Want to provide a better experience for your in-store customers? You may want to try getting out of the way.
That’s according to a 2018 study of more than 2,900 adults and children in the U.S. and Canada that was conducted by retail research organization HRC Retail Advisory. The survey found that a majority of buyers prefer to be left alone to browse and would rather get more of their information independently, rather than from a human store associate.
Of those surveyed, 85% preferred checking prices on a scanner instead of asking a store employee and 76% said having an in-store app to get information about products is important.
“It’s not that they don’t want any service at all, but what consumers increasingly want is to be able to control the service they are looking for,” Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, said in this Reuters report.
So, does this mean you should be firing your employees and replacing them with tech? Not at all. But retail is changing, and so are your customers. So it’s best to recognize what customers want and take a few actions.
Action 1: Assess How You Do Business
Take a look at your business. Some customers need more hand-holding than others. The HRC Retail Advisory study found that customers looking for clothing and other types of apparel were more likely to desire to be left alone for their browsing. However, customers searching for new electronics, like TV sets and computers, favored talking to store employees.
If your products are unique or need explaining to the common buyer, then you’ll probably want to make sure you have a more people-oriented approach. But if most of the product information can be explained without a person intervening, then you should consider changing how that information is delivered.
Action 2: Get Mobile
If your products can be more easily explained with technology, then I strongly advise you to make this investment. To do this, consider creating a mobile app that customers can use to access information about your products (check out Fiverr, Upwork, or Thumbtack to find an inexpensive developer).
Or you can invest in a good point of sale ecommerce system like Revel, Shopify, or Magento where information about your products can be made available through a mobile app or tablets you place around your store.
Action 3: Train Your People
Your value-add, as a small merchant, is to provide a level of service that bigger companies can’t. Don’t overwhelm the customer with human attention. But when that attention is needed, make sure you deliver it with well-informed, professional, and friendly salespeople. To do this, training is a must. Consider sending your people to programs like those offered by Bob Phibbs or a local university or training institute.
The lesson here is about information. Regardless of what people are buying from you, today’s impatient customer wants to get information about products as quickly and as accurately as possible. Most shoppers — and I’m one of them — don’t care as much about how we get it, so long as it’s fast. As a merchant, you’ve got to meet this challenge if you want to profit and grow.