Monday, May 29, 2017

Face Resistance to Shopper-Facing Technology

Technological innovations can increase a retailer’s revenues and decrease a retailer’s costs. Those advantages must be weighed against the expenses of purchase, maintenance, and use of the technologies. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh and Boston College point out that another offset stems from shopper resistances to the technologies in the store.
     Among the shopper-facing technologies considered in the researchers’ studies were self-scanning of purchases at a checkout station or at the points where items are selected; monitoring via infrared sensors of checkout wait times; and facial recognition software to allow personalized purchase recommendations or discount offers. The results of a statistical analysis of shopper reactions to these and related technologies identified the two sorts of resistances we’d expect, but with some emotion components at a strength we might not anticipate:
  • Sufficient value. Consumers ask if the extra time and effort required of them to use the technology is balanced by their savings in time or money. An emotion component is the feeling of fairness. Are the procedures for use of the technology a fair request? Are the benefits from its use a fair return? If there are problems with the use, are shoppers treated equitably? 
  • Privacy concerns. Consumers ask if information gathered about them via the technologies is used to violate what they want to keep confidential. One emotion component is trust. Is the information gathered with the consent of the shopper, and is the shopper aware of how the information is used? Another emotion component is referred to by the researchers as “creepiness.” An infrared sensor watching you differs from a person watching you. 
     Acceptance of change comes with time. The early history of ATMs at banks included customer complaints that service quality was deteriorating and that tellers they’d grown to know and like would be losing jobs. It seemed unfair. Those complaints faded as customers experienced the advantages of transacting business when the bank lobby was closed and as use of the ATM became a familiar habit. Similarly, as consumers become experienced with other data-gathering methods intruding into their lives, the methods used with shopper-facing technologies in retailing won’t seem so disconcerting by comparison.
     Still, the time to acceptance will shorten when you face the emotions head on. The enthusiasm of the retailer with these technologies often isn’t shared by the customers unless the retailer takes steps to prove the fairness and eliminate the creepiness.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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