Shoppers are becoming more comfortable with paying via biometrics, according to research by Worldpay. Its study found that 63% of consumers want to be able to use biometric scans to authenticate payments when shopping, and 69% said they would be most open to using their fingerprints.
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Apple announced recently that its newer phones would introduce facial recognition as a means of identification and authentication. In the survey, almost a quarter of consumers said they would be comfortable paying for goods by facial recognition, 33% were happy to pay by iris recognition and 18% said they would feel comfortable paying by voice recognition in store.
James Frost, chief marketing officer of Worldpay, said this adoption of technology was more about consumer convenience than anything else. “Suddenly it isn’t so scary any more,” he said.
“Yes, it may be more secure, but actually if that means the purchasing experience is just that much more slick and that much quicker, then people are willing to embrace it.”
But as technology begins to creep into the retail world, there are still some instances where consumers would prefer to interface with a person rather than an artificial intelligence (AI) or a robot.
Whereas older customers would like to pay a person at the end of a shopping experience, younger consumers are more comfortable using automated payment methods to speed up the final step of the retail experience.
Only 13% of people in the survey said they do not interact with employees in a store, 37% said they want to be able to talk to a store employee if they need something, and 35% said that if a store employee is good, they can improve the in-store experience.
A very small percentage said they do not feel shop staff are helpful or knowledgeable about products, and 10% said they would prefer to use technology for self-service.
“There is still a really critical role for store employees – we’re not going to be dealing exclusively with robots in the future,” said Frost. “People still do want to be able to speak to a human being if they have a question.”
Need for digital skills
People have an increasing need for digital skills regardless of their role, and technology can give store staff the information they need to ensure the consumer experience spans channels and is worthwhile.
Vicky Dring, omni-channel senior customer proposition manager for the Walgreens Boots Alliance, said some staff members can take well to the introduction of technology in stores, while others may resist and need more training.
“It’s trying to get that balance and, in the nicest way, force compliance to use the kit they are given,” she said.
In a dining environment, 65% of the consumers surveyed said they would rather pay a robot than wait for service staff. Almost 30% said they had used an application to get faster service in a restaurant, and 88% of those who had done so said they found it a positive experience.
Consumers would much prefer technology be used to add value to the already existing shopping experience, such as roaming staff allowing customers to pay via a mobile card machine or mobile devices.
Almost 70% of the consumers who had encountered these technologies in shops said it allowed them a more personalised experience in the shop, but only 31% said they had been offered the opportunity to pay in this way.
There is growing demand for omni-channel service, and customers increasingly expect a seamless, more personalised experience regardless of which channel they choose to shop on – 76% of all consumers are omni-channel.
Joining up channels can be a challenge, said Dring, but it can be valuable because it is what consumers want. At Boots, processes such as returns can be difficult because its systems “just aren’t hooked up across channels”, she said.
Dring said of the current system: “It’s not doing what we need it to do, but it’s not broken.” This makes it difficult to justify shifting towards omni-channel, she added.
This is increasing the popularity of services such as click-and-collect, something that is expected from retailers, and 76% of consumers said they would abandon a purchase if a retailer tried to make them pay for the service.
Martin Goldstein, head of purchasing at River Island, said consumers rarely want to pay for services provided by retailers, but knowing when goods are likely to arrive is more important.
“On the whole, the consumer doesn’t want to pay for a same-day service, but they want to be certain of when the item is going to arrive,” said Goldstein.
“In our industry, if someone is buying a dress on a Sunday and they have a party next Friday, as long as they know it’s going to arrive on time, then they’re fine.”
There is also a current trend of decreasing brand loyalty, which is surprisingly more common among older customers. In the survey, 75% of customers aged 16 to 20 and 69% of customers aged 21 to 34 said they were becoming more loyal to the brands they shop with, while 51% of 35 to 50-year-olds and 58% of 51 to 69-year-olds said they were becoming less loyal.
Goldstein said consumers are becoming more fickle, especially when they feel an in-store experience has not met their standards – and the older generation are less afraid to shop where they think the service will be better. “Going forward, it’s going to be a combination of staff and tech improving the customer experience,” he said.
Many believe that collaboration between retailers will help them to improve customers loyalty and develop a more personalised experience for consumers.