Research from across the Tasman shows more than 70 per cent of consumers believe they are usually better informed about products than the frontline store associates who sell them.
A survey on behalf of Manhattan Associates, which polled 2000 Australian buyers and 100 larger retailers, also revealed that half of respondents place the extensive product knowledge of store associates as their highest priority demand when making a purchase, compared with 15 per cent of retailers believing that this is the most important factor for customer-facing staff.
“Our research has revealed that many retailers are missing opportunities to meet consumer expectations in-store,” said Manhattan Associates, Australia-New Zealand MD Raghav Sibal. “This may work to undermine retailers’ efforts to lure their customers back in-store, following shoppers having turned to the convenience of online shopping in droves during Covid-19 restrictions.
“If retailers aren’t able to fulfil basic consumer expectations, such as store associates being knowledgeable about a brand’s products, they risk consumers making a judgement call that there is no advantage to shopping in-store versus online.”
Similarly, more than a quarter of respondents said their priority expectation for in-store staff was a willingness to check for stock availability, compared to just 18 per cent of retailers.
These and similar mismatches in perception in some cases result in either purchase deferment or a customer sourcing the same product from alternative suppliers.
“Sales associates taking action with these kinds of ‘save the sale’ responses are crucial for retailers to retain customers and prevent them from turning to a competitor’s brand or products,” said Raghav. “Now more than ever, consumers have higher expectations for store associates to go above and beyond to give them the service and get them the products they desire.”
According to Raghav, customers now expect sales staff to access a real-time, single view of stock across the retailer’s full inventory alongside cross-selling opportunities in-store. Consumers are likely to have less patience with brick-and-mortar retailers who fail to convey that capacity.