40% Of Consumers Are Disappointed With Associate Knowledge, Expertise

Many shoppers still consider sales associates to be reliable sources throughout the browsing and purchase consideration process. But is the average store employee providing shoppers with the information they need to make the best decision? 

A survey released by eXperticity uncovered a significant gap between what consumers want from sales associates and what they’re actually receiving.

The inaugural Retail Buying Experience Survey indicated that shoppers find the following to be “somewhat” to “extremely” important: Product knowledge (73%), ability to help select products (71%), category knowledge (69%) and experience in finding product alternatives (68%). However, two in five consumers are consistently disappointed by the sales associates they encounter in retail stores. 


Survey results were gathered from 600 U.S. consumers between August and September 2013. Additionally, eXperticity conducted a focus group with seven consumers to glean more detailed insights regarding in-store buying experiences and shopper-to-associate interactions. 

“I want (store associates) to be knowledgeable and be able to answer my questions precisely, concisely and competently,” one focus group attendee said.

But based on their past in-store experiences, consumers said salespeople fall short in the following: finding product alternatives (43%), category knowledge (39%), product knowledge (38%) and providing help in product selection (37%).  

One focus group participant added that store associates “don’t know a lot about the product because they haven’t had the proper training.”

Associate Empowerment Best Practices

Confirming the need for retailers to educate and empower associates, the eXperticity survey showed that overall, consumers rely most on product experts (72%), whether they’re friends, family or store associates. Other consumers said they conduct online research (71%), and look up digital user reviews (66%) and traditional product reviews (62%). 

At the conclusion of the survey, eXperticity offered a series of recommendations for successful associate hiring and training practices:

  1. Invest in the right people who love and use your products;
  2. Train people who know your products “inside and out.”;

  3. Reward expertise and successful customer interactions by offering free product samples and discounts on merchandise; and
  4. Evangelize the value of helpful expertise by building relationships with consumers rather than focusing on product price and discounts.  


Click here to download a complimentary copy of the Retail Buying Experience Survey.

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