’Tis the Season for Experienced Retail Sales Associates
Many retailers are preparing for the busy holiday shopping days ahead by making sure their websites are working properly, their inventory is up-to-date and their promotions are segmented correctly. Another area they should prioritize is making sure their sales associates are knowledgeable about their products, at least according to the findings of the recently released Retail Buying Experience survey sponsored by eXperticity and conducted by ReRez Research.
What did the survey reveal? A real expertise gap among sales associates in five retail areas: outdoor, sporting goods, hunting or fishing, health and nutrition, and prestige beauty. The survey of 600 consumers, conducted in September, found that while they value sales associate expertise above all else, they very often find such expertise lacking.
“The Retail Buying Experience survey shows that consumers still fundamentally want and need helpful expertise from retail sales associates to guide buying decisions,” says Tom Stockham, CEO, eXperticity. “However, many of today’s retailers have opted for low-cost employees, forcing buyers to turn elsewhere for information.”
In terms of services consumers most desire and value from retail sales associates, according to the survey to the top four were:
- product knowledge (73 percent);
- help selecting the correct product (71 percent);
- category knowledge (69 percent); and
- help finding alternatives when the first choice isn't available (68 percent).
In addition, two in five consumers are routinely disappointed by the lack of expertise of sales associates they encounter in retail stores, according to the survey. The biggest shortcoming? Finding suitable alternatives, cited by 43 percent of consumers. Category knowledge, product knowledge and help selecting products were skills also cited as lacking.
Given the value consumers place on expertise, it’s not surprising that when they can’t find it at brick-and-mortar stores, they look elsewhere. Survey respondents said talking to someone they perceive to be an expert is the most helpful when making purchase decisions (72 percent), followed by online searches (71 percent), online user reviews (66 percent), and traditional product reviews and articles (65 percent).
For retailers, the message is clear: Making sure your sales associates have the proper expertise is good business. As a result, eXperticity outlined the following recommendations:
- Invest in the right people. There are people out there who love and use your and your competitor’s products every day.
- Train the people who love your stuff. Retail employees often get trained in things like how to improve service. That has a place, but if they don’t know the products inside and out, they won’t be able to provide the proper guidance.
- Reward expertise. If your employees are in love with the stuff you sell and know everything about it, than they probably want to be rewarded with your stuff — e.g., discount merchandise, tickets to related events, etc.
- Evangelize the value of helpful expertise. We're all consumers and fundamentally can speak to how a great buying experience impacts your satisfaction. Leading people to the lowest price on your shelf doesn’t build relationships. Ask consumers what they want and why they want it.
How do you go about training your salespeople? I would love to hear from you on this topic. Offer your comments below! And be sure to check out eXperticity's infographic to learn more.