By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Consumers are more satisfied with their buying experience at independent wireless stores than at carrier-owned stores. That is one of the findings of a recent study conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). CEA's “Wireless Purchasing Study: Measuring Satisfaction and Loyalty” found that 44 percent of independent-store customers were very satisfied with their wireless phone purchase, compared to 37 percent at carrier stores.
The study also found that wireless customers' overall buying satisfaction is most influenced by communication and explanation of phones and plans. This shouldn't surprise many in the industry. After all, today's wireless devices are complicated. They feature cameras, e-mail, text messaging, video and even GPS capability. Verizon just announced a new program that allows its subscribers to program their TiVo from any place at any time.
It seems the entire consumer electronics industry is now packed into the most popular handsets. While this functionality is great for consumers, it also takes effort to explain and understand the best options and to use all of this great stuff. Those salespeople who take the time to educate their customers will be rewarded with greater sales, loyalty and referrals.
What may surprise some is that independent retailers are doing a better job of this than carrier stores.
Those who work closely with independent retailers know that they are often family-owned businesses that not only serve, but also reflect, their local communities. This makes many consumers more comfortable than they would be in a more corporate environment, and it allows the salesperson to provide better customer service.
There were two other findings in the study that might surprise many people. The first is that consumers who purchased their phone at an independent retailer are much more likely to conduct research before purchasing compared to carrier-store buyers. For example, these buyers are three times as likely to research ad circulars or newspaper ads. This means that independent retailers are dealing with customers who already know, or at least think they know, their buying options, which makes delivering a high-quality sales experience even more important.
Second, while many people assume that a high percentage of wireless phone purchases are made online, more than 70 percent of purchases were still made in-person at traditional retail outlets. Of course, the study's finding that 20 percent of buyers do purchase online is not insignificant.
Taken together, these findings reflect the remarkable health and contribution of independent wireless retailers. But, as positive as the study's results are in confirming the value of independent retailers, there is much more to do.
Still less than half of wireless buyers in every channel report that they are “very satisfied” by their wireless buying experience. While the independent retailers have performed well, in some respects that conclusion is only relative to other channels. There is much more that can and must be done to help this channel, and all wireless sales channels, to improve the customer experience they provide, especially in light of the speed of innovation and increasing complexity of our devices and services.
Much of this improvement will be achieved by greater and more consistent levels of training and communication, through a variety of delivery mechanisms.
Since its inception in 2001, the wireless communications division (WCD) of CEA has focused on helping wireless retailers provide a better point of sale experience. In addition to valuable market research, the WCD has released a comprehensive online training program for new wireless retail salespeople called the Wireless Survival Guide, a wireless retailer toolkit and special consumer education programs to help retailers adjust to the incredibly fast pace of innovation, including campaigns to assist with local number portability and use of camera phones in an ethical way.
All of our efforts are developed, from concept to completion, as a partnership between the CEA staff and industry volunteers from companies large and small. If you want to help influence the direction of this fast-moving, always dynamic industry, join us by contacting CEA today.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.