Shoppers expect higher level of support from high street retailers, study shows

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Today’s shoppers expect a higher than ever level of support and expertise from high street retailers, a new survey by Vista Retail Support has revealed.

Ninety five per cent of those polled by the retail IT support specialist said if in-store assistants were inefficient or unknowledgeable, they would go to a rival retailer instead; while 83% of consumers won’t tolerate impoliteness.

Other tests of loyalty included out-of-stock products (91%) and having to queue at the checkout (63%). A further 28% would also shop with a competitor if they felt they would get a more personalised experience. In all, 46% said they expect a higher level of assistance from retailers now compared with five years ago.

Whether customers are shopping online or offline, multi-channel retailers are also under pressure to deliver quality service, regardless of where shoppers engage with the brand. The majority (86%) of shoppers polled said it was either important or essential they have a common buying experience with an individual retailer, irrespective of the channel they use.

“With intense competition for trade, retailers simply can’t afford to let standards slip – both online and offline,” says Richard Cottrell, sales and marketing director, Vista Retail Support.

“Currently, one of the most talked-about threats to the high street is showrooming, where shoppers make price comparisons and buy online or elsewhere if they find the product cheaper. One way high street retailers could look to combat this is to make the most of the personal service they can offer.

“They could also take a lead from supermarket chains and proactively invite customers to talk to them if they believe they can buy cheaper elsewhere, creating the opportunity to emphasise the range of value-adds which buying online simply cannot match. By turning the in-store representative from order-taker to salesperson, ultimately, this could even serve to improve sales.”

The retail IT support specialist’s research also looked at contactless payment technologies. While 68% said they have seen it in their favourite stores, only around a quarter of people (24%) had actually used it. However, this did represent a significant uplift on the mere 5% of contactless payment users recorded when the poll was carried out last year.

“Many consumers are now automatically being issued with debit cards which contain contactless payment technology,” said Cottrell. “This will no doubt increase the use of ‘touch and go’ payments – at a time when the volume of mobile payments is also rising.

“To avoid complaints and damage to brand reputation, retailers need to ensure that their IT infrastructure is robust enough to support contactless and other emerging payment technologies.”