Many Australian retailers are hopeless at interacting with customers who walk into their stores, a new secret shopper study shows.
Only four out of 265 retail brands achieved perfect 100 scores in the study by brand strategy adviser Be Brands: Apple, The Body Shop, Lush and Nespresso.
Another 15 brands recorded “excellent scores”, including Levi’s, Camilla, Lorna Jane and kikki K.
However, some 70 per cent “failed” the tests on Be Brands’ measures.
Secret shoppers spent hundreds of hours visiting stores between February and August 2015, attempting to engage with staff in three shopping centres in Victoria and NSW.
Each business has been marked out of 100 based on six criteria: the first approach, or welcome, with a potential score of five, where customers are recognised entering the store by staff; the second approach, or contact, again a score out of five based on staff approaching the shopper within five minutes; what’s the story, the most important category with a score out of 40, based on the employee’s ability to communicate with customers about why the brand is important; look and feel, scored out of 20, based on the store’s design and interior; staff commitment, again scored out of 20, based on customer service; and, finally, the website, scored out of 10 based on the functionality of the brand’s online store.
“Retailing is theatre and the staff are the players in presenting the story of a brand,” the study said.
“When you go into Apple and ask about the brand, they welcome the question and their eyes glow with passion for what they believe in. They love their brand. And it doesn’t matter who you are: an 80-year-old Luddite or a 16-year-old uber-cool techno geek. They’ll be the same to them all.”
Be Brands founder Simon Hammond said the best brands trained staff to know why their brand existed and why it mattered, and ensured they were able to tell a story linked to all aspects of the brand.
“Australian-bred retailers have let international brands walk in and grab market share due to their investment in their brands, as much as buying power and economies of scale,” he said.
The founder and chief executive of consultancy and research house Retail Doctor Group, Brian Walker, said he would have liked the survey to show a more direct correlation between the emotional attributes of a brand and the machinations of running a retail business.
“You could argue that consistent poor or suboptimal customer service is a direct reflection of brand image. However, it typically takes an ongoing, consistent continuation of these experiences in the retail environment to start to negatively impact on a brand,” Mr Walker said.
“As retailers, we are taught brand and marketing typically make the promise and the retail delivers the promise.”
Mr Walker said there was increasing awareness in Australian retail about a brand’s role to differentiate and cut through to customers.
“There’s is a big move, if we look at the phases from single channel, multi-channel, to omni-channel, then we move into this 24/7 connected brand with its stores, websites and supporting mediums.”
First published through The Sydney Morning Herald on 26/10/15