In the turbulent world of offline retail there appears to be a sense of strategic inertia. Everybody recognises the tsunami-esque dominance of online retail as it gathers more and more momentum and influence, yet very little action or change is taking place.

An article last week from Mckinsey partner, Josh Liebowitz, discussed how in the last few years, retailers have been cutting back on their frontline salesforce as sales volumes have shifted online.

He talks about how this could be a big mistakes for retailers, with an increase in the practice of ‘showrooming’, being one of the likely ramifications

For those not familiar with this term – Showrooming is essentially the process of checking out products in-store and then going online to find the best price deals.

The practice of showrooming is almost certainly more abundant in certain sectors, such as technology where price differentials can be huge. But the fact is that smartphone technologies has made it increasingly easy to check out prices on the spot, making it very easy to walk away and ‘click to order’ before you have even left the store.

Whilst many retailers assume that customers walk in-store for transactional purposes, e.g. they know what they want already and are just coming in to pay and pick up, Mckinsey research shows that as many as 40% of people remain open to persuasion once they enter a store. This is despite any extensive product research undertakings prior to the store visit.

Mckinsey’s research also indicated that at most, 45% of frontline employees across multiple retailing sectors have the right personalities and attributes to be effective sellers.

So, to re-cap: 40% of people are open to persuasion, even after they have entered a store and 55% of frontline sales staff do not have the qualities to be an effective, successful salesperson.

The fact of the matter, is that many retailers need to go back to the drawing board and look at what they want their real-world, offline presence to be and what they want it to achieve.

We have talked before about the in-store, consumer retail experience, where retailers should think harder about the consumer journey they facilitate and what they can do to create a retail environment that gives people the ultimate ‘wow’ factor. To get this right requires some serious thought and expert execution.

If 55% of frontline sales staff and not qualified to do the job, then something is wrong at the very core of in-store retail itself. The damaging impact of poor sales staff will only serve to solidify negative perceptions of a brand, driving dissatisfied consumers elsewhere.

The most valuable consumer product brands, such as Apple, Coca Cola, Disney or Samsung, all invest heavily in consumer experience. They do this because they understand the power and value of positive, face to face, brand experiences.

Have you ever visited an Apple store and felt that 55% of their workforce were un-qualified, undertrained or unable to answer your questions with adequate authority?

Probably not. This didn’t happen through luck – they invested.

They invested in more than just cool in-store fit-outs. They invested in their people. They invested in their training, their customer communication policy, their brand philosophy and importantly, their selling skills.

Within the world of experiential marketing we rarely have the luxury of putting together a long-term training schedule for our staff. Short timescales and last minute decisions often mean we have to brief staff close to the day of activation. Therefore, it is imperative that we select the right staff for the job, meaning they have the right personalities and are able to digest the right information, in order to interact with genuine alacritous authority.

An experiential agency that works closely with a retail brand, can ensure that the focus remains on the all important consumer journey. They can help retailers to develop in-store consumer experiences that aligns with the company objectives, instead of working against them.

Online purchasing and showrooming is not going to go away any time soon and this war will only be fought on the price comparison battleground. Retailers need to decide if they want to be involved in this war, where eventual winners are almost always the biggest losers – eroding margins so much that something has to give way elsewhere

Offline is where the difference can be made. With 40% of consumers open to persuasion. A slick, sophisticated brand experience with great frontline staff will pay dividends with a growth of both sales volume and brand advocacy the result.

But retailers who continue to invest in ineffective staff and banal brand experience, should expect consumers to make their purchases more and more, on their way out of the store.

Hotcow is a multi-award winning Experiential Marketing agency. We get brands in front of consumers in ways that persuade them to buy. We fully implement our ideas; nothing needs to be farmed out. For more information or free consultation, contact us