I'm currently doing some research for Graff Retail that entails visiting 40 different retail stores both in malls and power centres. Perfect timing, as I have a lot of spring shopping needs on my list!
Like most of us, I tend to ‘webroom’ a lot, searching for products and services online; however, I then want to visit the stores in person so that I can touch, feel or try on the item. I’ve always loved the entire experience of looking around, discovering new products and feeling like a VIP while a sales associate passionately shows me great brands that would fit me and my lifestyle well. Feeling that excitement when you find a great deal or unique item, or simply just walking around with a tea in hand surrounded by awesome stuff is amazing. I actually find it therapeutic. It's one of the reasons I chose a career in retail; because I've always loved the store experience and I know many of you feel the same way.
I have to be very honest; I was not feeling the love this time around.
What became painfully obvious was that while some sales associates had a lack of interest in serving the customers in the store, the bigger issue was the lack of product knowledge and salesmanship they demonstrated. In the stores where a sales associate did make their way over to greet me, many struggled to engage me in a conversation and fell back on a commonly used opening line “Are you finding everything you were looking for?” (seriously?). When pressed to answer my questions about the products themselves, far too many didn’t know much about the products. It’s pretty hard to sell it if you don’t know it. And it’s really hard to sell it if you don’t know how to sell it.
Retailers are spending millions of dollars to improve all areas of their business including their store design, social media strategies, digital strategies, pricing, speed of fulfillment and more. However, the brand experience is still falling apart because of the performance of the store staff.
92% of customers in Canada are still shopping in stores (and about the same percentage shop in stores in most other countries). So, go ahead and invest in omni-channel strategies and the like, but don’t forget that most of your customers are still shopping in your stores. That experience for your customers is very likely not what you were hoping for.
Teach them the mastery of your business; teach them how to interact with customers; teach them proper selling skills; teach them about the products they sell, including how to sell it and what to add on to it.
I still have about 20 more stores to visit as part of my research. Let’s hope I find that loving feeling again.
Linda Montalbano is a true retail operator with a history of leading large retail teams to success. If you need a fresh perspective on what's going wrong in your stores, Linda is the one to tell you like it is and come up with a solid game plan to turn things around!