Australian retailers are not doing enough in the current economic downturn to maximise the number of in-store purchases made by customers, according to the latest benchmarking data compiled by The Realise Group.
Results from similar benchmarking exercises conducted in 2006 and 2007 revealed that there were significant improvements overall from 2006 and 2007, but that many standards have slipped since 2007.
Sales assistants’ selling skills are the worst, with only 48 per cent of sales assistants attempting to add-on or upsell a purchase, a four per cent decline from 2007. Only 56 per cent of sales assistants attempted to close the sale, an eight per cent decline from 2007.
The basic customer service standard of approaching customers to offer assistance rose by 15 percentage points to 2007 from 2006, but then experienced a large decline in the 2008–09 financial year, falling 11 percentage points to 74 per cent from 85 per cent.
“The results were a surprise, as our expectation was that the recession would have created an imperative to deliver on these critical standards to encourage sales,” said The Realise Group’s managing director Katie Miles.
“In these competitive times, sales staff need to be more than just a smiling face. They need to be equipped with the skills to turn browsers into buying customers and encourage shoppers to purchase more than they intended to.”
Less than 50 per cent of staff assessed in all three sectors – apparel, general and food – of the study attempted to upsell/add on.
Staff in food sectors took the lead in making customer service top priority with an average result of 90 per cent, compared with 84 per cent in general retailers and only 68 per cent in apparel retailers.
“This was an interesting finding in our study,” said Miles.
“Apparel retailers seem to place their housekeeping and administrative duties above customer service and will often only approach our mystery shoppers to offer assistance if shoppers deliberately put themselves in their line of sight. Think of how many lost opportunities this results in.”
Eighty-five per cent of sales assistants in apparel asked questions to determine mystery shoppers’ needs, followed closely by general retailers with 84 per cent. Ninety-four per cent of both apparel and general retailers made appropriate product recommendations.
In the food sector, 91 per cent of mystery shoppers said that the food met their expectations and that their orders were prepared in a timely manner; 96 per cent of payments were handled in an efficient manner.
Across all three categories, 46 per cent of mystery shoppers rated their overall experience as ‘good’ and 34 per cent rated them ‘excellent’. Overall, 87 per cent of mystery shoppers said that they would return to the store based on their experience, unchanged from 2007.
Data for this study was compiled from almost 40,000 mystery shops during the 2008–2009 financial year.