People Have Mixed Feelings About In-Store Personalization Tactics

July 12, 2017

RichRelevance has released its 3rd annual “Creepy or Cool” study examining consumer attitudes to retail personalization tactics. The study indicates that the majority of adults in the US would allow retailers to collect more customer data to improve the overall customer experience – though most of those with the caveat that the data would have to be collected anonymously.

Some Tactics Are Just… Creepy

Despite a general willingness to share more data, respondents aren’t fully on board with the use of data to personalize in-store experiences – and that may due to a perception that the data isn’t anonymous when used in some of these ways.

Indeed, the biggest pushback is reserved for tactics that are related to the recognition of shopping history:

  • Far more consider it “creepy” (69%) than “cool” (15%) that companies understand their shopping habits so well that they’re able to use artificial intelligence/data to choose and order products on the consumer’s behalf; and
  • Likewise, the use of facial recognition technology to identify one as a loyal customer and relay the customer’s preferences to the salesperson in-store is determined to be much more “creepy” (69%) than “cool” (18%).

The other tactic that seems more on the creepy side? Computer programs such as chat bots using artificial intelligence to help with customer service questions, rather than a real person.

Respondents to an earlier study – conducted by Pegasystems – were not convinced that AI can provide the same, or better level of customer service that a human can provide today.

But These Tactics Are “Cool”

By contrast to the tendency to recoil from the above tactics, respondents are more favorable to the possibility of searching and ordering products verbally using voice recognition technology. Some 46% consider this a “cool” innovation, more than twice as many as those seeing it as “creepy” (22%).

Then again, some people are already doing this in their homes, so the store could just be a logical extension.

Two other tactics were determined to be “cool” by more respondents than “creepy”:

  • Using fingerprint scanning to pay for items and get automatic home delivery, all from the same floor (46% “cool”; 34% “creepy”); and
  • Digital screens/interactive mirrors/virtual reality glasses display additional products within that complement what the shopper is trying on (41% “cool”; 34% “creepy”).

Any Changes From Last Year?

Compared to last year’s results, this year’s edition shows that there’s an increasing acceptance of facial recognition technology identifying loyal customers and relaying that information to store associates. All the same, fewer than 1 in 5 (18%) find this to be “cool” – a modest rise from 13% last year.

And while fewer this year feel that digital screens displaying additional complementary products are a “creepy” proposition, there’s been no movement in the number believing this to be “cool”. More are simply indifferent…

Millennials More Accepting

In what’s probably an unsurprising result, Millennials (18-29) showed an above-average tendency to label all of these tactics as “cool”. That was particularly the case for some tactics such as:

  • Robots guiding them to specific products within store aisles upon request;
  • Digital screens displaying complementary products to those being tried on; and
  • Computer programs using AI to help with customer service questions.

In a more surprising twist, though, 18-29-year-olds weren’t the age group most likely to deem all tactics as “cool”:

  • The 45-59 bracket was the most likely (51%) to feel that the use of fingerprint scanning to pay for items and get automatic delivery is “cool”; and
  • That same age bracket was most apt to think that the ability to search and order products verbally using voice recognition technology is “cool” (49%).

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