A recent survey from Tulip Retail reveals that 83% of shoppers believe they're more knowledgeable than retail store associates. However, associates are still valued, as 79% of respondents say that knowledgeable store associates are "important" or "very important."
“Our survey had some sobering findings that should keep executives of brick-and-mortar retailers up at night—the fact that nearly 90% of respondents shop at Amazon and that store associates are not meeting customer expectations,” said Ali Asaria, CEO of Tulip Retail. “But there’s also some really good news for retailers that our survey uncovered—knowledgeable store associates are valued by shoppers, and those empowered with mobile technology are delivering better shopping experiences. Bottom line, investing in store associates needs to be a high priority. With the right tools, they can become beacons of knowledge, trusted advisors and drive sales.”
About half of respondents said that a knowledgeable store associate who is able to suggest products would encourage them to continue shopping in-store. And 72% said that dealing with an associate using a mobile device, such as for product info or credit card checkout, resulted in a better shopping experience. In addition, 73% of shoppers would like to receive a text or email from an associate about the status of an order.
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"This knowledge gap will put additional pressure on retailers to make their associates even more knowledgeable, better trained and more useful in helping shopper," Bill Zujewski, EVP of marketing for Tulip Retail, told FierceRetail. "The front-line worker will need to be empowered with iPads/tablets or iPhones/smartphones and mobile apps for instant access to product information, inventory, customer preferences, order status and history, mobile checkout, communication and collaboration tools. Customers will expect associates to be mobile-empowered, as best-in-class retailers do this and set this expectation." Zujewski adds that moving forward, retailers will have to embrace mobile technology for their workers and invest more in providing them with the right training.
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The good news is that consumers seem to still value the in-store experience, so much so that 30% know the store associates by name. Seventy-seven percent said they like the chance to touch, try on and view products in person. More than half, 63%, shop both online and off-line.
Stores will continue to play a role in most retail categories, especially in apparel and luxury, according to Zujewski. There is still a large percentage of the population that enjoys shopping and visiting stores either for the experience or to touch the product. However, he notes, the size of retail footprints may change as more retailers move to an omnichannel model and move inventory online, resulting in stores as showrooms rather than distribution centers.