Want to convert more fashion shoppers? Empower your sales associates

Market Force just released the results its 2017 Fashion Retail Customer Experience study. For the fifth straight year, Nordstrom received the best ratings, and given the recent publicity about this brand dropping Ivanka Trump, the press has had a field day with the research (see Women's Wear Daily). Once again, Nordstrom’s emphasis on service gets the highest ratings of any brand in our research. Why does that matter? Conversion rates.

We asked consumers to tell us about their most recent experience shopping at their favorite fashion retailer. They rated their overall shopping experience as well as satisfaction with merchandise selection, atmosphere, checkout experience, etc. Consumers also indicated whether a sales associate assisted them during their visit and whether they made a purchase. Results?

42% were assisted by a sales associate.

On average, 85% made a purchase—however, 90% of those were assisted by a sales associate made a purchase compared to 82% who were not. An 8 point difference.

Skilled sales associates made a big impact on conversion rate. At Nordstrom’s, 90% of those who were assisted purchased something—compared to 63% who purchased when unassisted. That’s a 27 point difference and reflects the exceptional skills of the Nordstrom staff.

Even in brands with lower price-points, service made a difference to conversion rates, with brands like Ross Stores, TJ Maxx, and JC Penny’s getting markedly higher lift from their sales associates. 

Sales associates matter in every industry. Investments in both their training and continuous measurement on execution drives ROI. If you would like to purchase a copy of this research or talk more about developing a sales efficacy model and measurement system, contact us at 1-877-329-9621, or schedule a briefing to review the research.

Schedule a Briefing

As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.​

Slow service and rude staff ‘deterring shoppers from high street’

In a recent study conducted in the UK, Market Force found that bad customer service could be stalling a high street revival, with seven in 10 shoppers vowing never to return to a particular store because of a bad experience. (Read more about the study here.)

We found that slow service, rude staff and unavailable items are deterring shoppers from the high street amid Brexit-related price hikes and another disappointing Black Friday. In our survey of 3,000 UK adults, seven in ten respondents have had such a bad experience at a particular store in the last year alone that they vowed not to return.

The most common complaints included slow service, named by 68% of shoppers, unavailable items (52%) and unknowledgeable staff (50%). Shoppers also encountered rude staff (38%), confusing shop layouts (32%) and overly attentive staff (27%).

The online channel provides healthy competition for the high street. One third of consumers report shopping online a few times a week, while another quarter do the same once a week. With such stiff competition from both high street brands and online sites, brands must demand that their locations deliver exceptional service. There’s simply no excuse for alienating customers by not delivering on the basics.

To do that, you must measure whether staff deliver the experience you want for your brand—and you must do that in every location. Without eyes and ears in your retail stores to understand how your brand comes to life in front of customers, you remain blind to the very issues that consumers experience every day. Inspect what you expect.

If you want to discuss with us how to design measurement programs that take the pulse of every location in your estate, please reach out to us by scheduling a briefing or giving us a call at 1-877-329-9621. Our Strategic Advisory Workshops are a great way to help you and your leadership team evaluate your current measurement programs and whether they deliver the insights you need.

Read More About the Study

As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.​

What Do Your Employees Think About Their Jobs? Five Tips for Finding Out!

Retailers with brick-and-mortar stores need to differentiate from online channel retailers. What will help create that differentiation? Engaged staff that love their brand, understand the mission statement and are empowered to create great customer experiences.

To find out whether your brand has created the culture and environment that engages employees, you’ll need to ask them. But doing that, especially across very large organizations, can present obstacles. Here are five tips we’ve created based on our work with large retailers who want to find out what their employees think. 

  1. Design the questionnaire so that it asks about two distinct components: Engagement and Empowerment. Engagement questions will help you understand whether employees are loyal to the brand, understand its mission, and feel like they have opportunities with your company. Empowerment questions will pinpoint whether employees feel they have adequate training and tools to deliver against the job expectations.
  2. Always assure employees that their data is confidential. For example, use email invitation methods that include a unique location code to ensure employees remain anonymous. Employees must be assured that their commentary is safe and there will be no negative consequences for speaking their minds.
  3. Think carefully about whether you can actually reach employees. In the restaurant industry, your brand may not have the ability to contact employees of franchisees—so they will need to focus on corporately owned restaurants. Similarly, you will need to ensure that employees have the tools to answer the survey. Do they have access to PC’s, tablets or phones? Can they respond to both URL and text invitations? Channels will matter.
  4. Survey your employees 2x per year—but only if you are committed to acting on the data. Follow the initial survey with a pulse survey to those who had not immediately responded, aiming for an overall 60% response rate. The second can take place approximately 7 months after you first identify where metrics are changing. And remember—you absolutely must act on the data or you will lose employees’ trust.
  5. Combine the employee engagement data with other data—like mystery shop scores, customer surveys, contact center complaints, and/or financial data. Spend time understanding how employee engagement and empowerment impacts execution to brand standards, the ability to delight customers, and financial metrics. Understanding what your employees needand acting on those needsmay be the best way to grow your business.

To learn more about our employee engagement best practices, schedule a briefing with us. And check out our case study to find out how one retailer used employee engagement surveys to increase customer recommendations and lower service costs. 

Schedule a briefing

Charlotte is a Key Account Manager for Market Force Information Europe. Specializing in the retail industry and working closely with our analytics team, she builds programs that align with business goals and strengthens customer experience management strategies. 

Our Wireless Carriers: What We Love and Hate

Smartphones. Ubiquitous, necessary, entertaining, and the way we connect to our world. Behind those smartphones are our wireless carriers who provide the infrastructure that allow us to make calls, download data, watch videos, play games, and read the news. So what kind of customer experience do the wireless carriers provide—and what do we love and hate about them?

Market Force has just released the results of its CX competitive benchmarks for wireless carriers in both the US and the UK. In addition to identify category winners the research pointed to some key themes:

What We Hate:
  1. Contracts. Consumers gave much higher ratings to non-contract providers (vs. full service) across the board. In the US, seven brands scored higher than any of the four full service providers, led by Consumer Cellular. Non-contract providers are disrupting full service providers—as evidenced by T-Mobile’s dramatic changes to no longer require contracts.
  2. Dropped calls and poor connection quality. In the US, 12% of consumers (17% in the UK) planned to switch providers in the next 12 months—with value being the top driver. And what do consumers say is a source of poor value? Dropped calls, poor quality connections, and slow data transfer rates—all related to connectivity. 
What We Love:
  1. Great sales associates. Great sales associates create great customer experiences. They ask about what we really need and make pertinent recommendations. In the US, 40% of consumers (33% in the UK) buy what the sales associate recommends.
  2. Self service. We need and want a good website with the right information and content. It’s much better to do it yourself online than haggle with reaching the contact center, online chat, or going to the store. In the UK, a great website predicted both customer satisfaction and value ratings.  

With the big four carriers there are limited options for consumers. Many of us are opting for non-contract providers who focus on network quality, great sales associates, and a self-service model. Find out more about what makes us choose one carrier over another by scheduling a briefing. We’d be glad to walk you through the research.

Schedule a briefing


As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.

Use Cameras and Beacons to Understand Customer Experience

Multi-unit businesses strive to gain a better understanding of what truly happens across their expansive network of locations. Being in-tune with the nuances at the location level can be the difference between the success or failure of a brand.  Each location and each shift will either help or hurt in your quest for market dominance. To intimately understand performance we need answers to important questions. Questions like: Are staff interacting with customers? Are we managing queue times effectively? Are we seeing more or fewer customers walk through our doors? Are sales staff interacting with customers? 

Market Force is working with more and more clients who are investing in digital stores as a part of their customer experience management strategy. They are using camera and beacon technology to collect information on customer counts, dwell time, number of customers in line, and time for sales associates to approach customers. In turn, this objective data is combined with customer experience data to get the subjective perspectives on the experience itself, for example, how effective the sales associate was in ascertaining needs and making good recommendations.

The plethora of data can be overwhelming. How can you find the ROI in your camera, beacon, and customer experience data assets? Try these three tips to get started:

  1. In the retail space, cameras count the number of customers who enter the store and the POS system shows the number of transactions. That conversion rate is a key metric—and will vary across locations. Use your customer experience survey and mystery shopping data to explain the difference in conversion rates between your locations. Then set goals to drive improvements on what matters most.
  2. In the restaurant industry, focus on dwell line queues and how well staff greet and connect with customers. Focus on how to better engage staff and whether you have the right labor model to handle the queue and optimize transactions.
  3. Embed a customer experience survey in your app. Ask customers about their experience while they are in the store, and marry those perceptions with your beacon technology tracking in-store movements. Market Force now provides a software development kit for our survey technology to embed surveys in your app—and report on KnowledgeForce.

In a past post our CTO Ben Dards wrote about the importance of looking at customer behaviors not just opinions. Specifically he cited the following; “Cameras, beacons, and app integrations give you extremely insightful information into some operational measures, for example: dwell times, queue abandonment, and conversion rate. When you couple this behavioral data with customer perceptions, you will have powerful new insights into the customer experience and how you can take action.”

Technology is empowering us in new ways to get an affordable and continuous view of reality. We can now monitor behaviors and trigger instant alerts when necessary, while in the background we amass huge amounts of data. By combining a series of behavioral data with subjective measures, and tying it back to specific and quantifiable business outcomes, you can get to a clear ROI and create a plan of action that quickly improves your revenue and reduces your costs.

To learn more about how to create a Location Based Service strategy that leverages your camera or beacon technology, contact Market Force. Our senior strategists have the expertise to blend the right processes and technologies to create cost effective solutions for leveraging your data assets. We look forward to an exciting discussion!


Schedule a briefing


Scott Griffith is Vice President, Executive Business Strategist at Market Force Information. Scott consults with client executives to design strategies that foster growth for companies in early stage ventures through IPO and beyond.

3 Things Women Want From Your Fashion Retail Sales Team

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. 

Are apparel retailers delivering a customer experience that inspires loyalty?

We all know that the fashion industry is highly competitive, with every brand investing heavily in its brand image, marketing, fashion design, quality, price, locations and customer service. Some retailers spend up to 30% of their sales on marketing—driving traffic to stores and e-commerce sites in the hopes of capturing both new customers and more wallet share from existing customers.

Yet, how well do fashion brands capitalize on that marketing spend? Do their individual locations create the experiences required to command loyalty from its customers? The answer is, quite simply, no.

This week Market Force will release its fashion retail industry research. Consumers have given us their opinions about their most recent experiences at the brands they visited. In both the US and the UK, one out of five customers said they had a dissatisfying experience, and less than half said they had a truly great experience. Those numbers really caught my attention. (See infograhpic of US fashion retail research and the UK fashion retail research.)

As I looked at the research, three things caught my attention about how brands can better serve their customers—and capitalize on their opportunities for sales.

  1. Sales associates need to engage with customers. One in three customers in the UK and one in two in the US were assisted by a sales associate. Yet that engagement is—quite literally—worth its weight in gold. Customers who interact with sales associates have 10 points or higher satisfaction ratings and recommendation ratings. More importantly, they spend more of their fashion dollars with brands that provide excellent service. Why? Associates help customers find the right size of clothing, check merchandise availability at other locations, and suggest complimentary clothing and accessories. That deliberate focus on service increases both conversion rates and basket size.
  2. Locations must be equipped to resolve problems. Although relatively few customers (about 6%) reported experiencing a problem during their most recent shopping trip, the manner in which management or sales associates handled those problems had a big impact. One in five customers who felt their problem was not satisfactorily resolved made a negative social media post. Managing social media requires time and resources and negative posts can damage the brand’s reputation—so encouraging your staff to proactively address problems will save everyone the frustration of trying to fix things online.
  3. Use technology to your advantage. 14% of UK customers and 20% of US customers use mobile apps to learn about fashion and share ideas with others, with Pinterest being the most important app. Helping customers create their own look using these tools can engage them with the brand—and turns out to be an important satisfaction driver for the in-store experience.

Whilst we can all get caught up in the omni-channel tech savvy retail world, where mapping out and manipulating customer journeys with contextualisation and personalisation is very real, we need to remember that the basic human elements need to be delivered to a higher standard than ever before to capitalise on all the footfall generation. Having spent the past 5 years working with some of the UK’s leading high street fashion retailers and avidly watching their terrain change into an omni-channel landscape, I am still surprised that some of the most important touchpoints (human interactions) are not given the same importance as their ecommerce channels.

For more information on this new research, contact us to schedule a briefing. You’ll see how customers rate individual brands and the opportunities your brand can seize to win in this very competitive space.

Edward Mason is Vice President, Strategic Relations, Europe. Edward leads the EU team of consultants and programme development professionals that match Market Force's capabilities to our clients' needs, serving the UK, France and Spain. He’s been on board at Market Force since 2009 and has managerial experience in entrepreneurial and venture-backed companies.

Focus Sales Associates’ Attention and Increase Conversion Rates

I’ve been working with retailers for over a decade and I see a common struggle: Sales associates are given a list of items to be done during the day—important things, such as cleaning, merchandising etc. Although they may diligently focus on the items on their ‘to do’ list, they may do that at a cost: Ignoring or underserving their customers.

You’ve no doubt experienced this: A customer walks in the door and the associate remains absorbed re-arranging the merchandise on the shelf or marking new price tags. The customer wanders around the store, picks through a few items, and then leaves. The sales associate missed the opportunity to engage—and that impacts conversion rate and sales.

A clean, well merchandised store is important, but if you want to drive brand loyalty and same store sales, your associates need to do more than clean and stock—they need to connect. How can you focus your sales associates’ attention so their store produces better conversion rates and same store sales numbers? 

Leverage your location-level data to understand ‘what’s most important’

Almost every brand collects data about how their locations adhere to brand standards (mystery shopping or audit), what customers think about the brand itself and the experiences they have shopping either online or in stores via customer experience surveys. The key to understanding which of those behaviors most impacts sales is to analyze your customer—that data is worth gold when bumped up against financial data for the store, including sales, loyalty card data or through location-based data, like traffic counters, dwell time, and conversion rates.

Once all that data is assembled, the analysis should focus on pinpointing the critical drivers of conversion and/or average transaction size. As an example, in one study conducted by Market Force for a specialty retailer, analysis of customer experience data identified six “helpful acts” for sales associates to perform that showed a positive impact on customer loyalty. Once we added sales and transactional data to the analysis, we found that three of those six ‘helpful acts’ in combination directly impacted not only customer satisfaction but also conversion rates and average basket size. Those locations that executed well on the six drivers had a 6% higher conversion rate than those that did not.

Now that you know what’s important, train your teams to drive customer loyalty and revenues

By creating the predictive model that shows which sales associate behaviors most impact loyalty and conversion rates, you will empower your teams to focus on those specific behaviors that matter most. Once you have trained your teams, relentlessly measure execution of these behaviors—and watch your conversion rates and sales rise.

Kelly Massey serves as vertical practice lead for retail brands. She works with clients ranging from home improvement retailers to iconic fashion brands, focusing on how to improve same store sales and conversion rates at every location. 

Get a case study

Schedule a Briefing

To discuss your needs for improving performance for your multi-location brand, give us a call. We’d be happy to discuss best practices for measuring the customer experience and compliance to brand standards, using analytics to understand what matters most and the ROI for change, and technology solutions that integrate large quantities of data on one single platform. We look forward to a great discussion!

Schedule a Briefing
We've noticed you might not be visiting the appropriate version of our site. Would you like to: