Investments in positive one-to-one interactions are proven to change shopper behavior and drive category sales."

As the number of ways consumers can shop grows — click and collect, voice commerce, social media commerce — shoppers are more likely than ever to make a purchase without walking through a store’s doors.

When shoppers do select brick-and-mortar, many are leaving disappointed and frustrated. In a survey of 1,200 shoppers by The Retail Doctor, 53% said they felt negative emotions the last time they visited a store.

Retailers recognize that consumers have evolved through the influence of friends, family and social media into savvy shoppers. Pressure to choose the right mix from the plethora of new products in the market, to gain a customer’s attention and to exceed their expectations with a seamless virtual-to-physical experience continues to mount.

To deliver a better in-store experience, lift category sales and keep brick-and-mortar shoppers coming back, retailers and brands are increasingly turning to dedicated employees whose singular aim is to engage shoppers: personable category advisors who are experts on an entire product category and brand ambassadors who are experts on one brand’s line.

As personalization and convenience have risen to the top of shoppers’ wants and needs, well-trained category advisors and brand ambassadors who create one-on-one customer engagement are proven to drive overall category and brand sales, traffic, share of wallet and shopper loyalty. These in-store advisors differentiate retailers and brands from the competition and make brick-and-mortar shoppers feel more confident about their in-store purchases.

A successful in-store experiential program centered on in-store advisors starts with a strong partnership between the brand and retailer. A deep understanding of the mindset of shoppers in specific product categories is a must, as is hiring the right talent and providing extensive and ongoing training. Program continuity is critical to building trust between shoppers and the advisor.

Engaging Shoppers, Boosting Sales

Investments in positive one-to-one interactions are proven to change shopper behavior and drive category sales short term and long term. In-store advisors can be especially valuable for improving customer engagement, encouraging trial and lifting category sales, especially in lines such as adult beverages, specialty foods, beauty, pet and baby, whose customers are most likely to appreciate employees with product expertise who can answer questions and assist in purchase decisions.

In one example, the Advantage Customer Experience team created and executed a yearlong test of beauty advisors in select, high-volume supercenter stores. The result? Total category sales increased 1.5% over the test period. Over 52 weeks, test stores saw 9% more repeat purchases and 4% new households in the category compared to control stores.

The program boosted sales of beauty products across the board, with sales of large, established brands growing by 4% to 5% and sales of emerging brands’ beauty products growing between 16% and 27%, depending on the test store.

Similarly, a yearlong brand ambassador test with a new specialty packaged meat brand delivered equally impressive results. The new packaged meat items featured by the brand ambassadors experienced a sales increase in test stores of more than 1,000% compared to sales the prior four weeks. A halo effect drove a 345% sustained lift in sales on the entire brand versus the prior year. The category as a whole realized an 8% increase in comparable sales over the pretest period.

In a crowded and competitive marketplace that constantly offers customers new ways to discover, learn about and buy consumer goods, successful brands and retailers will continue to look for ways to differentiate themselves and reimagine the customer experience to meet ever-growing consumer expectations.

Creating personalized, meaningful and consistent relationships will become even more important.

Advantage Solutions

Kirsten Alford-Osborne
Senior Vice President, Client Services, Advantage Customer Experience
Advantage Solutions

Kirsten Alford-Osborne spent 15 years in retail roles, including buying and in-store events, before joining the Advantage Solutions in 2015.

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