Why Retail Employees See Tablets as Big Help in Customer Service

INDUSTRY RESEARCH: More than one-half of shoppers (51 percent) believe they are better connected with their smartphones than store associates. Two-thirds of retail store staff believe they can provide better customer service using tablets.


Tablets have been a major hit with both consumers and enterprises since the first Apple iPad hit the market in 2010.  In only eight years, sales of Apple, Samsung, Acer, Zebra and other tablets have multiplied to more than 1.2 billion units globally (including about 500 million iPads through 2018), according to Statista.

Zebra Technologies, which makes rugged industrial mobile devices, on Dec. 11 revealed to eWEEK the results of its 11th annual Global Shopper Study, which analyzes the attitudes, opinions and expectations of shoppers, retail associates and retail decision-makers. The results show that two-thirds (66 percent) of surveyed associates believe that if they are equipped with tablets, they could provide better customer service and improve the shopping experience.

There are some collateral facts and figures that came alongside this research—and it’s all valuable info for enterprise managers to know:

  • Fifty-five percent of surveyed retail store associates agree that their companies are understaffed, and nearly one-half (49 percent) feel overworked. Store associates cite frustration with their inability to assist customers because 42 percent find they have little time to help shoppers due to pressure to get other tasks completed.
  • Another 28 percent claim that it’s difficult to obtain information quickly enough to help shoppers. Most surveyed retail decision-makers (83 percent) and store associates (74 percent) concur that shoppers can have a better experience with technology-equipped sales associates.
  • Meanwhile, only 13 percent of surveyed shoppers completely trust retailers to protect their personal data, the lowest level of trust among 10 different industries. Seventy-three percent of surveyed shoppers prefer flexibility to control how their personal information is used.

The study also identified diverging expectations on the impact of automation between retailers and store associates. Nearly 80 percent of retail decision-makers—compared to 49 percent of store associates—agree that staff checkout areas are becoming less necessary due to new technologies that can automate checkout.

Read eWEEK’s article about the Amazon Go store in Seattle here; it has no point-of-sale (POS) checkouts.

Also, more than one-half of retail decision-makers (52 percent) are converting POS space to self-checkout, and 62 percent are transforming it for online order pickup.

More than one-half of shoppers (51 percent) believe they are better connected with their smartphones than store associates. Retailers are investing in edge technologies to combat this gap. Nearly 60 percent of retailers plan to increase their spend on handheld mobile computers by more than 6 percent, and more than one-in-five retailers (21 percent) plan to spend greater than 10 percent on rugged tablets over the next three years. 

Other key regional findings from the research:


  • Sixty-two percent of retail associates view their employer more positively if provided with a mobile device for work-related activities.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) of retail associates say that mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices help them do their job better.

Europe and the Middle East

  • Seventy-four percent of decision-makers agree that increased e-commerce is driving more interest in fulfillment solutions and warehouse investments.
  • More than three-quarters (76 percent) of retail decision makers agree that accepting and/or managing returns of online orders is a significant challenge.

Latin America

  • Both shoppers (59 percent) and store associates (67 percent) believe that shoppers are better connected to consumer information than store associates.
  • Ninety-nine percent of retail IT decision-makers believe they need better inventory management tools to ensure accuracy.

North America

  • Eleven percent of shoppers completely trust retailers to protect their personal data, the lowest level of trust in any surveyed vertical industry, including health care, financial institutions and technology companies.
  • Nearly seven in 10 store associates (68 percent) reported that electronic shelf-labels would have a positive impact on the customer experience, and 54 percent of surveyed shoppers are likely to read them.

How the Research Was Conducted

Zebra’s 11th annual Global Shopper Study included some 4,725 shoppers, 1,225 retail associates and 430 decision-makers from North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East who were interviewed in October and November 2018 by Qualtrics.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...