Shoppers Have Mixed Feelings About Salespeople

Survey finds more than 80% think they know more than retail staff

March 16, 2017

In another sign of changing consumer expectations of the retail experience, a new survey found that 83% of US internet users think they know more than retail sales associates, even though nearly as many still consider salespeople important to the shopping experience.

The February 2017 survey by Tulip Retail, a mobile platform for retailers, found that 79% of respondents said that having a knowledgeable salesperson was “important” or “very important.”

But this and other surveys increasingly point to the challenges of catering to shoppers who tend to feel empowered by the information they can find on their phones, and a reluctance to interact with salespeople. A study released earlier this week by the International Council of Shopping Centers found that more than three-fifths of consumers expect that by 2020 they will prefer to be left alone rather than engage with store personnel.

The tension between providing service and leaving customers alone is only likely to deepen over time, given the ways that younger people use their phones. As reported earlier this week in eMarketer Retail, teens and young adults use their smartphones in-store more than the average consumer—and those uses don’t necessarily involve the purchases they may be considering, suggesting that they are even less likely to want to be interrupted.

The Tulip Retail survey found that 30% of respondents said they knew salespeople’s names at the stores they visit. But clearly the experience of in-store shopping that seemed most valuable is the ability to touch, feel and try on products: 77% of those surveyed said that was the greatest advantage of shopping in a store.

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