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SURVEY: Consumers avoid store service

By Retail Technology | Thursday September 5 2013

New research suggests consumers are being driven online by increasingly bad shopfloor retail experiences

Consumers know more about the products they are buying than the person selling it to them driving them online, according to new research from digital retail experience and technology company, Red Ant.

The research found that a lack of product knowledge from shopfloor sales staff is something 67% of consumers have noticed, with 40% of these deliberately going online to avoid stores that perform badly. Red Ant said this indicates a correlation between failing High Street retail experiences and an increase in online shopping.

The company also asked shop workers for their views and it was clear they shared consumers’ frustrations, with almost half (47%) believing they do not know enough about the products they are selling. Nearly two thirds (63%) said they regularly resort to lying to customers to dodge questions they cannot answer.

Lack of training exacerbates problems

The survey of more than 1,000 UK shopfloor workers carried out by OnePoll this July further revealed that more than half (58%) of frontline staff received less than two hours’ training before being asked to sell a product. Half (50%) said this lack of product knowledge made them feel embarrassed, while 46% said they feel shy or nervous when serving customers. Three quarters of the store staff surveyed (74%) said employers could do more to help their product knowledge.

A recent report from the Centre for Retail Research predicted the closure of a fifth of Britain’s shops in the next five years, as a result of consumers moving online. But Red Ant said its research demonstrates that retailers could avoid this by providing staff with easy access to product information on the shopfloor.

Close to a third (31%) of retail worker said that having a tablet device to provide more in-depth product information would help them increase sales by an estimated 30%. They also said tablet devices would make them feel more valued (33%) and enthusiastic (34%) about going to work.

According to the surveys, the top 10 tactics used by retail workers to avoid serving customers were:

1. Find another member of staff who knows more about the product
2. Lie about the product to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about
3. Make up an excuse to leave them alone on the shopfloor
4. Hide in the store room
5. Go to the toilet
6. Pretend to feel ill
7. Deliberately ignore them and serve a different customer instead
8. Tell them the product they’re interested in isn’t in stock
9. Pretend to be busy doing something else
10. Suggest they visit another store instead

Dan Mortimer, Red Ant chief executive, said: “When I visit a shop, I know I can find all the product information I need in a matter of seconds just by pulling out my iPhone. But I also know that, if I ask a retail worker the same question, the likelihood is they’ll ask me to hang around for a few minutes while they visit the till-point or ask another member of staff for the answer.

Combatting decline of UK High Street

“The decline of the High Street is seen as inevitable, but our research shows that better knowledge and product information for shopfloor staff could improve consumer sentiment and boost employee confidence, increasing the number of sales made instore.

“Many retailers are failing to spot this problem – it’s not necessarily about giving consumers the tools to access the information themselves, it’s about using technology to enable employees to provide a more valuable, enjoyable experience and keep customers coming back for more.

“Smart digital retail experiences matter as much in store as they do online. It is vital retailers learn how to use digital to optimise offline experiences, as happy employees lead to happy customers and a better looking bottom line.”

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