Why Aren't Shoppers Shopping?

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 28 April 2015

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In a recent study by Timetrade, a retail/shopper marketing research organization, cites the reasons why shoppers are leaving stores empty-handed. They claim that 53% of the consumers don't know what exactly to purchase, 90% can't always find the right person to help and 85% leave without buying when they don't find the right person to give them assistance. Those are staggering numbers. It seems that all a retailer needs to do is provide better personal attention and faster service to resolve these issues. But all too often that does not occur.

The research suggests and promotes that the secret weapon for improving customer satisfaction and lowering the phenomenon of people leaving the stores empty handed are: 1) personal attention by your Associates by connecting with indecisive shoppers, and 2) fast service - providing on-demand customer service.

Let's address personal attention first. Here are some statistics. 85% of shoppers buy more than intended when they go to a store without knowing exactly what they want. Additionally 93% are likely to buy when helped by a knowledgeable associate. And 82% buy more when helped by a knowledgeable associate. The solution should be simple. Customers who interact with an associate who knows about the product array, selection, product features and costs can help indecisive shoppers make better and faster choices. Better choices turn into higher sales and customer satisfaction.

Fast service - the research shows that 75% would book a personal appointment in advance if given an option, and 60% of retailers say they are missing a personalized customer experience and finally 75% of retailers report losing customers due to wait related issues. The solution in this case also is obvious. Access to knowledgeable Associates who can provide on-demand customer service coupled with personal attention would raise shopper/customer satisfaction and minimize the chance that they would leave stores empty-handed.

When they surveyed 60 major retailers, 80% noted that sales increased by 25% to 50% when shoppers are assisted by knowledgeable retail Associates. The question becomes how do shoppers define a “knowledgeable retail associate?” The answer is, being smart, fast and mobile-enabled.

  • Smart - the number one wish for two thirds of consumers is on target recommendations. Part-time, inexperienced employees must morph into experts that understand product features and specs, shopper's lifestyles and challenges. Understanding the target audience and ethnographic lifestyle profiles would help in this area. In large retail stores where Associates work different departments every day this is becoming harder and harder to achieve. The answer is spending more time and money on training topics that Associates are passionate about. Traditional computer-based learning techniques won't cut it.
  • Fast - if employees easily figure out what shoppers want and give them faster answers consumers are actually more inclined to spend more time-and money-in the stores. Shoppers are busy and time is money. Just this past week I waited nearly 20 minutes to speak with a service rep at a major big-box hardware store that caused me to be extremely frustrated. Frankly, I thought about leaving at least three times. Retailers must create a culture and a response mechanism so that when they see someone who is confused and looking like they need some help they should approach them and offer assistance and advice even though they may not be dealing with them at that moment.
  • Mobile-enabled - sales Associates need more information about shoppers before they can even ask for help. When Associates know a customer’s needs, background and purchasing history they can provide faster service and more tailored guidance. I'll give you a specific example of this. I needed a garage repair so I called the company that installed my original garage nearly 15 years ago. They had my profile of who I was, what product I had installed, when the garage was last serviced and new product features and inventory that would match my garage for repairs. Within a matter of minutes without ever having me to go look at my garage door or for the repairman to visit my home, I was able to order a new part, make a deposit and schedule a repair date. All this because of a technology/mobile enabled world.

The study makes it pretty obvious and simple. Retailers need to recruit better, educate their Associates about the product mix and services better and teach them how to interact with their customers with an attitude of selfless servitude by providing guidance and assistance. Put your Associates through role-playing to understand what it is like to be in the shopper’s shoes. Give them experiences that they can relate to individually as a shopper, not only as an Associate. Give them the tools, the knowledge and the technology necessary to make them the most responsive, the most knowledgeable and the friendliest Associate that they can be. That is how you get an engaged workforce.