In a recent study surveying more than 1,200 retail store associates, nearly half said they feel overworked in their jobs and almost two-thirds suggested they could provide better customer service and enable improved shopping experiences if they were equipped with tablets, according to Zebra Technologies 11th annual Global Shopper Study.
Fifty-five percent of associates stated that their companies are understaffed, with 42% adding that they don't have enough time to help shoppers because of pressure to get other tasks completed.
As part of the study, 430 retail decision makers from around the world were also surveyed. Almost 60% said they plan to increase spending on mobile devices, with 21% of those retailer looking to increase spending on tablets by more than 10% over the next three years.
Zebra has a lot to gain from any mass movement to equip store associates with mobile devices, as it makes such devices, having outfitted Target employees, among others, with devices like its TC51. Still, it has been becoming clear over the last year or so from studies by Zebra and others that store associates are frustrated by their limited ability to help customers.
And, shoppers are definitely frustrated as well. A 2017 study from Tulip Retail found that 83% of shoppers felt they were more knowledgeable than store associates, largely due to mobile smartphones they often utilize in-store. Many store associates didn't have store-provided devices or may have been discouraged from using their own smartphones in-store.
Things are changing, though. As Zebra's study noted, retailers are planning to invest more in mobile devices so associates can further help shoppers. In fact, 83% of the retail decision makers and 74% of the store associates surveyed agreed that shoppers will have better experiences when associates are equipped with technology.
In many cases, the purpose of the tech is to help associates find items and provide information. But some retailers want to do more, including allowing salespeople to provide mobile checkout to shoppers throughout stores. Walmart is one example of a major retailer that has been increasingly moving in that direction. The retailer recently announced the launch of a new app for store associates that will allow customers to order and pay for items while in brick-and-mortar stores.
Almost 80% of retail decision makers believe staff checkout areas are becoming less necessary with the introduction of more automation, while far fewer store associates, 49% of those surveyed, feel the same way. Associates may be concerned about jobs being eliminated by self-checkout and cashierless technology. However, giving associates mobile technology tools should make them more indispensable to their employers — especially if shoppers feel the same way.