Brick and mortar retailers are faced with tremendous challenges these days given an increased focus on modern branding and enhanced customer experience. In fact, according to the Retail TouchPoints Store Operations Survey, a large percentage of retailers report that hiring, retaining, and training store associates are top challenges. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise since the retail industry is notorious for enduring these challenges; however, there is a very different dynamic in retail today. The bar has been raised and these challenges now come with much higher stakes. Retail training now takes center stage as businesses compete to deliver exceptional experiences to win new customers.
A Shift to Modern Branding
Traditional branding consisted of identifying your company’s vision, mission, and values to establish your competitive positioning in the marketplace. Retailers would advertise their brand and ensure that each physical store location brought their brand to life.
The modern branding of today is much different. Branding has become an all-encompassing customer experience. The big shift to modern branding came about with the growth of the internet, social media and ever-growing base of connected consumers. This new virtual world of mobile devices, social media, and online reviews have catapulted us into an era driven by a demand for authenticity, transparency and positive experiences.
Branding and Customer Experience
Branding and customer experience truly go hand-in-hand. Customer experience is how customers perceive their interactions with your brand. Branding sets the stage that the customer experience needs to adhere to across all customer touchpoints. Customer experience is where the brand comes alive physically, expressively and virtually in its interactions with the customer. Keep in mind that customers can engage with brands in more ways and places than ever before. As a result, customer expectations are higher than ever. According to customer service and experience expert Shep Hyken, “be it customer service, product quality or just the way the customers feel about the companies they do business with, customer experience rises to the top of whether or not the customer will decide to conduct business with a brand.”
Training to Meet Brand/Customer Expectations
The importance of having a strong brand and delivering great customer experience is paramount for many top retailers. It takes a solid retail training program to ensure that your employees understand your brand’s mission, goals, and objectives. Retail teams that are knowledgeable in job expectations, customer expectations, and product and brand knowledge are far better positioned to deliver a quality experience. It’s particularly important to ensure that your frontline associates and call/support center employees are empowered with consistent and ongoing training including soft skills training. These high profile employees become a combination of brand ambassadors, support gurus, and product evangelists and therefore need to be equipped with the proper skills to embrace these roles.
Retail Training is Challenging
Delivering retail training is challenging. There are many complexities to consider such as training multiple job roles across multiple locations, developing training in multiple languages, creating engaging training materials, and even managing the training process from a central corporate location is difficult. Furthermore, there are limitations to what you can achieve using traditional training tactics like paper binders and store huddles. Simply relying on a store Manager to conduct training is wrought with the potential for inconsistency in messaging and delivery. Retailers need to consider technology to support their training initiatives.
Bring Retail Training into the Digital Age
In an age where consumers can engage with retail brands from their tablets and smartphones, shouldn’t store associates have that same experience accessing their training? Identifying an appropriate learning management system that’s well-suited for retail training is a sure-fire technology solution that will help alleviate many of the challenges and complexities associated with retail training. Although there are many features and functions to consider, key features to look for in a retail LMS solution include multiple portal configurations, mobile accessible, content-neutral learning environment, role-specific training deployments, testing capabilities, simple and straightforward user and administrative interfaces, to name but a few.
As modern branding and the rise of customer experience continues to transform retail environments, frontline associates and call/support center employees must continuously hone their knowledge and skills to deliver outstanding customer experiences. A robust training strategy coupled with learning technology empowers retailers to do just that. If you’d like to learn more about ePath Learning’s LMS solutions, contact us today.
Susan Distasio | eLearning Industry Crusader | ePath Learning, Inc.
About the Author: Susan Distasio is an eLearning Industry Crusader focused on advocating for advancement and change in the eLearning and professional development industry. An avid seeker of knowledge and continuous improvement, Susan is happy to share her research, observations, and thoughts regarding “all things related to learning and development.” When she’s not out on the learning crusade, Susan can be found with the wind in her hair riding her Harley or simply enjoying life with her husband, Steve, and her Siamese cat, Elvis, and with family and friends.