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JD Power: Samsung Winning TV Retail Recommendations

West Lake Village, Calif.
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.

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

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 ‘share 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.”