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9 Ways to Train Your Retail Store Staff… For Real

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If you think you’ve already given your store’s employees all the retail training they need, think again. 

Chances are, your store staff mentally checked out after learning the basics of your POS system and store merchandise zones. And, you’ve been far too busy to conduct one-on-one training, so your educational initiatives may have gone by the wayside. 

Sound familiar? 

It’s time to resolve these issues and put a stop to these unproductive situations. Let’s look at 9 hacks that you can use to train your staff for the long haul.

 

Gamify the Training Path

Think of your retail training program like a game. Each time players progress to another level, they receive a reward, which then entices them to keep playing. 

Use a similar philosophy when designing your retail training program. Create games or competitions to make learning more exciting, and use incentives to encourage people to keep learning. 

The automotive retailer Pep Boys offers a great example of gamification in action. To beef up its employees’ loss prevention training, Pep Boys used quizzes to test the knowledge of its team members. When a staff member answers a question correctly, they get to play a slot machine game for a chance to win cash prizes. An incorrect answer, on the other hand, leads to a short retraining piece to refresh their knowledge.

 

Create an All-in-one Training Hub

Employees will have a tough time completing your training program if they can’t access the information.

Avoid this by establishing a one-stop retail education hub. Load your entire training program into a cloud-based platform that employees can access on their own time. 

Aside from keeping all your educational materials in one place, having a training hub makes it easier to change or update the program. If you need to add or amend a course, for example, you can do it once in the cloud, and your team will be able to access the new information. That way, you won’t have to re-distribute the materials across different stores and everyone stays on the same page.

 

Create a Centralized and Open Communications Channel

Establish a centralized communications framework between the corporate office and all associated retail stores. Whether it’s a weekly newsletter or a regular video update, funneling all communications through a central channel will make it easy to get information out quickly. 

Just take a look at what the Cheesecake Factory is doing. The leading restaurant chain has a company-wide newsletter called Wow Stories. Each story showcases an employee who has gone above-and-beyond to provide terrific service. 

Besides highlighting best practices, these inspiring accounts give employees a high-octane morale boost. Plus, the initiative is centralized and comes straight from HQ, and this helps ensure that all staff members receive the newsletter.

Of course, communication should be a two-way street. Maybe a new associate has important store-related questions. Or, an employee has a time- or money-saving idea that deserves higher-level consideration. Everyone should be encouraged to communicate those questions or ideas to senior management and know exactly how they can go about doing so. 

 

Use Engaging Video Tutorials

One of the best ways to get information to stick is to show (not just tell) employees how to do things. And while conducting one-on-one, in-person training is great, it’s not exactly scalable.

Enter video tutorials. Recording videos of your in-store processes and workflows enables you to demonstrate company best practices without having to show up in person. 

Best of all, employees can watch the videos on their own time, and they can pause, rewind, and rewatch the clips whenever necessary. 

For more user engagement, avoid dry, factual tutorials that will make viewers quickly tune out. Instead, ask company field managers (and even the corporate executives) to record short, punchy tutorials about some aspect of sales training, corporate culture, or in-store processes. 

 

Adopt Mobile Training

With mobile technology touching almost every aspect of our lives, using smartphones and tablets for retail sales training is a natural fit. A mobile-based sales training course enables sales floor employees to view a training module during their slow periods. 

Carpetright, which sells floor coverings and beds, is one example of a retailer that’s gone mobile with employee training. Since most of its employees are rarely at their desks, Carpetright developed a learning system, which delivered bite-sized videos that people could view on their mobile devices.

The initiative was a success. In addition to seeing a boost in course views and mobile logins, Carpetright saw engagement rates increase, and learners started recommending videos to their colleagues. 

 

Don’t Forget About Valuable Soft Skills

Don’t just focus on technical training like how to work the POS or how to use the inventory management system. You should also devote educational resources to retail soft skills, such as how to interface with customers, how to read people, and more.

Doing so can unlock an entire universe of sales opportunities. Consumers are more receptive towards associates that “get” them, so training your team to relate better with shoppers⁠—beyond a “can I help you?”⁠—will have a direct impact on your bottom line. 

Leading retailers like Walmart and Target have an approach to retail sales training that’s paid off. As discussed in CB4’s white paper, both retail chains recently announced a major investment in-store associate training. 

In fact, says Bob Phibbs (aka The Retail Doctor), Walmart planned to add 200 training centers, and Target decided to reinvest billions into staff and training initiatives. Not surprisingly, both companies reported record sales numbers in subsequent business cycles.

 

Ramp Up the Role Playing  

If you’re well acquainted with the retail world, you’re likely familiar with role-playing exercises. This tried-and-true retail sales training method generally involves a “customer” (often a manager) and a new store associate. The manager runs the employee through one or more typical sales scenarios and invites the employee to turn each situation into a sales opportunity.  

For a more real-world feel, conduct the role-playing exercise on the sales floor, rather than in the break room. Then for added authenticity, hire a local actor, and ask them to conjure up several fairly difficult (perhaps even obnoxious) customer personas. This tactic takes managers out of the equation, and better resembles an actual employee-customer interaction. 

Afterward, reinforce the scenario’s concepts with the associate, but maintain a positive tone throughout the discussion.

 

Train in Short, Effective Bursts

Even as technology has helped to streamline almost every aspect of our lives, it has also drastically decreased users’ attention spans. This problem has especially manifested itself in training program delivery, where users are likely to tune out (and even fall asleep) shortly after long training modules begin.

Circumvent this undesirable outcome by creating three-to-five-minute “burst training” sessions that focus on a single topic. After the module ends, ask employees to practice the lesson’s techniques on the sales floor.

 

Train Employees Thoroughly…and Keep Training

An effective retail training program doesn’t end when an employee’s onboarding concludes. Take a leaf out of the playbook of Sephora, which begins educating its team members on their first day on the job–and then keeps training them day after day.

According to Sephora

In our stores, every shift begins with a “Daily Dose” of training and every single employee has a tailored development plan to help them get to the next step in their career.

When new beauty trends, products, and application techniques hit the market, Sephora quickly brings its staff up to speed. The company has even established three global Sephora University locations, inviting both corporate and store-based employees to keep honing their skills. 

 

Give Your Team the Best Chances for Success

Of course, stellar sales associates can’t make up for in-store stock issues that make it hard (or impossible) for customers to find and purchase your products. 

That’s where CB4 comes in. We help eliminate problems like the lack of product visibility, mismatches in pricing, inventory discrepancies, and more. That way, you and your team can focus less on putting out fires and devote more energy to actually serving your customers. Learn mor

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