An Oracle NetSuite report found that while 79% of the 400 retail execs surveyed believed AI and VR tech in stores would drive sales, only 14% of the 1,200 consumers surveyed said such technologies would have a significant impact on their purchase decisions.
The report found disconnects between consumer views and industry executive views on several issues, including the importance of social media for engaging with customers — 98% of retail execs felt it was important, but just 12% of consumer said if impacts how they feel about a brand.
Also, about 79% of retail executives were confident chatbots they have deployed are meeting the needs of shoppers, but 66% of consumers disagreed, and further registered their belief chatbots could be harmful to their shopping experiences.
Such an overwhelming number of consumers saying they want no part in talking to robots while shopping is a powerful statement, and could have a significant impact on retailer strategies for everything from voice-activated virtual assistants to in-store physical robots, as well as online and mobile chatbots and other forms of automated, customer-facing systems.
That is, the finding could have great impact if retailers decide to take the finding at face value and react swiftly to it. It might be a better idea for retailers to listen closely to customer feedback as they test in-store and online shopping technology.
Retail's use of customer-facing robots, assistants and other automated systems remains at such an early stage that there is a lot that the retail sector doesn't know and understand yet about the effectiveness of these technologies. There also is a lot that shoppers don't know and understand about them yet, and it's worth betting that some of the consumers who took this survey could feel differently in another year or two.
That said, voice commerce has not been an overnight success, according to other market research, and it has a long road ahead.
Other areas of disparity included the topic of in-store interactions between store associates and shoppers: 80% of retail executives said they thought in-store staff would make shoppers feel more welcome by engaging with them more, but only 46% of shoppers agreed and 28% said they would be annoyed by more interaction.
Regarding personalization, 58% of consumers said they are uncomfortable with how stores use technology to improve personalization in their shopping experience, yet 80% said retailers aren't bringing enough personalization to their shopping experiences.
"Consumer expectations are not only rapidly changing, but exactly what expectations look like vary from person to person and moment to moment. This makes it incredibly hard for retailers to keep up," said Matthew Rhodus, director of retail for Oracle NetSuite in a statement.
Another recent survey from SOTI suggested shoppers prefer self-service technologies, including self-checkout, over engaging with store associates.