Retail TouchPoints: Nearly 50 percent of Consumers Believe They Are More Informed Than Store Associates

Discussion
Jan 04, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Shoppers found their personal mobile devices to be more efficient than store associates in helping them make buying decisions, according to a new survey from Motorola Solutions. But the buying experience improved when sales associates used new technologies as part of their customer service strategies.

The sixth annual installment of the Holiday Shopping Study from Motorola confirmed the increasing connectedness of today’s consumers: Overall, 46 percent of Gen Y shoppers (ages 18 to 34) and 38 percent of Gen X shoppers (ages 35 to 49) reported feeling more in tune with inventory data accessed via mobile devices than through conversations with in-store associates while shopping during the 2012 holiday season. Only 19 percent of Boomer and fewer than 12 percent of pre-Boomer shoppers agreed.

Many retail store managers shared these sentiments: 61 percent said they believe shoppers are better connected to product information than in-store associates.

These perceptions are due in part to shoppers’ seamless access to product information via smartphones. Overall, 52 percent of Gen X shoppers and 64 percent of Gen Y shoppers used their personal mobile devices to research potential purchases and access ratings/reviews, among other shopping-related activities. That compares to only 37 percent of Boomer and fewer than 15 percent of pre-Boomer shoppers.

However, retailers have an opportunity to better connect with shoppers by leveraging mobile technology in stores: 47 percent of all shoppers said they have better experiences when sales associates use cutting-edge technologies to aid in product discovery and decision-making in stores.

Other findings:

  • Thirty-six percent of shoppers believed that store associates using tablets enhanced their shopping experience, and 59 percent of store associates agreed that they could better serve customers if they were equipped with tablets;
  • Fifty-eight percent of retail associates recognized the positive effect of mobile point of sale on the shopping experience;
  • Eighty-two percent of retail associates agreed that improving in-store communication between staff and managers would have a positive effect on shopper satisfaction;
  • Sixty-three percent of store managers agree that they need more real-time information to better ensure customer satisfaction.

Using two complementary surveys, Motorola fielded input from holiday shoppers during November and December 2012. One survey targeted 1,200 U.S. shoppers, while the other was tailored to in-store associates, staff and in-store managers.

How should stores be set up to better serve more mobile-savvy Gen X and Gen Y consumers? What critical parts of the traditional shopping experience do you think may be lost in the push toward more in-store technology?

Join the Discussion!

25 Comments on "Retail TouchPoints: Nearly 50 percent of Consumers Believe They Are More Informed Than Store Associates"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

As I’m preparing my annual 2013 retail trends, I note we are in a new era. It’s the price, not the value.

Parents and retailers have been so concentrated on comparing prices, they often miss making better long term choices—particularly when it comes to better made products like apparel, hotel accommodations and a host of luxury goods.

Smart retailer will understand it is up to them to educate and turn the customer from price back to value. Just because customers research online, open a smartphone or click an app in the store is no reason to think they’ve made the best choice.

My clients still find it is the human connection—for all the shiny objects—that is increasing conversions and UPT—not iPads.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
4 years 5 months ago

Two choices for retailers going forward:

  1. Employ technologies like artificial intelligence in the aisle to quickly and efficiently assist customers better than a $9.34/hr (media retail wage) employee can. Back it up with a wickedly great mobile app to help customers truly help themselves.
  2. Seek, hire, train and nurture incredibly high-skilled, high producing “Brand Ambassadors” to absolutely delight your customers. True Brand Ambassadors must be Super Users of your products and services and infinitely more informed than any customer could hope to be.

The days of getting by with underpaid, under-trained, overworked menial laborers at retail are finished.

These are the new choices. Pick one.

Debbie Hauss
BrainTrust

I think the shopping experience can only be enhanced if store associates are armed with the same (or better) mobile devices than the shoppers. In fact, they will be able to provide better information to shoppers and may save sales/encourage upsells and cross-sells.

Additionally, store workers who are better educated and feel they are equipped with the best information, are more loyal employees and will be better representatives of the brand.

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
4 years 5 months ago

Shoppers have adopted technology to get information they can’t seem to get from in store signage or associates. What this data suggests (and our shopper data concurs) is that human interactions still close the sale—especially for expensive and durable goods purchases.

iPads may not make sense for every Walmart associate, but they do make sense for departments with higher price points and more complex products. Real time inventory location and in aisle check out are quickly becoming table stakes but all the technology in the world can’t replace training and education of the sales associates who use it. For many of us technology is the second line of defense when the humans in the store don’t know enough to be worth engaging. Retailers should think through training so that the selling part of the shopping process isn’t lost. That’s the only way they can fight a price-only driven world.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

First: the Gen X and Boomer age breakdowns have been blurred as reported here. That notwithstanding, there’s little surprise to the obvious take-aways given the report’s source.

What I see as a more telling message is not that sales associates are more helpful when they can utilize mobile devices, but that due to their poor product knowledge/training they NEED these devices to perform their duties well. That points to underlying issues in much of retail: transient sales staff that are unmotivated and often waiting to do anything but retail. As long as things are that way, personal mobile devices will be the consumers best source of support.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
4 years 5 months ago

The news here is not that 50% think they are better informed, it is that only 50% think they are better informed.

Of course there are variances by retailer and retail segment, but I believe the average consumer expectation of store associate expertise these days generally does not go beyond “where is…?” and “do you have any more…?”

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

One of the key takeaways from this survey is that consumers feel better informed that store associates. That’s a bold indictment of store owners and points toward the need for employees to be better trained and empowered.

Why do consumers trust machines more than humans? The machine has more accurate information. Why would consumers value the opinions of strangers over those of employees? They don’t trust the employees.

I’d say that the model is broken. Giving employees tablets so they can “interact” with customers is not the answer. Retail employees need to be treated with respect by management and receive better training, wages and benefits. More WiFi is not the answer.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust
An all out escalating mobile device ‘arms race’ is not the answer. Retailers need to get an accurate and real-time view of what, where, how and why any item is available to their shoppers. Shoppers began their quest for what they are looking for long before they walked across the threshold of your store. They are far more knowledgeable about their destination and goal than any sales associate could ever hope to be. Embrace that reality. The job of the retailer is to be accurately informed to respond to the shopper. Immediate access to accurate product photos, how-to videos, availability and ease of purchase are examples of what sales associates should have when interfacing with your shopper. One major step retailers can take is creating an accurate and seamless publishing and delivery of brand media-from the vendors all the way through to the shopper. Video and images are the communication media that resonate beyond all others at retail. Very few people will take the time to read lengthy descriptions and information while in the store. Video and imagery, however, will convey the needed information quickly and accurately if correctly implemented AND the correct content is published and delivered across all… Read more »
Diana McHenry
Guest
The first piece is simply a reality check—associates should be trained on how to react—to not get defensive or be condescending when a shopper pulls out a smartphone. The associate should embrace the new world and help make what the customer is looking for happen as best they can. In-store folks on the front lines will need to accept that their store technology and processes may be janky, but to focus on the customer nonetheless. It’s not easy to be on the frontlines in any business, but a little training, empathy and encouragement for this staff will help. Case in point: I went into a retailer recently looking for a particular jacket that was selling out. I wanted a certain size and a certain color in time for a certain business meeting. The associate, who was a Gen X or Y er herself, kept trying to ignore that I was also looking up the item online on my groovy smartphone, where the item showed in stock. I could have the jacket delivered overnight from their ecommerce site to my home, but she was saying it could take up to 10 days (so 14 days total elapsed) to get to me… Read more »
J. Peter Deeb
BrainTrust

The obvious answer is to train and arm employees with more technology. I don’t feel that any of the traditional shopping experience will be lost, but that the experience will be enhanced. Shoppers who are browsing will continue to browse, but those looking to purchase will be much better served by informed employees able to access inventory, talk intelligently about benefits and compare prices with their online items and competition. The investment by retailers will be a necessity in many industries to stay current.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
4 years 5 months ago

America’s consumers are an expanding mosaic of different preferences and comfort zones that are dynamically revising.

Mobil-savvy consumers are on the rise and represent a fast-growing market. They are the future and they must be accommodated. On the other end of the spending spectrum are the less-savvy traditionalists who still have bucks to spend. They are quite valuable to the here and now.

To serve both consumer horizons well and profitably, as well those groups in between, the retailer should create a well-balanced environment were all spenders can find their comfort zones.

As we move more into the future, which we must, it’s still too early to push in-store technology faster than natural mutations and thereby preserve whatever exists that was built to last through such changes.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust
Once again we rush to technology as the retail savior. For goodness sakes step back a little and let us ponder. First, I’d bet 50% of people visiting their physician or vet are more informed than the doctor. So no surprise there. The fact is “information” is a level playing field and the old days of keeping the unwashed peasants illiterate so you could tell them what to think and do are over. Deal with it. “If only I had a tablet!” retail associates plead. And you’d do what with it…check inventory? No tablet can replace your brain and your heart! Seems to me what shoppers need is help on what to do with their vast information. And that’s called “wisdom.” There is no “Wisdom App,” at least not yet. Wisdom comes from people who care, think and communicate. Second, what opens people up to your wisdom is a “relationship.” Is there real human to human connection, energy, vibe, chemistry? No app for that either. The highest score resulting from these surveys is buried under “Other”—a whopping 82% of associates say it would help a lot if there were communicative relationships within the store. Don’t need a tablet for that… Read more »
Warren Thayer
BrainTrust

Depends on the kind of store, but the greatest need for tablets in the hands of salespeople is in stores with high-ticket, complicated products. One cool add-on here might be computer stations in the store where people could key in products and get info on them and their location in the store.

I’m a boomer who works well with a computer but often has a less than pleasant time with tablets and smart phones (I turned in my smart phone for a stupid phone, and love having it back.) I’m a little surprised that high-tech stores don’t do a better job of recruiting and paying store employees. You’d think that real differentiation would bring more people into the stores, and more sales/profits, which would more than pay for the extra couple bucks an hour. But I don’t think it’s realistic to expect a fundamental change in how retail works, or the nature of human nature.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

I think retailers have two choices:

  1. The instant gratification model where the customers know what they want and retailer there is just to fulfill with vending machines and employees trained on speed and fulfillment.
  2. The consultative model where the store associates are well trained and equipped with technology (either company issued or enabled BYOD)or using remote based experts over video.

The fact that consumers think they know more means you either acknowledge it and be a great fulfiller, or change their minds with enabled employees. It would be ideal to do both, but the business model/segment may not support it.

Kurt Seemar
Guest
Kurt Seemar
4 years 5 months ago

The way we shop is changing. As the numbers show, it has not changed for everyone yet; it is in the process of changing. As a result it is a very difficult time to be a sales associate because you need to be able to handle shoppers using technology and traditional shoppers. Most importantly, the sales associate must be able to tell the difference and interact with the customer in the most appropriate way.

The trend toward the savvy shopper is a great opportunity for retailers as consumers are willing to take on some of the responsibilities of the sales associate. Retailers should focus on enabling this type of shopping behavior and training sales associates on how best to service the shopper, cross sell the shopper complementary items and finally to gently correct consumers when better items are available.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

I foresee more self-service in the aisle, and more personalized expert assistance at the “service bar.”

This will be especially true for higher consideration products and those that must work well with other products. Here is where online-supported help systems can make trained employees into service geniuses; and the services themselves into generators of store profit.

Apple Store may be an exemplar for this, but I believe charging a high price for a narrow set of items and providing free assistance may be challenged by a model that offers highly competitive prices for products, coupled with reasonably priced, reliable services that ensure consumer success.

Relationship retailing would follow naturally in this scenario. Mobile tools and and online expert systems would be enablers.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Throughout the threads here is a common message. Shoppers look for various services when they enter a store. And of course that varies dependent on the type of store. First off, they have researched and they are ready to buy. All they need is direction, perhaps some clarification questions and then ease in checking out. Kiosks, self serve, etc. would be fine here.

Other consumers have done their research and they need wisdom (thanks Ian, You are always spot on). Show these folks to the expert counter. Then there are those who have done little or no research, may not know the brand or its value, are looking for the ‘find’. These folks need your brand advocates. People who are passionate about the brand, live it, know it and can sell it.

I am sure your store may have additional service points, but you get the picture right. Look at the store as the services it offers to each customers and give it to them. I think you can find some price savings in this approach too.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
4 years 5 months ago

First, a retailer should understand their consumer including shopping behavior (trips per year, spend per trip, time in store, etc.) and demographics (age, income, etc.). This data, along with customer interviews (interviews of customers leaving a store), will help you better understand the right way to approach Tablets, mobile, WiFi and other technology solutions in store. One size does not fit all. What works in an Apple store extremely well may not work for let’s say a Walmart for several reasons. Skill of associates, assortment and number of SKUs, constant pricing and promotion changes, etc.

Once you take the time to gather all the data points about your customers, including direct feedback through intercepts, you can then determine the best solutions to test. I am meeting with the executive team of a billion dollar plus retailer next week and that is exactly what we will be discussing.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

This isn’t surprising. What’s not noted in the article is that associates would have to become experts on hundreds of products in order to satisfy the consumer’s interest who randomly appear in front of them.

By contrast, the consumer lasers in on a small consideration set (4 to 8 products) then digs deeply to learn about them.

This creates a fundamental quandary where retail help can only deliver added consumer knowledge in selected areas. Like, buying my son a snowboard where the local board shop’s enthusiasts were of outstanding help—giving us excellent guidance I could have never obtained online.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust

Technology has its place, and I try to embrace it with the caveat that people still make the difference in the success of any business (B&M stores). Poor service is rampant out there, and the few that stand out usually are the busier places, which makes sense.
Tablets, and Bluetooth headgear may look cool, but I have talked to some of these employees about an item I want, and they are no smarter with the device, which tells me that real training is needed.

It is difficult to make all of your employees fully aware of all the goods sold in their stores, but the managers or assistant managers on the floor must know what is happening to help the customer find what they need in a friendly, helpful way. The bottom line for retailers is to make the shopping experience a good one for their customers, or risk losing them to someone else who will do it much better.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

To me the question here is not whether or not people THINK they’re better informed, but whether or not they really ARE; and if the latter, does it tell us how wonderful the ‘net is at providing information, or at how lousy sales staff are at doing the same.

The whole process of “selling” something of course, as opposed to simply being a tour guide, has always been to build upon what peoole don’t know—proverbially convincing people that they can’t do without something they weren’t even aware of—and this hasn’t changed. Of course it’s harder when everyone thinks they’re an expert…or when no salesperson can be found.

Christopher Krywulak
Guest
Christopher Krywulak
4 years 5 months ago

I would agree with Debbie Hauss on this one: Retailers need to equip staff with the same (or better) mobile technology that consumers are using and this means smartphones or tablets that not only provide pricing, product and inventory information but also allow for checkout anywhere in the store or (if an item is out of stock) checkout-to-direct ship the item to the customer’s home.

Of course, having this type of technology on hand will aid retailers in overcoming the knowledge disparity reported in this Motorola study—it will be easier to train staff on the information consumers are seeking, so that ultimately fewer customers will feel they know more than the salespeople.

Having all of these mobile “sales aid” devices on a centralized back-end platform will help retailers easily push content updates to these devices, based on store location, region, company-wide, etc.

Content—which determines the quality of the service, knowledge and customer experience you offer—is truly king.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Store managers and corporate execs have to walk stores regularly. Hourly, for store managers. Weekly for execs. That way they can see first hand what is happening.

I believe that the CPG partners should go back to getting in the stores more often. They need to look at the shopper interactions and where the shoppers spend time. Where they browse and where they buy.

IT will not and should not replace “sales enabled” store staff. The final frontier of differentiation is the human element. TRAIN. MAINTAIN INCENTIVES. REWARD GOOD PERFORMANCE. Stop depending on the next technology widget to save your business.

gordon arnold
Guest

Pseudo intellectuals are a fact of life in every business. In retail they are a daily occurrence that many call customers in place of rudeness. Customers are easily identified as the ones that leave a store or site with a receipt instead of attitude malfunction.

Chandan Agarwala
Guest
Chandan Agarwala
4 years 5 months ago

While privacy may become a challenge, in-store communication is likely to become a win-win proposition for both the retailer and shopper. It can be via a kiosk, tablet of store assistant or, smartphone of shopper. While retailer can render customized services and offerings, the shopper can get more help in making informed decisions.

However, it may be difficult to ensure stable margins with the low-value proposition of large discount retailers, due to investment in the in-store technologies and deployment of associates to offer personalized services.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

To what degree will retailers need to change in-store environments to properly service the needs of an increasingly mobile shopper?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...