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Out of stock increases 'out of patience'

E-commerce is benefitting from increasing frustration amongst shoppers about the in-store experience, according to new research. 

A study by retail technology vendor Zebra Technologies found that shoppers are increasingly placing orders online because of a lack of in-store product availability, with nearly 60 per cent placing an online order in the last three months.

Zebra’s annual Global Shopper Study included commissioned research among 4,175 shoppers, 577 retail associates and 412 retail executives from North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.

Out-of-stocks in stores “remain a challenge” and 41 per cent of shoppers say this is the top reason for leaving stores without a purchase. 

This is followed by long checkout lines (32 per cent) and an inability to find items (31 per cent) - both representing a marked increase from last year's research.

Retail decision-makers and store associates have seen a “dramatic increase” in the need for convenience and efficiency as the pandemic has catapulted shoppers’ usage of mobile ordering and smart checkout solutions, the research found.

Mobile ordering - from smartphones and tablets - has experienced “tremendous growth” and has been instrumental in helping maintain social distancing and adherence to local guidelines. 

Seventy-two per cent of shoppers used mobile ordering and 82 per cent of those shoppers are “highly likely” to continue using it.

Sixty-four percent of shoppers believe more retailers need to offer mobile ordering while the vast majority of decision-makers (90 per cent) and store associates (83 per cent) agree mobile ordering would help meet customer expectations.

Approximately half (47 per cent) of surveyed shoppers have interacted with self-checkouts in the last six months and more than six-in-ten (63 per cent) agree self-checkout solutions provide an improved customer experience. 

Meanwhile, 86 per cent of retail decision-makers and 71 per cent of store associates agree self-checkouts improve the customer experience.

Almost nine-in-ten decision-makers and more than seven-in-ten associates believe self-checkouts freed employees up to do higher priority tasks and better serve customers, while helping meet health and safety mandates and protocols.

While around 90 per cent of decision-makers think shoppers and associates trust them to make health and safety a priority, only 65 per cent of shoppers and 77 per cent of associates agree. 

Nearly two-thirds (67 per cent) of shoppers are concerned with surface sanitation or social exposure in stores, and 59 per cent prefer stores with contactless payment options.

Jeff Schmitz, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Zebra Technologies, said: “Retailers are aware that success hinges on elevating the shopper experience and investments in analytics, mobile ordering and smart-checkouts will provide a more seamless and satisfying omnichannel experience.

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