Should you leave shoppers alone?

A new study has cast doubt on the common belief that shoppers don’t like to be disturbed while browsing in store.

In fact, the cross-industry survey from digital technology company Mindtree found that shoppers rely on in store interactions to make purchasing decisions. When given assistance, the study found there was a significant increase in the amount of a shopper’s transaction, as well as repeat purchases.

“Conventional thinking in the retail industry is that most shoppers want to be left alone, and that sales associates too often annoy shoppers by trying to offer assistance,” says Sunil Oberoi, Mindtree senior vice president and head, retail, CPG and manufacturing.

“The Mindtree survey paints a surprisingly different picture. Shoppers respond positively when they receive helpful guidance from an associate.”

The purpose of the survey was to understand the role salespeople play in a consumer’s shopping journey. This included surveying 600 shoppers who made a purchase of US$100 or higher in a three month period, and 100 employees from companies spanning five retail segments: home improvement, electronics and consumer goods, department stores, fashion retail, and specialty retail.

Here are some key findings:

1.       Sales assistants influence shoppers’ decisions

You probably could have guessed this one, but shoppers who interact with a sales assistant are 43 per cent more likely to purchase a product, and their transactions have 81 per cent more value compared to those who have no interaction.

Overall, about 70 per cent of shoppers interacted with a sales associate during a shopping trip where they made a purchase, with this going up to 82 per cent for the home décor and furnishings category.

2.       Shoppers want your attention

Although we often think customers just want to be left alone in store, Mindtree found that 84 per cent of people appreciated the help of sales staff when gathering information about the product they wished to purchase. Basically, you need to recognise when a customer needs assistance and leave them alone when they don’t.

3.       Millennials need help too

While we think of millennials as being all about online, the research found that about 80 per cent of shoppers aged between 18 and 35 interacted with sales associates. In comparison, only 63 per cent of shoppers aged between 36 and 50 were willing to chat.

4.       Who is your lost shopper?

Do you know why shoppers walk out of your store and into your competitor’s? According to the survey, the majority of shoppers (57 per cent) left a store because they didn’t find the right price; 36 per cent were unable to find the right style (size, colour etc.); and 39 per cent said they either received no assistance or were not satisfied with the information provided.

While staff members were aware that their influence could lead to more sales, they found themselves caught between assisting serious shoppers and casual browsers, reducing their efficiency and conversion ratio.

5.       It’s all about the experience

With more choices available to shoppers than ever before, we all know it’s important to find new ways to attract and retain customers to bricks and mortar stores. Mindtree says that personal service in stores is essential to keeping shoppers happy, along with creating attractive displays and spending time to assist needy shoppers.

By Ruth Cooper