more about the results of our research then do not hesitate to