Inside This Issue - Opinion
Gaps in in-store service exposed by technology
January 24th, 2011
The recently released results of Motorola Solutions’ annual holiday study include a finding with important implications for retailers — 55% of the 545 in-store associates who participated in the survey thought that consumers had better access to pertinent information than they did.
The reason is not hard to pinpoint. With the proliferation of web sites and mobile phone applications, shoppers can instantly retrieve data about products, pricing and promotions that not all that many years ago would have required a considerable amount of time and effort to gather and analyze.
The growing empowerment of consumers fundamentally alters the relationship between merchants and the people who shop their stores. Customers can no longer be counted on to passively accept what any given retailer has to offer in terms of merchandise assortments, pricing and service. Motorola Solutions’ research, which was conducted online from December 2 through December 17 and included a separate survey of 1,056 consumers, found that 28% of shopping trips ended without a purchase, leaving an average of $132 on the table.
The lost business resulted from shoppers conditioned to buy only on deal, out-of-stocks, long checkout times and inadequate service.
While all of those reasons should concern retailers, service may be the most pressing problem. If shoppers don’t receive the attention they deserve from store associates, or if they get the attention but find an associate is less well informed than the customer, everything the retailer stands for begins to be called into question.
Consumers have every right to expect that the people who sell products will know a good deal about them. If it turns out that the shopper is indeed better versed than the employee, the chances of losing a sale and, ultimately, a customer are great. Similar dynamics can be seen with self-checkout technology. There’s no excuse when an untrained consumer can scan and pay for items more efficiently than a store associate.
With the proliferation of online and mobile shopping options, service in brick-and-mortar stores is crucial. Retailers that succeed in preparing their personnel to help customers make the right product choices for them, while at the same time ensuring a pleasant shopping experience, will benefit from a compelling point of difference in an increasingly complex marketplace.