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Large CE Retailers Give More TV Brand Info Than Mass Chains

Westlake Village, Calif. — Shoppers who visit CE superstores for big-screen televisions (sets with screens measuring 40 inches or larger) are more likely to receive recommendations of specific TV brands than are shoppers at mass-merchandise stores, according to the J.D. Power and Associates and Market Force Information Television Retailer Insights report.

The report, produced jointly by J.D. Power and Associates and Market Force Information, compiles the findings of more than 8,000 anonymous mystery shoppers who shopped at more than 4,500 electronics retailers during 2008. The mystery shopping research investigates salespersons’ product knowledge and the types of recommendations they make to customers.

The report finds that salespersons at big-box retailers, such as Best Buy and hhgregg, tend to provide brand-specific recommendations to big-screen TV shoppers much more often than do salespeople at mass merchandisers (such as Wal-Mart and Target). A wide majority of salespeople in big-box retail stores will recommend a specific TV brand, with an average of 86 percent providing recommendations for LCD sets and 77 percent providing brand recommendations for plasma TVs.

The report found that even when shoppers specifically request brand recommendations, a high percentage of salespeople at mass-merchant stores fail to provide any type of brand-specific recommendation to shoppers. Among salespeople at mass-merchandise stores, 51 percent declined to recommend a specific brand of plasma TV and 22 percent declined to provide a brand recommendation for an LCD set.

Among salespeople who provide shoppers with brand recommendations for LCD televisions, 37 percent recommend Samsung, while 30 percent recommend Sony. Among those who provide brand recommendations for plasma TVs, 36 percent recommend Panasonic sets.

“Manufacturers and retailers can both benefit from increasing employee training to make their salespersons more knowledgeable about the features and benefits of each brand, which, in turn, will make sales staff better able to address the needs and questions of shoppers ultimately leading to a more satisfying shopping experience,” said Lawrence Wu, senior director of the technology practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “The fact that many salespersons fail to provide any brand recommendations to big screen TV shoppers represents an opportunity for manufacturers to increase their brand recognition.”

The report also finds that recommendations of plasma display sets by salespersons increased considerably between the first and fourth quarters of 2008. During the first three months of 2008, approximately 17 percent of salespersons recommended plasma big screen televisions to shoppers. This increased to 26 percent between October and December 2008.

“During the past year, there has been a considerable increase in the frequency of salespeople articulating key advantages of plasma TVs, including smooth motion of fast-moving objects, better color and deeper blacks,” said Wu.

The report finds that sales staffs at big box retailers are far more likely to inform big screen television shoppers of services the store offers — such as delivery and installation — as well as other competitive advantages. For example, nearly 60 percent of salespersons at big-box retailers mention that the store offers television installation services. In contrast, 45 percent of television salespersons at mass merchants do not mention to shoppers any extra services or advantages of making a purchase at their store.

The top five reasons for purchasing a big screen TV at a big-box store, as mentioned by salespeople, are: installation services, financing, special sale pricing, price matching and delivery. Although salespersons at mass merchants mention advantages of purchasing at their stores infrequently, when advantages are mentioned they tend to center around low prices, flexible return policies and low sales pressure.

“Although low prices are important to shoppers, the importance of good customer service cannot be overlooked, particularly in the current economic environment,” said Karl Maier, chief executive officer of Market Force. “While mass merchant chains often have a reputation for having the lowest prices, shoppers who are looking to receive the greatest value for their money may turn to big box retailers, where they can also receive delivery, installation and financing services as well as price-matching guarantees.”