About 83% of shoppers believe they’re more knowledgeable than retail store associates, though 79% say being able to engage with knowledgeable store associates is “important” or “very important,” according to a new survey from Tulip Retail, which provides mobile software and services for retail sales associates.
However, almost half of survey respondents said they would be encouraged to shop in-store if they could talk to knowledgeable store associates who could suggest products based on their purchase histories. About 73% said they would be interested in having a store associate text or e-mail them about order status, including items being shipped to the store for pickup, while 72% who have dealt with a store associate who uses a mobile device to provide things like product info, credit card checkout, and inventory look-up said it resulted in a better shopping experience.
Meanwhile, 63% of consumers prefer to shop both in-store and online, and 64% of respondents said physical retail locations will be part of their shopping journeys in the future.
The biggest takeaway here is not that shoppers hate store clerks, or that those associates personally lack intelligence, fundamental skills or amiability. In fact, the survey results further revealed that 53% respondents said they believe that store associates are either “very valuable, very helpful” or “valuable, helpful." Almost 30% even know the store associates by name at the retailers where they shop.
No, the biggest takeaway is really that store associates with advanced technology at their fingertips and quicker access to more information — both general store information and customer-specific information — would lead to more satisfied customers. More specifically, the results suggest that giving store staffers mobile devices to help them engage with shoppers would help, a notion that dovetails with the results of a recent International Council of Shopping Centers survey that showed customers want to see more integration between in-store and mobile capabilities.
Another big takeaway is that shoppers actually see a future for brick-and-mortar stores, saying they believe these stores will continue to be part of their shopping processes. That might come as a surprise as retailers are closing brick-and-mortar outlets, and otherwise struggling to convert their organizations and their stores to survive in an era when e-commerce is far outpacing physical store commerce.
The survey showed that 77% of respondents believe the biggest advantage of shopping in-store is the ability to touch, try on, and see products. That's encouraging, but retailers should sleep on the possibility that consumers will continue to visit their physical locations no matter what they do. While the opportunity to engage with a store associate is obviously not the main reason anyone goes into a store, being able to engage with someone at a store who can help shoppers find the products they're interested in and offer relevant details or opinions about those products can provide value that nudges the consumer toward completing a purchase — whether the shoppers themselves think so or not.
Confronted with the need to adapt to a new retail market landscape, many retailers are readily and eagerly investing in new technology, data analysis capabilities and new features and services to offer consumers. In doing that, they shouldn't forget one of the most fundamental pieces if their store operations: The people. Some traditional aspects of brick-and-mortar stores may be going out of style, but the people who staff those stores can adapt — if they are given the right tools and training.