The decision to make non-essential purchases has been known to be directly related to the level of customer service a shopper receives - and the availability of a sales associate often makes the vital difference to the consumer, according to a Harris Interactive survey sponsored by Kronos Inc.
Retailers aware of this dynamic focus on delivering high customer service during the holiday shopping season. However, the survey of US adults found that shoppers may be more likely to make impulse purchases for themselves during the back-to-school season, and many retailers are missing the opportunity to cash in.
The 'Back-to-School: Inside the Consumer Psyche' survey also found that the majority of consumers surveyed said they are more likely to make purchases for themselves during the back-to-school season than they are during the holiday season.
But the buying behaviour of these consumers appears to be dependent on optimal customer service. The survey found that 82% of consumers will only wait in line for less than 15 minutes before abandoning their shopping cart when making a non-related back-to-school purchase during the back-to-school season. In addition, 68% of consumers said they shop for themselves during the back-to-school shopping season even if they are not going back to school.
Every retailer needs to focus on customer service in order to prepare for the back-to-school shopping season. According to the survey, the top three factors that contribute to a positive shopping experience are:
- Items are in stock (93%);
- Pleasant sales associates (85%);
- Convenient store hours (84%).
It is apparent that many retailers need to increase their focus in these areas because, when asked about their satisfaction with their in-store shopping experience over the past two years, 91% of survey respondents said it had stayed the same or decreased.
According to Kronos, if retailers increase their focus on customer service during the back-to-school season, there is great potential for them to get a head start for the holiday season. The hidden group of shoppers that is spending this season even though they are not going back to school is poised to drive a significant amount of revenue. The survey found that 27% of back-to-school shoppers will spend more than US$400 in stores this year for back-to-school shopping. In addition, 81% of back-to-school shoppers will spend the same, more, or significantly more, this year than last year in back-to-school shopping.
The survey of 795 US adults (aged 18+) was conducted online between July 28th and August 16th, 2005. Figures for age, gender, race, education, and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.