Mobile Retailers Missing a Trick With First-time Smartphone Buyers

Mobile phone retailers need to upgrade staff training in how to deal with first-time smartphone buyers, according to the results of a study carried out by market research firm, TNS. The study was conducted between February and March 2012, with core UK networks and multi-network retailers.

Previous research carried out by TNS UK’s Retail & Shopper team revealed that speaking to staff and using a live smartphone were the two most important influences on purchase decision for first time purchasers. But 78 per cent of stores in the follow-up study had few or no live handsets on display and only half of the stores visited by TNS mystery shoppers gave first-timer buyers a handset “test drive” or demo. Three quarters did not explain what wi-fi and 3G services are, while 82 per cent did not explain roaming charges. Many store staff asked only general, open-ended questions, thus missing the opportunity to understand the shoppers’ needs and preferences in any meaningful detail.

“Retailers need to strongly reinforce staff training. Shop staff have often been dealing with smartphones for such a long time that they don’t realise just how much help people need when they are approaching the market for the first time,” said Michelle O’Mahony, a consultant and mystery shopping analyst at TNS.

“Many brands and retailers are missing a trick by not ensuring that staff give first-time buyers the dynamic and clear guidance on handsets which is key to their purchase decision,” notes Michelle O’Mahony, managing consultant at TNS Mystery Customer Research “It is likely that many potential buyers are leaving mobile phone shops with their questions unanswered. Passive, overly generalised advice about handset brands and functionality is alienating to these customers. A lack of understanding about the myriad of possibilities a handset could open up to them is likely to be part of the reason the average revenue coming from these customers is lower than upgraders.”

We asked O’Mahony why the mobile operators and independent retailers are failing so badly with their in-store offerings. She told us: “On the live handsets, it’s a question of investment. For most mobile phone retailers, it’s a bigger investment than they are able to apply across all their stores. And while in-store staff are well equipped to discuss tariffs, they don’t have either the training, or the equipment, to enable them to get into a deep discussion about handsets and services.”