Physical retail is fading, the traditional shopping experience promises to disappear and everything points to online. Zebra Technologies researched the behaviour of global consumers and retail organizations. Retail is changing dramatically – and information technology plays the leading role. We share some of the findings published in Zebra’s report.

Only 59 percent of European consumers plan to shop physically more often as the pandemic subsides. The lowest score worldwide. Retail as a whole, however, is not going anywhere. 77 percent of shoppers ordered online as of 2019. An increase of 5 percent in two years – and an increase that promises to continue with each passing year.

The minority that does prefer to shop physically more often is also reaching for digital tools. 58 percent do not ask questions to employees and instead consult the smartphone, which they feel is faster. Even the majority of employees (64 percent) agree.

Information battle

Zebra Technologies calls it a do it yourself trend. The implications are cutting edge. Retailers have been able to accurately influence the experience of physical visitors for centuries. They determined what information was offered on the spot, for example, through advertising boards and labels. Today, a visitor has the information of most stores in the palm of their hand. 33 percent report using their smartphone to check competitor prices during a store visit.

In short: physical retail is decreasing, and in order to convince the customers who still visit the location to make a purchase, retailers need to win the information battle with competitors. Decision-makers are aware of this. 84 percent recognize increasing self-sufficiency among consumers.

That brings us to an interesting fact. Self-scanners and self-checkout systems are on the rise. Use of the latter technology increased 7 percent since 2019 — nearly half of store visitors checkout items themselves. While Zebra Technologies’ research doesn’t confirm anything on the subject, it’s not a far leap to relate the increase in self-service and the growing problem of information competition. Having your hands full, from arrival until purchase, logically leaves no room to consult a competitor’s prices on the smartphone. Therefore, it is to be expected that retail decision-makers will continue to invest in self-service.

Mixed feelings on robotizing

Lastly, it is clear that nearly three-quarters of decision-makers consider an increase in efficiency of online order processing and fulfilment as a priority. Just under nine in ten confirm that their organization is looking for new ways to improve the picking, packing and handling of store and warehouse items. Robotizing, that is. The subject appears to be burning brightly in the minds of both decision-makers and retail employees. The latter group is less enthusiastic. 54 percent of employees fear being replaced by a robot; an increase of 10 percent since 2019.

While this indicates a rubbing of shoulders between decision-makers and retail workers, 58 percent of workers simultaneously say that robots would improve their jobs. The noses aren’t precisely in the same direction yet, but it’s optimistic at the very least.

Tip: Study says adoption of robots is growing due too labour shortage