2017 is now in the books and while the year saw many prognosticators predicting the end of retail as we know it, I am happy to report that according to a MasterCard SpendingPulse report released the day after Christmas, retail spending in the United States was up 4.9% in 2017 compared to the same period last year.

This data has everyone in the retail space feeling optimistic that our new economy will help them overcome some of the headwinds they faced in previous years leading up to 2017. They are right. And they are wrong. As we saw last year, delivering the same (stale) retail experience as you always had leads to customer indifference to your offer. We have all walked around aimlessly looking for someone to help us. We have seen apathetic retail team members going through the motions. This leads to store closures. It leads to irrelevance and, eventually, bankruptcy. So what can a retail brand do to better compete in our new economy?

We have written many times of the importance of sales efficacy in the retail selling environment (see, for example, Ace Hardware and GameStop). How a customer perceives sales associate engagement is a tremendous driver to how well a retail brand performs overall. According to Market Force Information’s pending Fashion Apparel Consumer Preference and Competitive Benchmarking study that surveyed over 10,000 consumers, 86% of customers who visited a retail location in the last 90 days made a purchase while they were in the store. Of those customers, only half (51%) were assisted by a sales associate. This means that the customers who made up the other half were not engaged at all. We can’t help but wonder what happened to the customers who didn’t find what they were looking for, or for the lost opportunities for a better shopping experience and bigger tickets!

Now more than ever, retailers need to ensure that they have adequate staffing in their stores and sufficient training for team members with a prescribed sales process to help associates understand customer needs. According to our study, only 38% of the customers that made purchases felt that their sales associate understood their needs and made relevant product recommendations. In reviewing the impact of effective salesmanship and customer assistance on the sales floor, the most effective sales associates create a 26% higher likelihood to recommend score and a 31% higher overall satisfaction score. Along with ensuring your retail sales team has the tools they need to be successful, it is a best practice recommendation to develop a mystery shopping program to inspect what you expect and better understand how well your retail teams are executing on your brand standards.

Learn how we are helping companies increase sales efficacy, not just in apparel, but across industries, by scheduling a briefing today.


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Brad Christian is the Chief Customer Officer at Market Force and has been with the company for 11 years consulting with leading brands on how best to implement customer experience programs that provide insight into strategic investment decision-making that helps them protect their brands, delight their customers and make more money.