Ninety-five percent of consumers want to be left alone while shopping, unless they need a store associate’s help, according to a new consumer survey by HRC Retail Advisory, Northbrook, Ill.

According to the survey, many shoppers are moving away from the hands-on, personalized service from store associates, and instead turning to their friends and family via social media to share pictures and gather opinions before they buy, particularly in apparel.

To better understand what drives shoppers into stores and what they like to see when they get there, HRC polled 2,900 North American consumers about their shopping habits and preferences, revealing that a majority of shoppers are looking to in-store technology for customer service.

In fact, approximately 85% of consumers surveyed want to be able to check prices at price scanners throughout a store rather than having to ask a sales associate for pricing information. Further, 69% of shoppers said that being able to order a technology product online and then pick it up in store is important (likely where they can see it and test it before buying), with a similar 65% saying it is important for apparel.

Conversely, while the need for store associates is diminishing overall, nearly 52% of all respondents said that an in-store personal shopper who helps them choose products is important when shopping for technology items. However, most respondents still preferred technology over personal service, as a much higher 76% of overall respondents rated an in-store app that will provide personal recommendations as important.

“As consumers begin favoring in-store technology over sales associates while they shop, retailers must adapt to shopper expectations in the store environment,” says Farla Efros, president. “Identifying the right technologies and pairing it with the right in-store experience for shoppers of different generations will be critical to retailers’ long-term success. Those that curate and customize the store experience and services to suit shoppers’ needs will see the benefits.”

Technology falling short in store

Consumers surveyed showed less enthusiasm about several of the technology innovations and in-store experiences that many retailers are offering:

  • Mobile payments. Mobile payments ranked only slightly higher, with about 8% of those polled saying that having the option to pay via a mobile app was important to them.
  • In-store events. Only 19% of overall respondents said that retailers’ special events designed to create communities were an important part of a store’s offering. Events may grow in importance in years to come, however, as a slightly higher 24% of Generation Z listed them as an important store feature.

Across all consumers surveyed, in-store environment ranked as the most important factor while shopping (53%). The survey identified additional key environmental factors that shoppers also value in-store:

  • Mobile promotions and sales. Nearly 34% of all respondents ranked receiving promotional and sales information sent directly to their smartphone upon entering the store as important.
  • Mobile point of sale. Nearly 30% of respondents said that being able to pay a sales associate from anywhere in the store was important, an indication that digital scanning technologies will play a growing role in retail.
  • Social media. Nearly 70% of Generation Z and 63% of Millennial respondents are turning to social media to share pictures and gather opinions from their friends and family before they buy.
  • Wi-Fi. Free in-store Wi-Fi was ranked as important by 30% of respondents overall, and the rate was higher among younger generations, who tend to seek opinions from their social networks and share photos via social media when they shop.
  • In-store apps. About 29% of overall respondents ranked in-store apps that would provide personal recommendations as an important store feature vs. only 17% who ranked sales associates that would help you choose as important.
  • Reserve online, pick up in store. Being able to reserve products online and try them out in store before purchasing was ranked as important for 42% of Millennials and 38% for Generation Z.

HRC Retail Advisory’s survey was conducted online Feb. 20-March 7. The total sample size was 2,903 U.S. and Canadian consumers ages 10-73 (with those ages 10-17 recruited to participate through their parents).