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I came across some interesting research recently – a six-month study called ‘The Great Retail Experience Race’, which set out to compare the customer experiences of five small Texas-based retailers and five comparable national chain stores.

Ashley Verrill, the customer service analyst behind the project, worked alongside customer experience expert (and NewVoiceMedia blogger) Shep Hyken to devise quality metrics and a team of secret shoppers carried out 15-minute site visits. They were focused on whether employees told them about sales or specials during their visit, or if anyone tried to up-sell or cross-sell to them. Interestingly, in every industry category but one, the national store outperformed the local shop.

The research found that the local stores actually had more opportunities to up-sell because they talked to the site visitors more often. Of course, when employees create personal connections, both customers and retailers win, but they simply didn’t take advantage of these opportunities at the same rate as the national stores.

Hyken explained in a video interview why he thought the percentage of up-selling was so much lower for local stores. He commented, “The national brands spend a lot more money on marketing, advertising and creating different kinds of promotions and specials. And when they create these, they expect their employees to push them and sell them. That’s a big part of what they do”.

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So, what can the smaller retailers learn from their national counterparts and how can they improve their competitive advantage? Here are three strategies identified during the race that small business owners could easily replicate:

  • Ask really specific questions about what the customer is looking for.
  • Be consistent with deals at the till - This refers to cross-selling added products. The study referenced examples where national chains did this twice as much as local operations.
  • Give a little to get a little - according to one recent survey, 42% of customers said they made a purchase for additional products and services after being offered a 'freebie'.

Check out the summary of findings in the infographic below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

The Great Retail Experience Race

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About Nicola Brookes

Nicola is corporate communications director at NewVoiceMedia. She will mostly blog about customer service, industry news, events and company updates. Follow Nicola on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbrookespr

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