Why Your Customers Are Leaving Empty-Handed (And What to Do About It)

By Gary Ambrosino, TimeTrade Systems

Retailers are bending over backwards to meet the growing demands of today’s ever-connected consumer; however, most are still coming up short. The traditional rinse-and-repeat practices — slashing prices, offering free shipping and promoting exclusive products — aren’t winning over fickle consumers or helping gain a leg up on the competition.

A major part of the problem: retailers aren’t investing in the areas that consumers really want, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 shoppers. Mobile apps and online shopping can’t replace face-to-face interactions with knowledgeable store associates.

Before retailers start shuffling plans for 2014, or even getting a head start on 2015 planning, take a look at what consumers revealed. The results may surprise you.

Where Retailers Are Missing the Mark

Although most consumers are attached to their devices, they are craving a human connection, and want easier ways to get the face-to-face guidance. Having an overwhelming amount of information at their fingertips — product reviews, customer forums, opinions on social media — isn’t making the buying process easier.

According to the survey findings, more than half of consumers step foot into stores without knowing exactly what to buy — revealing a huge opportunity for retailers to directly influence the buying process. Unfortunately, of those who need help making up their mind, 93% can’t find the right person to help them, and 90% will leave the store empty-handed.

When asked about their standout in-store experiences, consumers revealed the two most sought-after traits of retail associates when shoppers are looking for this help: fast, convenient service and smart recommendations. Turns out, consumers are really looking for is a little personal attention when they shop, and admit that makes the difference between completed sales and walking out the door with money in their pockets.

What makes this problem even worse: retailers know how valuable their in-store employees are when trying to convert indecisive browsers to paying customers: 80% of retailers that noted that sales increase by 25%-50% when shoppers are assisted by knowledgeable associates. That’s a tremendous missed opportunity.

So What Do Consumers Really Want?

When consumers do find the help they need from in-store associates, 93% are likely to complete their purchase. And there’s an even biggest upshot for retailers: Not only that, 85% are likely to purchase more than they had intended when they get the answers and guidance they walked into the store seeking.

The byproducts of one standout, in-store experience can leave lasting impacts on a retail brand. Overall, after being assisted by a knowledgeable in-store representative, 84% of the surveyed consumers leave the store more satisfied and 90% would shop with that retailer again.

Technology can’t replace or replicate the power of spot-on recommendations from the exact person who can help an indecisive shopper. Rather, technology should allow consumers to more easily find that associate. Nearly 75% of consumers would book personal appointments before walking into stores, if given the opportunity, which allows retailers to know exactly what shoppers need in advance and can ensure that customers get exceptional, personalized service every time they shop.

If retailers are looking to bolster sales in 2014, they need to refocus on the customer using their greatest asset: in-store staff. Slashing prices might be a way to get a customer to walk in the door, but it’s the experience that keeps them coming back.

Gary Ambrosino is president & COO of TimeTrade Systems, whose responsive customer engagement platform allows consumers to connect with a brand, anywhere, anytime — and then gives companies deeper insight than ever before about what consumers want next. He can be reached at [email protected].

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