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When Your Customers Know More Than Your Salespeople

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • A host of findings from nine studies
  • Five elements of a good shopping experience
  • How new technologies can enhance the in-store customer experience

Consumers' in-store expectations have changed as online shopping has become more prevalent. Before entering a store, consumers can use the Web and mobile devices to determine the product they want, the price they are willing to pay, and the most convenient location to purchase it.

Today, buyers are looking for accessible and engaging in-store experiences. Shoppers expect the convenience of shopping online while taking advantage of the benefits in-person shopping offers, such as the ability to try a product firsthand.

Technology plays a significant role in consumers' certainty about a product: 60% of shoppers in a study said online reviews were more significant than traditional media, in-store employees, and social networking.1

Shoppers would rather research products on the Internet than talk to in-store staff1 according to the same study, and 51% of customers said online reviews written by consumers provide more influence toward purchasing a product, according to another survey.2

Bridging the Information Gap Between Sales Staff and Consumers


As more and more shoppers become empowered with knowledge gained via online resources before making a purchase, salespeople are becoming less and less effective, especially in wireless and electronic retail stores. Many tech-savvy consumers enter a store already aware of their options and the products available. Meanwhile, retailers try to hire the best salespeople available, but they face common challenges related to training and retention.

The following study findings provide insight into consumer behavior today.

Retailers acknowledge that the information gap between customers and salespeople further deteriorates the quality of the customer experience:

  • 55% of retailers say customers are more connected to data than to store associates.3
  • 87% of retailers agree that consumers who use online shopping tools and price-comparison applications can find better deals more easily.3

In-store smartphone research influences 39% of walkouts:

  • 12% of customers compare retailer prices online.3
  • 8% of customers check product availability at other retailers' stores.3
  • 49% percent of customers use two or more (mobile, online, or in-store kiosk) channels to shop, a 36% increase from 2009 to 2010.4

Shoppers are better informed:

  • 39% read eight or more reviews in 2010 (versus 22% in 2007).5
  • 57% consult online reviews and peer recommendations prior to buying electronics.6
  • 41% are more likely to share negative product experiences online via Twitter or by writing a review.6

Sales Teams Must Be Better Equipped With Product Information

Wireless retail employees who have access to interactive technology, such as touchscreen kiosks, can quickly guide customers through the decision-making process. Such kiosks that have a user-friendly interface can allow shoppers to experience elements of both online and mobile shopping in a store environment.

Interactive kiosks also provide the sales team with the same up-to-date information that shoppers receive. Those kiosks can train staff to increase sales effectiveness, boost productivity and commissions, and ultimately improve retention.

Attracting Customers and Keeping Them Engaged

Because shoppers are seeking a more informative, engaging, and efficient buying experience, a combination of technology and service is best for grabbing their attention and keeping them browsing in-store.

Similarly, mobile-device shoppers, despite their ability to look up product prices online, still need to try out products at a physical store.

A 2010 Accenture survey found that shoppers prefer to buy mobile devices in-store, where retailers can effectively upsell, cross-sell, and teach customers how to use products and services.7

Retailers must "introduce technologies such as interactive digital displays, video assistants, social networking technologies and Wi-Fi networks that enable shoppers to remain connected with trusted people and information while they are in the store."1

Comparing Good and Bad Shopping Experiences

A 2009 study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that great shopping experiences are characterized by five elements:8

  1. Engagement: Being polite, caring, and interested in customers while being available to help and listen
  2. Brand experience: Giving customers an exciting shopping layout and consistent product quality, and helping customers feel that they are special
  3. Execution: Offering patient advice and explanations, checking product availability, sharing product knowledge, and providing product quality when it's unexpected
  4. Expediting: Being considerate of customers' time, being aware of long checkout lines, and speeding up the shopping process
  5. Problem recovery: Helping to resolve and providing compensation for problems, upgrading quality, and ensuring complete shopper satisfaction

To create the ultimate in-store experience, retailers must also examine what is going wrong with the current process.

Surveys have found that negative mobile-device shopping experiences include the following:9

Long Waits for Help

  • 28% of walkouts ended with an average of $132 unspent due to limited sales assistance, out-of-stock products, and long checkout processes.
  • More than 50% of associates said they didn't have much time to help shoppers because of the need to complete alternate tasks.

Confusing Pricing

  • Retailers have not yet invested in technology that meets the price-comparison demands of tech-savvy shoppers.

Limited Selection/Out of Stocks

  • 34% of retail managers cited frustration when told about an out-of-stock product after getting complaints instead of knowing ahead of time.

Interactive Retail Technology Can Deliver All of Those Requirements

Today's customers demand engaging and convenient shopping experiences, salespeople who can answer the hard questions, and stores that offer product availability.

Key decision-makers will find that the face of the retail store is changing. With interactive retail technology in place, stores will see a major drop in walkouts and a real increase in consumer interest, sales efficiency, and profitability, because it delivers the following five benefits:

  1. Pull customers into the store. Interactive displays draw customers in with attractive ads and intriguing moving images.
  2. Deliver the convenience and information of online and mobile-shopping experiences. Interactive retail increases conversion rates and cross-selling by displaying relevant and timely product information and reviews, as well as in-store promotions, to customers.
  3. Deliver a personalized mobile-shopping experience. Digital screens and integrated software enable retailers to customize the experience of each shopper, maximizing customer profile information, purchase history, inventory data, and more.
  4. Keep customers engaged while in-store. Solutions available to retailers today give customers the opportunity to entertain and educate themselves while waiting to speak to a sales associate.
  5. Expedite and facilitate the mobile-shopping process. Those services provide dynamic sales aides to communicate product benefits and speed up the sales cycle.

***

1Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group Study, January 2011
2Deloitte: Why Wi-Fi (in stores) Study, January 2011
3IBM Survey: Capitalizing on the Smarter Consumer, December 2010
4e-tailing group/PowerReviews Social Shopping Study, May 2011
5Nielsen Global Online Shopping Study, March 2010
6Accenture Survey: Carriers Say Retail Channel Is Essential to Success, September 2010
7Wharton Study of Great Retail Shopping Experiences in North America, May 2009
8Consumer Reports Survey: Phone Buying Experience, May 2010
9Motorola Solutions Survey: Shoppers Better Connected than Store Associates, January 2011

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, The Idea.)


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Christopher Krywulak is CEO of iQmetrix, a leading provider of solutions to the wireless retail industry.

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