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A new IBM survey suggests that American shoppers say that a “lack of distinction in services, products and store atmosphere, as well as unhelpful employees, all top the reasons why they take their business elsewhere.”

According to IBM, retailers offering the same level of service and the same products as other retailers turn off more than half of all shoppers who have no customer loyalty to specific retailers. Forty-three percent of all respondents don't like retailers that have employees who are not helpful. Shoppers also tend to stay away from retailers that look and feel the same (46 percent) and have disorganized stores (31 percent).

The survey says that consumers prefer retail stores where they are recognized as individuals, products are easy to find, and the employees are knowledgeable. Eight out of 10 shoppers (81 percent) are loyal to certain retailers rather than others, citing helpfulness of employees (34 percent) and a well-organized store (32 percent) as key reasons for going back.

“When asked what technology would most improve the retail experience, almost three-quarters (71 percent) of consumers surveyed asked for technology systems that can tell them exactly which products are available -- thus avoiding the need to track down a sales associate,” the survey reports. “In addition, 64 percent of consumers said they would be drawn to retailers with scanners that could identify fresh produce and generate price tags to speed checkout, while 59 percent prefer retail stores equipped with intelligent shopping carts that give personalized offers and discounts while walking the store aisles. Almost half (48 percent) said they prefer retailers that offer self-checkout.”
KC's View:
What these results suggest to us is that as much as we tell ourselves that consumers just want speed and convenience and don’t care about the depersonalization of the shopping experience, this conclusion may in fact be self-serving rather than customer-serving.

At some level, customers are seeking some sort of connection – in part because it validates their sense of worth. If the retailer caters to them, then they have achieved a level of importance. (See “Best In Class,” above.)