Thought Leader – Failing retailers need well trained brand ambassadors

Andy Boothroyd, Commercial Manager,  Retail Profiling Group  argues that poor quality customer experience at retail us exacerbating the challenge in in industry where 14.4% shops are empty.

With 10,000 chain store branches disappearing from Britain’s retail locations in 2021, combined with high streets that are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic due to reduced footfall and changes in shopping habits, you don’t need to look very far to see the challenges currently faced within the retail industry.

According to PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC), In the final quarter of 2021, 14.4% of all shops in Great Britain were empty, according to the latest figures from the LDC and the British Retail Consortium, that underline the scale of the crisis.

However when you walk on to the shop floor of many retailers these days, do you get the impression these fears are being felt by the sales associates? Based on some recent shopping experiences, I’m not sure they are. Poor, or at best average service is often the norm, with staff that are lacking the desire or ability to provide a really engaging and memorable shopping experience.

And it seems I’m not alone. In the last year, a huge 70% of UK shoppers have had such a bad customer experience that they resolved not to visit that store again. This just goes to show how even small customer experience errors can lead to losing a valued customer.

 Below, are the most commonly encountered customer experience failures over the last year:

1.      Slow service

2.      Unhelpful staff

3.      Item unavailable

4.      Unknowledgeable staff

5.      Rude staff

Furthermore, a chronic labour shortage partly driven by a reduction of overseas workers supporting the economy, as well as a perceived lack of job security, is only serving to exacerbate the problem.

As a brand operating in these challenging times, can you afford to risk losing sales due to the retailers inability to employ and motivate good quality people with the right attitudes? As one retail MD once said, “the role of the store is to inspire”. When was the last time you really felt truly inspired?

Modern retailing requires a higher calibre sales person with a skillset and a personality to match the brand they are representing and the customers they are serving.

This is where the successful brands are stepping in to take advantage of that opportunity to close the sale through engaging and experiential sales activity. Key to this success is to ensure that the right profile staff are recruited and then given comprehensive training before being deployed; and not just in the details of their product mix they are selling, but also in the contextual reality of the market sector or category as a whole.

 The ability to engage, spot the right kind of buying signals and the knowledge of how to convert the opportunity into a short walk to the till, are vital components of any successful response to online shopping and the growing malaise were seeing on high streets up and down the country. With well trained brand ambassadors in place, every customer encounter, even if it involves a product return, is an opportunity to convert to a valuable sale there and then.

While it’s obvious that not every customer engagement on the shop floor is going to result in a sale, this kind of interaction can still have a powerful effect on how the consumer perceives the brand in the future, which opens the door to increased trade-up and replacement business when the need arises. After all, the last three metres of the sales process is becoming more vital than ever.

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