Digitalizing Bricks and Mortar: A Study on How New Technologies Affect Customer Experience in Physical Retail Stores

Giacomo Perini & Erik Francis L'Estrange

Student thesis: Master thesis


It is critical for firms to understand how the tools they employ affect the way their customers experience being in their stores. As online retail grows like a snowball rolling downhill, bricks-andmortar retailers have to ensure that they are using the right tools to stay relevant. Revolutionary technological advances such as the development of interactive robots powered by artificial intelligence, beacon technologies that communicate with users based on proximity, digital personal
assistants and stores without check-outs can completely change the way consumers interact with the company and the way they shop in retail stores.
In this thesis, the authors aim to investigate and explain the impact these new technologies have on the customer’s experience in terms of behaviour, emotions and perception. To reach this understanding, an examination of pre-existing literature, business journals and concepts is followed by a mixed methods study. A survey with 101 respondents is conducted in order to map out perceptions and sentiments, and then 17 qualitative interviews with a total of 26 respondents further investigate the trends identified in the survey responses. An analysis is then conducted of the data, and insights about consumer behaviour with new retail technologies are identified. Sentiment reactions of joy, surprise, and fear are identified discussing robot or artificial intelligence. This is followed by the discussion, elaborating on what the analysis indicated. The main findings pointed out how consumers will potentially increase the transaction frequency in new cashier-less stores, how consumers will accept trading their own personal information for convenience despite their concern for safety and privacy, that information provided to consumers in-store has to be designed and timed
carefully, and that digital personal assistants are likely to become part of the retail experience of the future. Lastly, it is found that robots are not likely to replace humans in retail stores anytime soon, but that they can provide several benefits to retailers as well as customers. After the discussion, a conclusion is provided.
In the final chapter, the managerial implications that the findings suggest for a selection of relevant technologies are presented. The implications primarily regard considerations that retailers should keep in mind in order to make educated choices for which technologies to adapt into their stores. The contribution made to literature is also clarified in this chapter, as well as the identified areas and
authors’ suggestions for future research.

EducationsMSocSc in Service Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages108