How Retailers Can Add The Human Factor To Boost Sales

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jun 23, 2016


In today’s world of online product reviews and price comparisons, the role of sales associates seem to become quite insignificant. However, a new study shatters the myth that, in retail stores, most shoppers do not like to be disturbed by sales associates. In fact, it highlights the highly positive influence sales associates have on influencing shopper purchases. The cross-industry survey released today by tech firm Mindtree may give retailers a chance to rethink their sales strategy.

Many shoppers rely on interaction with sales associates to make purchasing decisions, especially in more complex product categories like consumer electronics, home improvement and others. When helped, it leads to significant increase in the amount of the shopper’s transaction, as well as in repeat purchases. Too often, shoppers can’t find sales associates when they have a question. This is a negative experience which leads to shoppers moving to either a different store or to an online channel.

The survey, titled, “Impact of Sales associates on the Shopper’s Purchase Journey,” conducted by independent market research firm Grail Research, aimed  to understand the role that sales associates play in the consumer shopping journey. The study found that sales associates are aware that their influence leads to more sales conversions. However, their efforts are spread thin – they assist both serious shoppers and casual browsers, reducing their efficiency and conversion ratio.

“Conventional thinking in the retail industry is that most shoppers want to be left alone, and that sales associates too often annoy shoppers by trying to offer assistance. The Mindtree survey paints a surprisingly different picture,” said Sunil Oberoi, Senior Vice President and Head, Retail, CPG and Manufacturing, Mindtree. “Shoppers respond positively when they receive helpful guidance from an associate. A timely assistance in store can lead to an 80% increase in transaction value.”

Read more: How Reliable Customer Support Boosts Sales

Gaurav Johri, Senior Vice President and Head, Platforms & Solutions Group, Mindtree said, “A key part of successful omnichannel retailing is all about delivering timely and helpful recommendations to shoppers that help them feel more confident in making a purchase. There is a huge untapped opportunity for retailers to increase conversions and enhance customer loyalty in the store, says the study.

For example, the study found that shoppers who interact with a sales associate are 43 percent more likely to purchase a product, and their transactions have 81 percent more value, compared to those who don’t interact with an associate. In addition, they are 12 percent more likely to revisit the store. Conversely, shoppers are less likely to make a purchase if they are not reached out to proactively by a sales associate. Forty percent of shoppers are unable to locate a store associate when they need help in a typical shopping trip.

The study also shows that a majority of (91 percent) sales associates strongly agree that positive interactions with shoppers result in higher conversions, yet 94 percent feel this requires more advanced technology tools and training that they currently don’t have access to.

The survey identified a gap that exists in terms of assistance provided in the store. Associates would like to have access to technologies that help identify shoppers in need of assistance, improving their productivity. However, few brands have capitalized on this need.

According to another 2014 study by University of Pennsylvania professor Marshall Fisher, who tracked 63,500 associates at more than 330 stores over the course of two years, said, more than 50 percent of shoppers still seek advice when they enter a store.

It found that not only do well-versed salespeople bring more customers to the register, but they also ring up higher sales per checkout. “By actively helping shoppers with their problems, an educated sales staff also drives repeat store visits and makes people less likely to return what they purchased,” the study found.

However the merits of automation should not be ignored. The Mindtree survey states that companies should identify an automated technology platform that has the ability to notify sales associates to locate and target the right shopper once they have entered the store, share recommendations on additional products based on product category and provide timely training on new products and features.

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