Traditionally, many retail outlets have focused their attention on product training. Yet the role of brick-and-mortar retail stores is changing, and the training for retail needs to change with it.
Traditional Retail Training Approaches
Ten years ago, a manufacturer would train dealers on their latest products. Those dealers would take that knowledge and train their retail associates. At that time, the retail associates were the only ones who could talk to customers about the characteristics and benefits of the product.
In today’s market, consumers are more informed. Consumers use online reviews, videos, and product comparisons to research their purchases before they even enter a retail store. Oftentimes, today’s consumer may not need a retail associate to explain the product to them.
Now, they’re in the retail store for different reasons, and your retail associates need to be able to satisfy those expectations.
The Role of the Retail Associate is Changing
When a consumer comes into a retail store today, they often want to talk to someone who can help them evaluate a product in relation to other options. The consumer may want to confirm their product selection or explore options they haven’t even identified.
Your retail associates need detailed training and knowledge about your top products, which will let the associate compare one product to another. They may also be able to upsell the consumer or point out a different product that would suit the consumer’s needs better.
The product training needs to be updated regularly and presented often enough to keep the associates current. However, there are a number of other training issues that will determine the success of retail associates.
Is Retail Training Important?
Training takes time and money, and some retailers hesitate to train their retail associates due to the high turnover that is typical in the industry.
According to The Friedman Group, a global retail training organization, the biggest reason for the turnover is the associate’s inability to succeed. In addition, one of Friedman’s favorite questions is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”
Experts believe that untrained associates have a detrimental effect on a store’s revenues. In fact, Friedman estimates that better-trained employees would increase sales by approximately 15 to 25 percent.
Retail Training Is Changing
In addition to product training, retail enterprises are training their associates in a number of other areas. The secret for retail stores is to engage customers and reinforce the benefit to the consumer of visiting the brick-and-mortar outlet.
Retail training should include:
Many retail associates aren’t completely familiar with a store’s basic operation. They need to know the basics, such as how to:
- Open and close a register
- Ring up a sale
- Use a mobile device when assisting consumers
Without the basic knowledge, the employee will never gain confidence in their ability to succeed.
Retail Sales and Customer Service Training
Many retail associates believe they know how to interact with consumers. However, it really is necessary to train associates on the skills that are required in today’s retail environment.
Associates can benefit from understanding your customers’ personas. Once they understand what your customers want, they’re in a much better position to help them move through the journey to becoming a true customer. Associates need to understand how to establish rapport with consumers to become their trusted advisor.
In addition, it’s no longer enough to provide structured training. There’s a big difference between understanding what needs to be done and actually doing it. Training should also include as much or more follow-up time to reinforce the learning, answer questions, role-play, and complete quizzes.
The question of how much training is required in a retail environment boils down to “as much as it takes.” When you align your training with your business goals, you’ll discover the type and duration of training you need in your own organization.
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