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The public has spoken: while they’re all for apps and gizmos that make shopping a breeze, people will always look for the human touch.

Shoppers looked for that welcome face saying “hello” to them.

Grocery Headquarters reported on the results of a survey released by the tech firm, Interactions, on “What Shoppers Want from Retail”. The perceptions study had over 1,000 adult participants and aimed to “understand how to successfully integrate human and computerized interactions into a shopper’s retail journey.”

According to the results, 84% of consumers expect retailers to have technological features which improve the customer shopping experience. However, 62% are still motivated by human interaction – a smile or a greeting from a real person – when entering the store premises.

“Consumers want both digital and human interfaces today. They desire the integration of technology into their shopping experience, but nothing can truly replace the accessibility of a traditional store associate,” Bharat Rupani, president of Interactions, was quoted in the report. He added: “The key for retailers is to balance human interaction with technology to streamline and compliment the consumer’s overall retail journey.”

High-Tech Shopping is Immersive

However, while shoppers like the idea of interacting with a real person while they shop, they are also eager to immerse themselves in the advancements happening on the e-commerce scene. These include targeted notifications which are sent via mobile or email, 3D printed customizable products and fast checkout.

Pie graphs showing shopper preferences for tech and human interactions.
Your business model should strike a balance between human interaction and savvy tech.

But to round off the customer experience, shoppers want the assurance of a friendly, human face. This means that retailers invest in both technological advances and personal customer services.

Retail giant Wal-Mart tried to do away with its store greeters five years ago but quickly re-instated them. The store greeters have been one of Wal-Mart’s fixtures in over 5,000 stores for 30 years. The move was initially meant to save money and improve efficiency. However, the store greeters were reinstated last year because aside from digital coupons and faster checkouts, shoppers looked for that welcome face saying “hello” to them.

This is a bold step back from the drive to automate and digitize everything. The Food Marketing Institute estimates that 20% of all grocery purchases will be done online by 2025. The current figure sits at only 2% What this survey reveals is that no matter how convenient it is to shop for items online, consumers will still go to a physical store for the chance to interact with another human being.

This indirectly answers the issue of whether or not humans will ultimately be eased out by machines in workplaces. Over the years, companies like Aldi, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Lidl have been cutting back on associates in favor of automated systems and self-service stations.

Reduced labor saves retailers money, but these companies may end up losing more when shoppers stop patronizing them for being too “automated”.