Study: Retailers Losing Sales Due to Ill-equipped Associates

Forty percent of shoppers say the most important reason they shop in physical stores is to access help and advice, yet 74 percent also say their biggest frustration when interacting with sales associates is lack of product knowledge.

"As webrooming behavior increases, store associates are facing informed shoppers that demand more detailed information," said April Dunford, COO of Tulip Retail. "Our findings clearly show that sales associates are unprepared to support today's shoppers, leading to a real letdown in customer experience."

The recently unveiled 2014 Sales Associate Interaction Study focuses on how shoppers interact with store associates and analyzes shopper behavior in retail stores.

Lack of informed store associates costs retailers sales
With a wealth of information available online, shoppers' demands of in-store sales associates are growing:
  • 71 percent of shoppers expect sales associates to know product information
  • 77 percent of shoppers expect sales associates to know store information
  • 78 percent of shoppers expect sales associates to know inventory information
When asked how helpful sales associates were in meeting shoppers' needs (based on their last retail store visit), only 36 percent said "very helpful" for responding to product questions, and only 34 percent said "very helpful" for inventory questions.

This disconnect impacts profits for retailers, as the study found that the level of service provided by sales associates has a direct correlation with shopper spending. Ninety-two percent of shoppers who received "very helpful" service purchased in-store and 97 percent purchased as much or more than planned.

On the other hand, 68 percent of shoppers who did not find sales associates helpful did not make a purchase at all.

"Sales associates are earning a failing grade on even the simplest of customer service requests," Dunford said. "Without this basic foundation, associates can't begin to offer the next level of customer service, like recommendations."

Mobile technology greatly helps sales associates
The study also found that 56 percent of shoppers currently expect sales associates to use mobile technology on the sales floor. That number swells to 80 percent when shoppers were polled about their expectations in two years.

"Retailers should take advantage of the opportunity they have to equip sales associates with mobile technology," said Dunford. "Sales associates remain retailers' biggest assets, but they need technology to support their customer service interactions. The worst case scenario is that retailers miss an opportunity to make a sale to a shopper that's ready to buy, but ultimately doesn't because of poor in-store assistance. Mobile technology, like beacons, tablets or check-in features, help sales associates provide additional value to shoppers."

Survey methodology
The 2014 Sales Association Interaction Study polled 514 U.S. consumers ages 18-65, using an online survey in November 2014. The study analyzed shopper behavior and preferences while visiting retail stores or websites with a focus on interaction with sales associates.

Respondents' insights were further broken down based on demographic qualifiers, including age and income.

Tulip Retail completed this study to help brands and retailers gain a better understanding of how shoppers leverage informational resources, including in-store sales associates and emerging mobile technology, during their shopping trips.
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