According to a new report from The NPD Group, American consumer satisfaction with the wireless retail shopping experience is low across the board, with only 24% of recent mobile phone purchasers stating that they had an excellent or good experience. While NPD’s survey confirms that the vast majority of mobile phone and service purchases are made at carrier-owned stores, consumers who purchased from other types of stores, including mass merchants and electronics retailers, reported higher levels of satisfaction.
RadioShack and Wal-Mart were the top two retailers in terms of overall shopping experience, and also ranked high in other metrics including helpful sales staff, variety and selection of wireless products, and store layout.
Wireless carriers continue to dominate wireless retail sales, with 68% of all purchases made at carrier-owned stores. Even so, this type of store generally ranked lower in satisfaction than other retail channels in all categories. Overall Nextel and Cingular ranked highest among carriers, and T-Mobile and Sprint ranked lowest.
“Carriers are working to improve shopping experience at their stores,” said Clint Wheelock, vice president of wireless research at The NPD Group. “Many new tactics are being implemented, including better educating sales staff, providing self-service computer kiosks and changing store layout and flow to improve the customer shopping experience.”
Mass merchants, electronics stores and wireless specialty stores consistently ranked higher in customer satisfaction than most carrier-owned stores in a variety of areas, including overall satisfaction, knowledge of sales staff, and selection of phones and calling plans.
The majority of consumers surveyed were repeat phone purchasers, with only 14% being first-time wireless subscribers. More consumers purchased their device as a replacement for their current phone (39%) or a broken one (15%), a trend NPD expects to continue into the foreseeable future.
” While carriers will likely continue to dominate the wireless retail space, opportunities also exist for other types of retailers,” Wheelock said . “Changes in the wireless landscape, such as the emergence of MVNOs and market saturation, could also offer new opportunities for other retail channels.”