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The £15bn question – are you still investing in instore expertise?

By Daniel Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko Field Marketing 

With the Golden Quarter in full swing and the risk of another lockdown receding, it feels like physical retailers can finally focus on the future and doing what they do best. Namely serving the varied interests and needs of our nation of shoppers. While the terminals are processing payments, amidst the buzz of a seasonal discounting season, it may feel like we are back to 2019 normality. However, there is no escaping the pain that has occurred. 

According to research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) retailers lost some £22bn in lost in store revenue in 2020. Meanwhile the now (finally admitted to not be) temporary inflation spike, wage rises and supply chain challenges are further going to erode the potential for the sort of returns needed to get UK retailers fully back on track. Indeed the economic growth that has been so impressive this year will fall away to more palatable levels in 2023.

The financial cost of poor advice

Against this backdrop, there is new evidence some retailers are losing sight of one of the most crucial ways of keeping sales where they need them. Research we unveiled last week found that retailers missed out on billions in instore revenue in the past year due to poor in person advice in the ‘considered purchase’ space. These are purchases that are made with significant financial or emotional thought. 

The study of 2,000 consumers, conducted by OnePoll, looked at what influences shoppers in making a ‘considered purchase’. It revealed 1 in 10 shoppers said they had walked out of a shop due to poor advice relating to a product they were definitely going to buy. This equates to some £15bn in revenue overall over the past year. The experiences do vary across categories and age groups. The 1 in 10 figure was broadly consistent across several key retail categories including: Consumer electronics, homeware, baby & child, gaming, home improvement, clothing & apparel. 

Customer service first approach

Now this is not to say that all retailers are doing it wrong. Those with a real customer service first mentality are doing it amazingly well. Overall 59.8% said they had received ‘excellent or good advice in store’, highlighting the benefit of human interaction and face to face sales. But the point is in a world where profits are likely to be squeezed – these numbers matter. Slight improvements can make dramatic differences. Even if just 1 of the 10 shoppers in every 100 who are walking out dissatisfied could be persuaded to stay, this would mean £1.5bn pounds worth of sales would be saved. 

To put that into context that is more than Rishi Sunak has just announced in the Budget to encourage foreign investment into UK businesses and attract overseas talent!

Thirst for interaction

Every person that walks through the door should be viewed as a potential customer or an influencer. Someone who will talk about you positively following their experience and tell others in person, online or on social media and is not viewed as just another body to ‘deal’ with.

Indeed the £15bn could be a drop in the ocean of additional revenues that could be accrued with better advice. 37% of shoppers in the consumer electronics category revealed they would be prepared to spend more if they received excellent and knowledgeable in store advice, indicating a golden opportunity for retailers. This compared with 30% of shoppers in the home improvement category and 27% in homeware/ home furnishings and 21% in clothing and apparel. There is a clearly identified thirst for the interaction and expertise that has so been missed in the pandemic. 

‘Gen Said’ 

A common cause for concern among retailers is on the younger generations turning away from bricks and mortar. However there was encouraging news in the survey for this audience segment. Gen Z are most likely to seek out great advice in store (45%) versus an average of 38% and are more likely to find staff knowledgeable across categories. They are also the most likely out of all ages to appreciate product demos (39%) against a 29% average across all ages. 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers  (52%) and 38% of Millennials will spend more for a good experience in store across all categories – crucial for the development of experiential retail. 

This is good news for the future of bricks and mortar retail, but it doesn’t mean retailers don’t need to adapt. Our survey also shows that a joined up and seamless experience online and offline is also now expected. Older generations are also more likely to research online first. Brands already know the need to embrace experts and adapt to survive in a changing market, it’s now about making the investment to do so. 

There is no going back to a sort of idealised 2019 experience. We are all changed from the experiences we have gone through. Retailers need a modern, experience-centric playbook and at the heart of this needs to be the timeless appeal of the instore expert. When we look at the missing billions and the pressures on the bottom line, they have never been more needed.

By Daniel Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko Field Marketing 

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