Shopping for new clothing: It can be the best of experiences and the absolute worst, with generally one of two outcomes. Women can leave your store with a spring in their step and confidence in how fabulous they look ... or they can leave discouraged and frustrated because nothing fits, they couldn’t find the right thing, or they had trouble putting together the ensemble they wanted. Your fashion retail sales associates can make all the difference to a woman’s shopping experience.

In our recent fashion retail research (just featured on CNBC news), Market Force Information found that only half of consumers in the US and one-third in the UK were helped by a sales associate. As noted in blogs by my colleagues, that engagement boosted customer satisfaction and conversion rates. What do successful sales associates do to drive satisfaction?

1. Make it easy to buy

One of the key drivers of satisfaction and purchase is simply being able to find the right merchandise—and yet even the best brands received relatively low marks for being able to find the right merchandise and sizes. Great sales associates help women find just the right white blouse or that lovely scarf on the mannequin. They help find the right size, and may provide several different sizes of the same item, noting that a brand tends to run large or small. When items are not in the store, sales associates need to call other locations or check the online store to locate the item. Sales associates can help bridge the gap between a bewildered or frustrated customer who has little time to explore and the actual sale.

2. Help the customer look their best.

Finding the right look—including those just-right accessories to pull an outfit together—is another key driver of satisfaction and purchase. Yet only 16% of associates in the UK and 26% in the US suggested complimentary clothing or accessories. What a lost opportunity! Sales associates can easily increase basket size while at the same time helping a customer feel she looks fantastic. 

3. Add two small touches.

Some brands emphasize their use of fair trade and thoroughly vetted working conditions for off-shore workers. Others may emphasize the source and quality of their materials. Ask sales staff to underscore and emphasize these points—especially with millennial—to differentiate your brand.

These tips will help your associates increase both customer loyalty and basket size. To measure how well they actually do that—in every location that carries your brand flag—we highly recommend you build a sales efficiency model and use mystery shopping and customer intercepts to measure performance. See our case study below on a sports clothing retailer for how they did exactly that.

Read the case study

Beth Whinnett is a Vice President at Market Force Information, where she oversees both the UK Operations and Strategic Relationship teams serving clients. Beth's background in sales and marketing give her a keen appreciation of the hard work required to grow a business, and that fuels her emphasis on quality delivery to clients. 

Tags: retail