7 Characteristics of successful retail training programs
Retail training has a number of unique challenges because it’s a largely frontline industry with extremely high turnover and a number of industry-specific demands. You have to account for things like the ever-changing workplace environment, complex products and services, demanding customers, less experienced staff and (quite often) the need to get a consistent message across to thousands of people across hundreds of locations—even across regions and countries. And then there’s the fact that retail stores have limited time for training in general, which further puts you at a disadvantage.
Successful retail sales training programs need to account for these challenges.
The core tenets of retail training
Effective training doesn’t happen by accident. Especially in a retail environment, you have to make sure that your training program is designed to win by hitting the following points.
1. Built for retail
There are a lot of ways to facilitate learning, but not all solutions are tailored to the needs of retail workers. You need to build a retail-focused program with the right tools and content if you want your message to resonate.
After all, if you hope to reach so many people across so many regions, you need tech that fits your unique needs. Going with a retail-minded solution saves you time and ensures better results company-wide.
2. Streamlined onboarding
The turnover rate for retail is about 60%, making the retail industry one of the highest-turnover industries in the U.S. As a result, retail workers typically have minimal time to get up to speed, and they often need to start working the same day they get hired. Any onboarding-related training should accommodate this.
People can’t remember everything you teach them on day 1. Instead, focus on the most important topics first, like compliance regulations, job safety and basic customer service. This will help you get new hires on the floor in hours instead of days. Then, quickly build their knowledge with daily training (more on that later).
3. Durable skills
Soft skills, or durable skills, are critical components of frontline work—and they apply to every worker regardless of their role. These skills include problem-solving, customer service, communication and the ability to think on one’s feet. Their importance is paramount. Consider that 89% of employees who fail in the first 18 months do so because of a lack of durable skills.
Durable skills are harder to teach, so you should ideally look for candidates who already possess these proficiencies to some extent. Then, as part of the retail employee training process, focus on mastering the durable skills first, followed by the technical and product-related skills. For more information, refer to our guide to improving soft skills in sales professionals.
4. Daily training
Retail employees are not going to know everything when they get started, no matter how much you want them to. And a rapid onboarding process means that retail workers won’t be able to consume all of the information they need right out of the gate. That means training needs to be part of their everyday experience.
You may not be able to pull people away from the operation, but you can give them 5 minutes per day to focus on building their knowledge. And the good news is that’s how people learn: in small amounts over time.
5. Personalized experiences
Some people will come to the job with retail experience. Some will be working their first job. Your training program must meet everyone’s needs, and it should intuitively tailor the training based on how well—or how poorly—the employee grasps each concept.
Adaptive learning technology can adjust training based on each person’s unique knowledge and experience, accelerating training for some while making sure others get more support on certain topics. For example, if one employee is struggling to comprehend the steps involved in overcoming customer objections, they will be served training that dedicates extra effort to reinforcing these concepts without slowing down other employees who have already mastered them.
6. Upskilling opportunities
There are many roles on the retail floor, and it’s sometimes necessary to shuffle employees from one responsibility to another. Creating an agile workforce is a must, and so every retail training program should seek to not only reinforce core skills but introduce new proficiencies regularly. Cross-training people into other roles or departments not only makes your retail business more agile but can also make the job more interesting for people.
In addition, all retail sales professionals should have upskilling opportunities, whether they ultimately want to become key holders, supervisors or sales managers. Research shows that 65% of potential hires look for upskilling opportunities when considering a new job. Ongoing training allows you to build bench strength.
7. Measurable outcomes
Digital training programs allow for precise performance/growth measurements. Brick-and-mortar retailers have a lot of metrics to weigh: average transaction, customer satisfaction, productivity, safety, conversion, customer retention, loyalty sign-ups and loss prevention, just to name a few examples.
Your training program should align with these measurable outcomes to ensure its effectiveness. A solution like Axonify allows you to define your goals and KPIs and track how effectively your training helps you to meet these goals. For instance, you can set goals for customer experience, customer satisfaction (CSAT), sales, safety, revenue and more.
Train employees for success in retail
Retail sales training isn’t always easy, but you can ensure success when you tailor the program according to your employees’ and customers’ needs and keep a close eye on the results. Start by using a retail LMS that does the heavy lifting for you, and then make your training program a priority for all of your sales team members.
Axonify is an employee enablement solution trusted by retail leaders because it’s tailored to help get new associates up to speed quickly. It comes equipped with hundreds of retail-specific training courses that you can integrate right into your training program and it’s designed to meet the challenges of the retail environment by allowing you to track retail-friendly metrics (see #7 above), eliminate common retail communication problems with company-wide messaging and minimize the time required for training each day.
If you want to keep operations flowing smoothly and provide an exemplary customer experience, it all starts with the right retail sales training program. So make sure to give your training the effort it deserves.