West Lake Village, Calif. - Samsung has made tremendous gains in the on-floor recommendations of retail sales associates in the last 12 months, according to a joint J.D. Power and Associates and Market Force Information mystery shoppers survey recently released.
The study compiled the findings of more than 1,500 mystery shoppers who shopped at more than 1,200 major electronics retail locations during the first six months of 2009.
The research investigated sales associates' product knowledge and the types of recommendations they make to customers.
Among the findings of the report was that Samsung LCD TVs are winning the recommendations of salespeople with increasing frequency at major electronics retailers.
The 2009 Television Retail Insights Report said that among major electronics retailers examined during both the first and second quarters of 2009, salespeople recommended Samsung LCD televisions to 58 percent of the study's mystery shoppers during the second quarter of 2009, up from 45 percent during the first three months of the year.
"Salespeople's perceptions of Samsung LCD TVs are beginning to change from that of a value brand to a premium brand," stated Chris Denove, J.D. Power and Associations operational research VP. "In addition to recommending Samsung more frequently, salespeople focused recommendations of the brand on its core attributes such as processor speed, picture quality and recent third-party awards it received, rather than on price."
In contrast, the report said, Sony LCD sets, once a category leader, have steadily declined in retail sales associates' recommendations during the past 18 months. During the second quarter of 2009, Sony was recommended to fewer than one-quarter of mystery shoppers, which was a shift from the first quarter of 2008, when overall recommendation rates for Samsung and Sony were comparable.
Meanwhile, the report also showed that salespeople were increasingly likely to suggest Panasonic sets to shoppers interested in plasma TV technology, while recommendations of Samsung plasma sets remained flat.
Despite the shift in brand recommendation rates, the likelihood that salespeople will recommend LCD instead of plasma as the preferred technology platform has decreased notably from the first quarter of 2009, according to a J.D. Power and Associates statement.
Meanwhile, the reported noted "a sizable increase in the proportion of salespeople who did not provide a recommendation for either technology."
As is the case with brand recommendations, technology platform recommendations tend to be left up to the individual salesperson, rather than dictated by store policy," J.D. Power said. "For example, even the store that recommended LCD technology most often still recommended plasma sets to 21 percent of mystery shoppers.
"The role of the salesperson's recommendation is very important in large-screen TV sales," said Denove. "The differences in quality among various TVs are difficult for most shoppers to distinguish as they face a wall covered with dozens of flat screens. Based on what they say about individual brands, skilled salespeople have a great opportunity to determine a shopper's ultimate choice. Our mystery shoppers found that salespeople tend to recommend brands heavily based on personal opinion, rather than store edict."
"It is critical for manufacturers to maximize their recommendation rates," stated Karl Maier, CEO of Market Force. "They may do this either through direct incentives or by increasing âshare of mind' through education and training. The latter is especially important because our mystery shoppers report far too often that salespeople had difficulty articulating brand attributes and differences. No manufacturer can expect a salesperson to effectively push their brand until that salesperson is armed with one to three differentiating brand attributes that they can easily communicate to customers."