Driving retail through online academies
Posted on 8th April, 2016 by Raoul Dewhurst
This week’s post comes from Learning Consultant Raoul Dewhurst who is based in LEO’s Brighton office.
It’s a common enough scene: A young retail shop floor salesman stands awkwardly at the end of the isle, name badge dangling limply off his uniform shirt announcing (rather over enthusiastically), “Hi I’m Steve, I’m here to help!” He fidgets slightly as the social media withdrawal symptoms begin to bite, not having checked his phone for the entirety of his shift.
Head pounding from the overload of choice, marketing spiel, and the complex price ‘offers’, you approach Steve. Your simple task of finding a suitable vacuum cleaner for your house has turned into a paralysing nightmare of indecision. Steve will be able to help you – he works here in this palace of glossy electronic wonders – he’ll have the answer to your questions. It’s now Steve’s knowledge and enthusiasm about certain products that will almost certainly determine which shiny gadget you’ll part with your hard earned cash for.
As a manufacturer, it is the ‘Steves’ of this world with whom you have to connect. They have to be able to describe the features and extol the benefits of your product, be able to identify the ideal customer and really care about the product they are selling.
Of course, this is a tricky proposition. It’s one thing to take control of your own employees’ training and development but to engage a third party’s shop floor staff (and win their hearts and minds) is another thing altogether. Major outlets, the likes of John Lewis, Currys, Media Markt, and Debenhams, among others, are the forefront of high street sales. Their armies of shop floor staff around Europe number in the hundreds of thousands and are an extremely important part of the sales chain to connect with if you want your product pushed above its competitors.
There are a couple of challenges here. First and foremost, their time is not yours to take. The shop has an obvious incentive to ensure their staff makes sales – so product training is something they will allow them time off the shop floor to do. But this time, will be limited, and there will be training material of other brands to compete with.
Products also constantly update and change – new features, new models, new prices. So your training material needs to be up-to-date and constantly refreshed. You are also dealing with, what is for the most part, a young and difficult audience to engage.
The solution is not just in the training material you send out but how you deliver and track it. To effectively engage the ‘Steves’ of this world and get them to sell your products, you need a fresh and modern approach to getting their attention. The solution here is to this the use of online academies that can be accessed remotely and are controlled centrally.
This structure has the advantage of enabling the central marketing function to keep product information current and relevant, delivering it almost instantaneously. It also provides a great deal of control over which market sees what – so floor staff only see what is sold in their market. It also gives you a sight of how people are engaging with the training and to a large extent if it is hitting the mark. While tracking individual use can be difficult as the retail industry tends to have a lot of employee churn, it’s certainly valuable to see how your customers are performing at the retailer level. By analysing the scores in the games, and tracking certain challenges seeded throughout the training, you will gain insight into what is being understood about your products.
Of course, the way the learning is presented is vitally important here. Bite-sized learning content that is engaging with games and challenges is the best way to connect with this audience. The learning should be fun and different enough that learners are curious and even look forward to what new learning is going to be available. When they are back on the shop floor, your brand will be at the front of their mind, exciting and motivating them to share their knowledge with customers.
Today’s consumer habits have increased pressure on retailers to navigate complex supply chain and logistical issues. Emerging retail technologies, such as contactless payment and Apple Pay, mean retail employees must be ready to adapt quickly. LEO’s bespoke learning solutions are individually designed to the custom requirements of each scenario and situation. Speak to us today to begin your learning journey.