Differentiating Big Box electronics retailers from Mass Merchant stores


Shoppers who visit big box retailers 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 HH Gregg) tend to provide brand-specific recommendations to big screen TV shoppers much more often than do salespeople at mass merchandisers (such as Walmart and Target). A wide majority of salespersons in big box retail stores will recommend a specific TV brand, with an average of 86% of salespeople providing recommendations for LCD-type sets and 77% providing brand recommendations for plasma TVs. However, even when shoppers specifically request brand recommendations, a high percentage of salespersons at mass merchant stores fail to provide any type of brand-specific recommendation to shoppers. Among salespersons at mass merchandise stores, 51% declined to recommend a specific brand of plasma TV and 22% declined to provide a brand recommendation for an LCD set.

Among salespersons who provide shoppers with brand recommendations for LCD televisions, 37% recommend Samsung, while 30% recommend Sony. Among salespersons who provide brand recommendations for plasma TVs, 36% 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% of salespersons recommended plasma big screen televisions to shoppers. This increased to 26% 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 staff 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% of salespersons at big box retailers mention that the store offers television installation services. In contrast, 45% 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 salespersons, 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.