Canadian Shoppers Frustrated by the Gap Between Digital Expectations and In-Store Tech Realities: Report

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The retail industry is facing a critical juncture where Canadian consumers are experiencing a disconnect between their shopping expectations and the in-store reality, according to technology company SOTI.

As the Canadian retail markets continue to evolve, the industry grapples with challenges rolling out in-store technology and integrating advanced AI technology, while continuing to optimize the supply chain and address ever-growing security concerns, it says.

According to SOTI’s new global retail report, Techspectations: Consumer Demand for Digital Transformation in Retail, 92 per cent of Canadian consumers have used in-store technology but many believe these devices make the shopping experience worse. Canadians cite challenges in-store such as a lack of staff to assist with issues relating to self-serve machines (73 per cent of users), while as many as 31 per cent stated that, despite visiting a store to buy goods, retail staff members had to order the item online using the store device regardless.

“Retailers have been focusing on how to maximize AI’s impact for the online experience without fully replicating these benefits in their physical stores where it can address many of the pain points Canadian consumers are facing today,” said Shash Anand, SVP of Product Strategy at SOTI. 

Shash Anand, SVP of Product Strategy, SOTI

“For those with an omnichannel approach, strategic investment in in-store infrastructure will enable AI and automation to optimize supply chain processes, identify technical issues, enhance inventory visibility and aid in forecasting, while reducing waste. As a result, they can ensure a harmonized and efficient retail experience that will replicate the seamlessness consumers expect from online shopping.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • Despite adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and mobile technologies, 78 per cent of Canadians express security concerns with personal data, 28 per cent find the in-store shopping experience more confusing than ever before and 47 per cent have experienced issues with devices such as self-serve checkout;
  • 46 per cent of Canadian consumers expect to be able to pick up an item ordered online from a physical store on the same day;
  • 41 per cent will look elsewhere if delivery or pick-up of an item is more than two days;
  • 77 per cent of consumers expect to always know the status of their orders, highlighting the need for efficient supply chain visibility; 
  • More than three-quarters (78 per cent) expressed concerns about entering personal details online or through in-store devices, indicating a pervasive lack of trust in the data collection and payment technologies used by retail organizations;
  • Security concerns extend to fraud, with 41 per cent of consumers worrying about becoming a victim of financial fraud and another 42 per cent expressing concerns about identity fraud;
  • Canadian consumers have concerns using in-store devices due to mistrust of retailers, including the potential exposure of personal details (40 per cent) and the risk of the next user seeing personal information (25 per cent);
  • Despite this, 43 per cent of consumers view in-store devices as tools to enhance shopping convenience and speed. This highlights the need for retailers to balance convenience and security while building trust among those making purchases in the retail space.
Retailer holds tablet and use augmented reality technology to monitor data.

“We do this report every year and it’s really for us to kind of find out what the pulse is of what’s going on in retail,” said Anand. “This allows us to identify the issues that consumers are facing specifically. Our job is to help the retailers with technology.”

Anand said the fact that 92 per cent of Canadian consumers have used in-store technology but many believe these devices make the shopping experience worse is an indication that “the tech is being used but it’s not being used effectively.”

“And if it’s not going to be used effectively, guess what, I’m not going to have that positive experience.”

Anand said retailers have mastered the online experience in many ways in recent years because of COVID and market trends.

“That in-store experience did not get updated but the online experience got a lot better,” he said. “But at the same time what happened also is consumers have realized that they get this really nice, personalized experience when they are online but they would like that to be shifted over to the in-store experience and I think that’s where retailers have said ‘okay how do we do that, how do we make that experience easy once you’re in the store as well’. 

Naan Kabab (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“The truth is you buy a bunch of tech and you’re trying to give a positive experience, you’re trying to give a personal experience, but if the experience isn’t good in the store, the consumers will go elsewhere.

“What happened is that self-serve checkout became very popular. Buy online, pick up in store became popular. But what’s happened is 73 per cent of those reported that they experienced a lack of staff to assist with issues related to those self-serve checkouts.

“Should the retailers be at a place where it’s like ‘yes, this is a no brainer’? Absolutely. We have companies that are still having trouble with device visibility, they’re still having trouble with inventory management, they’re still having trouble with just the overall cost of trying these security devices. The visibility is really a big one. I want to know what’s going on in all my stores, I want to know what’s happening.”

Self Checkout at Rexall in Metro Hall (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

When reflecting on the overall retail experience, Canadian respondents continue to expect change and see value in technology to enhance their interactions with retailers, but gaps in expectations and reality continue to jeopardize brand loyalty and sales, added Anand. 

“Looking to the future, retailers must focus on the technologies and infrastructure around them and ask how these applications, devices and technology solutions are being managed, monitored and maintained.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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