The retail industry is no easy ride. Retailers are constantly assessing consumer data trying to find a competitive advantage. But what if your greatest advantage is your team of employees?
A finely tuned retail training program can determine your reputation, bottom line, and overall success. Not exactly sure what that entails? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we will cover what retail training is, popular retail training categories, and why retail training is important.
What is Retail Training?
Retail training focuses on the behaviors that increase sales and provide positive customer experiences. In general, such behaviors include:
- Demonstrating expertise in product knowledge
- Kindly and efficiently assisting customers
- Maintaining a safe, clean environment
- Closing sales, cross-selling, and upselling customers
Altogether, retail training typically aims to develop personable retail employees who are fast on their feet and fluent in their product knowledge. Such a fleet of retail employees can boost sales and provide a positive customer experience — the latter being integral to repeat business and referrals.
Examples of Retail Training
To address those behaviors, retailers should hone in on some standard retail training categories. These categories have long been the focus of retailers, and they still encompass everything a modern retail employee needs to know or practice. The categories are:
- Retail Onboarding
- Customer Service
- Product Knowledge
Let’s explore each of those retail training categories in a bit more detail.
Proper onboarding training gets new hires acquainted with your company, branding, and processes. A good onboarding program will get your retail employees excited about their new job, up to speed with their responsibilities, and ready to get started. Onboarding training topics could include touring a sales floor, meeting the team, and reviewing company principles and policies.
All retail training must include a focus on customer service. Your team must be prepared to offer a consistent, positive experience to all customers, regardless of the questions they have. From navigating difficult conversations to simply providing service with a smile, companies can use customer service retail training to teach employees how to navigate customer interactions and give them a risk-free place to practice doing so. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can be especially useful for this retail training category, as they provide an immersive environment for learners to experience the consequences of the things they say and do.
Product and Service Knowledge
A large part of customer service is being knowledgeable in their organization’s full suite of products and services. Therefore, companies turn to retail training to develop retail employees into the product experts they need to be. Product knowledge training can encompass quizzes that test a learner’s knowledge about a given product’s details, and it can include scenario-based training in which learners must match products with customers based on their specific needs.
Product Knowledge Training in Action
We’ve created learning experiences that include both activities, helping Sally Beauty’s associates to learn about their different hair color products and build baskets for specific customers. And build baskets they did! With newfound confidence in the hair color aisle, Sally Beauty associates managed to sell out of one product line not even 48 hours after the training curriculum launched. The power of product knowledge is very, very real.
For one retail employee, the extent of their role in sales may be operating a point of sale (POS) system. For another, they may be out on the sales floor helping customers make the right purchase. Retail training should include sales training to the degree your employees need it.
Perhaps they need to learn and practice techniques in closing sales, upselling, and cross-selling, or perhaps they just need to get familiar with your POS.
Last but certainly not least, retail training must cover safety training. You must ensure that your retail employees know how to preserve a safe and clean environment, both as part of their routine and in the event of emergencies. Safety training can cover everything from general sanitation to following protocol in the event of fires, natural disasters, active shooters, etc.
Any true retail training initiative should help retail employees to develop the behaviors that will lead to increased sales and positive customer experiences. Why? Let’s explore.
Why is Retail Training Important?
If we revisit our definition of retail training, we see hints as to why it’s so important. Sales growth and positive customer experiences are critical to a retailer’s survival; and since retail training is focused on those outcomes, it’s safe to say the training itself is critical, too! The numbers back up this logic.
According to the PwC Future of Customer Experience Survey 2017/18, 73% of all customers surveyed consider experience an important factor when buying. Additionally, 32% of all customers surveyed would avoid a brand they love after just one negative experience.
On the flip side, there’s clear value in positive customer experiences. They lead to more sales, which lead to happy, healthy retailers. The five most important aspects of the customer experience are:
- Friendly Service
- Knowledgeable Service
- Easy Payment
Those elements are all natural fits to be addressed in any of the standard retail training categories we outlined above.
Custom-Built or Off-the-Shelf Programs: Which is Best?
Like other industries and topics, you can opt for custom-built retail training or off-the-shelf solutions. Let’s take a quick look at the differences.
Custom-Built Retail Training
A custom-built platform is preferred for your retail training program if you are looking for something unique to a company’s organization or processes. A company may want a custom program to have more control over the branding, content, look, and functions of the platform. Plus, you have access to different modalities, like eLearning, VR, and AR. While a custom-built program may involve a higher implementation cost, the ROI can be higher due to more functionality, employee retention, and use over time.
Off-the-Shelf Retail Training
An off-the-shelf platform may be a good option for companies that have to train on common topics, such as industry-standard customer service principles or safety protocols. In exchange for lower cost, an off-the-shelf program has limited customization abilities and forces you to stay within the capabilities of the platform. If you have customers with distinct personalities who require unique problem solving, off-the-shelf solutions may not allow for the practice your employees need.
Are You Ready To Boost Sales?
The marks of success are baked into our definition of retail training: more sales, more positive customer experiences. If you’re ready to turn toward training to gain an edge in an ultra-competitive industry, we’re here to help.