As retailers turn their attention to drawing consumers back in-store, following a huge spike in online shopping, Manhattan Associates research has found that there are many opportunities for retailers to inspire shoppers to return to a better customer experience.

The survey of 2,000 Australian consumers and 100 large-end retailers, found that over 70% of consumers said they feel they know more about product information than store associates either some or most of the time.

Additionally, 50% of Australian consumers indicated their highest priority demand was that store associates should have an extensive knowledge of product information, however, only 15% of retailers indicated that this was the most important customer-facing role for store associates.

“Our research has revealed that many retailers are missing opportunities to meet consumer expectations in-store. This may work to undermine retailers’ efforts to lure their customers back in-store, following shoppers having turned to the convenience of online shopping in droves during COVID-19 restrictions,” Manhattan Associates Australia and New Zealand managing director, Raghav Sibal said.

“If retailers aren’t able to fulfil basic consumer expectations, such as store associates being knowledgeable about a brand’s products, they risk consumers making a judgement call that there is no advantage to shopping in-store versus online.”

The research also found that 27% of consumers said a willingness to check for stock availability was one of the most important expectations they had for store associates, compared with only 18% of retailers that said this was a priority for customer-facing roles.

Moreover, Australian consumers expect store associates, when a product is unavailable in-store, to take decisive action to see if it is available at a nearby store (42%) or ordering the product for them and activating either home delivery or in-store pickup (17%).  In contrast, some consumers are at risk of completely falling out of the retailer’s sales funnel, either because they defer their purchase (8%) or go somewhere else to find the same type of product (9%).

“Sales associates taking action with these kinds of ‘save the sale’ responses are crucial for retailers to retain customers and prevent them from turning to a competitor’s brand or products. Now more than ever, consumers have higher expectations for store associates to go above and beyond to give them the service and get them the products they desire. From home delivery to locating stock availability in other stores, consumers now have a greater awareness of the options they should be offered in-store, and it’s up to retailers to fulfil these expectations,” Sibal said.

“Our research shows there are ever-increasing omnichannel expectations coming from consumers. They now expect store associates to access a real-time, single view of stock across the retailer’s full inventory and be able to quickly access cross-selling opportunities in-store, and its vital that retailers listen to these demands. Out of necessity, consumers have a greater exposure to eCommerce due to the global pandemic, and when this translates to in-store expectations, consumers will have less patience with bricks and mortar retailers who lack that all-encompassing real-time single view.”