Confession time: I’ve been in the market for a new car for months now, but the thought of stepping onto a car lot and negotiating prices with a car salesperson is about as exciting as getting a root canal.

Luckily for me, the Internet exists, and I can do quite a bit of research on my own. I can pinpoint the exact value of my current car, compare prices, and find the right car for me.

But this got me wondering: is my do-it-yourself approach a reflection of a larger trend with modern consumers? Are we all becoming more autonomous?

To find out, I surveyed 150+ consumers to get their take — and to learn how salespeople can best navigate these preferences.

Download Now: 2024 Sales Trends Report [New Data]

In-Person vs. Self-Service: Who Wins?

Despite the growing trend of self-service, most consumers still prefer in-person interactions. 65% of consumers prefer to interact with a salesperson in person, compared to 26% who prefer self-service.

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Still, there’s no denying that the rise of self-service has challenged sales professionals to redefine their value proposition. Fortunately, consumers are pretty clear about where they see the value:

  • 62% of consumers are more inclined to seek out a salesperson when they have specific questions that remain unanswered after online research.
  • 42% turn to salespeople when they require more detailed and nuanced information about a product or service.
  • 16% speak to salespeople when they’re looking for personalized recommendations or tailored advice.

Consumers are seeking expertise, personalized advice, and deep product knowledge that they can’t just Google — and salespeople can fill those gaps.

Moreover, they can influence purchasing decisions by increasing the confidence of their buyers. Consider this: 78% of consumers say a salesperson’s expertise is “very” to “extremely” important in influencing a purchase decision.

However, preferences change depending on the product or service.

71% of consumers say their preferences for interacting with salespeople change depending on what they’re buying

Take high-ticket items, for example. Over a third (37%) of consumers prefer to chat with a salesperson when considering a high-priced purchase, such as a car or appliance. When the stakes (and prices) are high, the value of expert advice skyrockets.

Another driving factor is how confident the consumer feels in their purchase. If the product is intricate — or the consumer doesn’t feel knowledgeable enough — they’re more likely to seek a salesperson’s guidance. In fact, 70% of consumers prefer speaking to a salesperson in person when they feel uncertain about a purchase.

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On the flip side, for more routine purchases – think groceries, clothing, and everyday household items – consumers are happy to proceed solo.

One respondent summed it up nicely: “If it is a personal item such as clothing, haircare, or food, I prefer no salesperson. If it is a larger purchase that I may lack understanding or expertise in, such as a car or medical need, then I prefer a salesperson for assistance.”

Consumers like self-service because it takes the pressure off.

When asked what makes self-service appealing, the top answer was that it allows consumers to make decisions in a pressure-free environment. Free of that pressure, they can move through the buying process at their own pace.

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Self-service is also synonymous with convenience. 44% of consumers say self-service gives them the convenience to gather information on their own. Plus, the ability to do research at any time and place adds an extra layer of convenience.

Consumers want the option of self-service.

More than half (59%) of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company that offers self-service tools, such as virtual try-ons and live chatbots.

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Personally, I always appreciate when a company offers the option of self-service, even if I don‘t use it. For instance, if I were furniture shopping, I might download Ikea’s mobile app, which lets me test out different products with AR. This could be enough for me to hit “Add to Cart,” or I may decide that I still want to go to the store and test it out.

Either way, self-service is helping me move along in the decision-making process, even if my journey ends with an in-person interaction at a store. This reflects the blended nature of many retail experiences, where digital and physical shopping complement each other.

Consumers want you to follow up in the same manner.

73% of consumers want sales reps to follow up after a purchase in the same manner as the initial sale. For instance, if you’ve been communicating with a customer over the phone, they want you to reach out post-purchase in the same manner. Keep this in mind as you foster these relationships after the initial sale.

Back To You

While in-person interactions are here to stay, it’s clear that consumers want to leave pushy sales tactics in the past. Modern consumers are looking for salespeople to move into a more consultative role, where success relies on your ability to become a resource — whether in person, over the phone, or digitally.

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