BOSTON: Almost three-quarters (72%) of US consumers plan to shop in-store in 2016 as much as they did last year, but many expect brick-and-mortar retailers to provide a faster and more personalised service.

While the headline finding from TimeTrade, an online appointment scheduling firm, will provide some comfort for retailers, its survey of more than 5,000 shoppers and 100 senior retail executives also reveals a growing disconnect between customer expectations and what services are currently on offer.

Prompt service (54%) is the most highly prized experience for consumers, but personalised experience (30%) and smart recommendations (30%) are also important considerations, the survey found.

Indeed, lack of prompt assistance can provoke 85% of consumers to leave a store and abandon their intended purchase.

Elsewhere, TimeTrade found that only 27% of customers feel retailers provide a consistent customer experience across channels, whereas half (51%) of retailers believe they succeed in this area.

Similarly, 51% of consumers say call centres provide the worst customer experience, but just 5% of retailers think that is a top priority for improvement in 2016.

Furthermore, a full 59% of US consumers would like shop assistants to know the items in their online shopping carts, but only a quarter (24%) of retailers currently have that capability and only 12% are looking to introduce it within the next 18 months.

TimeTrade said that service expectations are rising quickly, but this could still provide an opportunity for retailers who can tailor their in-store shopping and provide a VIP experience.

"Consumers' increasing demand for concierge-like services is forcing retailers to improve the connection between digital and physical and put a greater focus on enhancing the in-store experience," said Gary Ambrosino, CEO of TimeTrade.

"Stores will remain the top shopping channel in 2016, but omnichannel retail will play a key role in driving the changing shopping experience. Retailers must evolve their approach to meet the rising expectations of today's digitally savvy and increasingly informed consumer."

Data sourced from TimeTrade; additional content by Warc staff