Given an increasingly tech-savvy consumer base, retailers are necessarily leveraging the latest technology both in-store and online. Nearly half of UK adults responding to a recent survey (JDA/Centiro; Customer Pulse 2015) experienced problems with an online order in the last year, and nearly three-quarters of them said they’d likely switch to an alternative retailer following a poor shopping experience online.

Indeed, 40 per cent of customers abandon purchases because of poor in-store communications, according to research conducted last summer by Vodat, a telecoms provider to the retail space. Overall, the statistics show that falling productivity, the abandonment of purchases, and employee complaints all arise, to varying degrees, from underperforming technology.

Patience threshold

There is a widely cited patience threshold that is said to allow for a shopper to wait no more than five minutes on average for a sales associate to answer a query before giving up on the transaction altogether. Where technology is involved this may also be presumed to apply, and reliable and easy-to-use technology will be preferable to clunky forms. Overtaxed in-store Wi‑Fi that keeps cutting out is not a good look.

Retailers at the forefront of satisfying the market’s expectations include Apple. Not only can their in-store technology be relied upon, their sales associates employ Apple’s own tech to bolster the in-store experience and facilitate purchases.

Customer returns matter

In line with modern, elevated expectations, the customer experience of making returns is rising in importance, and so are click & collect services. Given that customers often order more than one size of the same item with a view to returning the non-fitting size, returns should not be treated merely as cost-recovery exercises. The market expects returns to be as easy as possible, and common frustrations range from the cost of the return itself to problems returning online goods to a high street store.

Customers have reported an increasing number of issues with click & collect over the past year, the most commonly cited being long waiting times and problems with staff being unable to locate in-store items. When the computer says no, customer loyalty takes a beating.

Omni-channel shopping

Where a true omni-channel shopping experience has been implemented, however, and where the technology underpinning each channel is fully integrated with the others, consumers can enjoy the efficient service they expect. Argos in particular has combined its physical premises and back-end systems to meet the rising popularity of click & collect and support a returns process that’s usually free from frustration.