3 things to consider when evaluating frontline training, comms and retail task management software

Whether in a strip mall in the suburbs or a storefront in the big city, you want customers to get the same great experience every time they walk into one of your stores. Consistency builds brand loyalty, making your store a trusted choice for customers. It also makes things run more smoothly and efficiently behind the scenes. And it all depends on getting all of your associates, across all locations, pulling in the same direction.

Given its importance, it’s no wonder there are so many tools dedicated to helping retailers achieve consistent frontline performance. Retail task management software, training solutions and communications platforms are a few of the big ones. If you’re interested in what sets these tools apart, and which is the best fit for your frontline performance goals, check out our previous post on this topic.

This week, we’re getting into the nitty gritty, with three key considerations to keep in mind when evaluating frontline retail support tools.

1. Does it go to the associate level?

Historically, retailers have struggled to communicate directly with the frontline. Messages are often filtered from HQ to District Managers to Store Managers, to associates. Communication is ad-hoc and time-consuming, with little to no visibility into how and when the message got to the frontline, or how it was received. It’s easy for important information to fall through the cracks, and the customer experience suffers as a result.

Many retail tools claim to solve this communication gap, but they only deliver communications, training and tasks to the store level—leaving you with the same risks and inefficiencies as before.

To avoid this pitfall, it’s critical that your retail support tool goes straight to the associate level. This gives you certainty that every associate gets a consistent message, at the right time (with no unwanted edits along the way). Not only that, this unlocks reporting, so you can instantly see who has and hasn’t read your messages.

But giving associates a login for a complicated desktop application isn’t enough. To reach associates, these tools need to make sense for life on the retail frontlines. And that brings us to our next point…

Communicate timely, consistent information to associates in the moments that matter—no email address required.

2. Does it fit with associates’ day-to-day reality?

You need your associates on the floor, serving customers, not in the backroom on the computer. So, when considering whether your training, task management or comms platform will be easily accessible to associates, you’ve got to keep that in mind. 

Trying to get the frontline to use tools that are built for office workers just won’t work. Confusing login processes and clunky interfaces will hamper adoption. The necessity to pull associates off the floor will make regular use infeasible. 

Tools that are designed for the frontline reality are:

  • Available on the devices they’re already using, like POS devices, handheld scanners, tablets or their own phones
  • Mobile first, designed to adapt seamlessly to all device types and sizes
  • Streamlined UX that’s easy to navigate in a few taps (no cumbersome menus)

Bottom line: Any tools your associates use should fit with the unique way they work, so they can quickly get in, get the info they need and get on with delivering great service

3. How does the platform encourage adoption?

If you build it, will they come?

It’s a big question. You can’t afford to invest in a new tool that nobody actually uses. And adoption of new tools and technology on the frontline is a longstanding challenge.

When you’re evaluating how you’ll get eyeballs on the platform, there are a few different stakeholders to consider:

  • The associate: Associates are busy. To learn a new tool and use it regularly, there’s got to be something in it for them. Gamification can give your engagement levels a huge boost. Elements like points, games, leaderboards and prizes stoke excitement and make it fun, so people keep logging in.

Not convinced? Hear how gamification helped At Home achieve 98% voluntary participation rates in training, in an associate’s own words.

  • Store leaders: Store leader buy-in can also make or break adoption. They have direct access to associates. But they also have a lot on their plates, which makes them laser-focused on results. There’s nothing more powerful than cold hard numbers to show the impact of training and give them a reason to encourage adoption.

Chad McIntosh explains how metrics made a difference to Bloomingdale’s adoption of frontline training: “We can now tell management ‘If you increase employee participation in training from 60% to 85%, here’s the value at the end of the day, or at the end of the year when we take inventory for you.’”

Demonstrating impact is a critical way to get leaders on board and cement adoption of your new platform.

Evaluating training, communications and retail task management systems is no easy feat. There are a lot of options, and a lot to think about. We hope these three considerations have given you a good place to start. Interested in continuing the conversation about frontline support with one of our retail experts? Get in touch here

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.