Experticity released findings of its first ever Retail Buying Experience survey, uncovering a striking expertise gap among sales associates in five retail areas: outdoor, sporting goods, hunting or fishing, health and nutrition, and prestige beauty. The study of 600 U.S. consumers shows that consumers value sales associate expertise above all else, but finds that consumers often find such expertise lacking.


“The Retail Buying Experience survey shows that consumers still fundamentally want helpful expertise from retail sales associates to guide buying decisions while many of today’s retailers have opted for low-cost employees, forcing buyers to turn elsewhere for information,” said Tom Stockham, CEO of eXperticity. “This research clearly shows that consumers are not happy having to do all the research themselves and crave retail to play a hands-on role with their buying decisions.”


Consumers expect expertise from retailers in key areas
When asked to rate which services consumers most desire and value from retail sales associates, the top four were:

  • Product knowledge (73 percent)
  • Help selecting the correct product (71 percent)
  • Category knowledge (69 percent)
  • Help finding alternatives when the first choice is not available (68 percent)

A consumer from California who participated in the related focus group said it is simple: “I want them to be knowledgeable and be able to answer my questions precisely, concisely and competently.”



40 percent of consumers find sales associates fall short
Two in five consumers are routinely disappointed by the lack of expertise of the sales associates they encounter in retail stores. The biggest shortcoming is in finding suitable alternatives, cited by 43 percent of consumers. Category knowledge, product knowledge and help selecting products were skills also cited as lacking. A consumer from Atlanta commented “They don't know a lot about the product because they haven't had the proper training.”



Given the value consumers place on expertise, it is not surprising that when they cannot find it at retail stores, they find it elsewhere. Consumers tell us the resource they find most useful in terms of obtaining expertise is talking to someone they perceive to be an expert (72 percent find this somewhat to extremely useful). This is followed by online searching (71 percent), online user reviews (66 percent) and traditional product reviews and articles (65 percent). According to a consumer who participated in our focus group, “You can just research so much and there’s a variety of opinions. It’s hard to separate fact from opinion.”