As consumers, we all know how off-putting it can be when retail staff lack product knowledge, are unhelpful, or struggle to process your purchase at checkout. All of these things come down to a lack of training and they significantly impact shopping experience. That’s why companies that do well are the ones that place an emphasis on training their staff. For example, national franchise Inkspot provides weekly online training sessions for employees, and David Jones has made a conscious shift to towards permanent employees with better training, which the company believes has been a major factor behind their recent 10 per cent plus sales growth.
For retailers and business owners, it’s important to recognise that the knowledge, skills, and demeanour of your employees can make or break a sale or customer relationship. This is why it’s critical to adequately train and educate each staff member. Doing so empowers employees to do their jobs better and improve performance, which can reduce employee turnover and increase sales.
This week, Vend, the world-leading retail management software company launched Vend U, an educational portal for retailers, owner-operators and their teams. As Education Coordinator for Vend U, here are my main tips on how you can improve your staff training to boost your retail store’s success.
Brand voice. Having a clear brand voice allows you to differentiate yourself and reach your target customers. And it can be done in many ways - from the music you play in-store, to the packaging of customer purchases. One of the reasons people choose to shop and stay loyal to a retailer is because they can relate and identify with the brand, so see to it that all of your staff are able to embody your brand and what it stands for.
Products. In addition to training your staff on the features and benefits of your merchandise, go a step further by training them to be product and industry experts. For instance, if you’re selling apparel, make sure your employees are familiar with the latest fashion trends, fabric manufacturing processes and size guides so they come across as truly credible and engaged.
Sales. Provide your staff with sales training that covers topics such as how to read shopper’s non-verbal cues, how to handle objections, and how to close sales. Giving your employees sales training not only means customers will find their assistance more helpful and will be more likely to purchase something, but it builds your staff members’ confidence which will help them perform better.
Customers. Train your staff on how to get to know your customers so they can serve them in the best way possible. Make sure your team members are aware of the different customer personas that your business caters to, so they can tailor their approach accordingly.
Store equipment, applications, and procedures. The last thing you want is employees struggling to handle issues such as product returns or refunds, so see to it that each employee is trained to use your systems properly. As a manager this involves being patient and supportive, allowing staff members time to get to grips with the equipment on-the-job.
How to make retail training more effective
Once you’ve established the key areas you want to cover in your training program, you’ll need to figure out the best way to relay the lessons and information, so employees can learn and retain the knowledge more effectively. Some of the best ways to do this include:
1. Set clear objectives and outcomes. When creating training programs, managers should ask themselves questions such as “what do you want your team to learn?” and “how do you want their behaviours to change?” Doing so will enable you to define what you want to achieve, and help you obtain the desired outcomes.
2. For online training, implement bite-sized sessions. Online training such as video tutorials can be a great way to educate several team members at once - but only if you do it right. If you want to make web-based training more effective, it’s best to keep the material short and sweet – 2-3 minutes per section is usually the perfect amount.
3. Utilise various training materials. Blended learning is one of the best ways to make learning stick. Online education, reinforced by quizzes and PDF handouts make learning more effective. Use a combination of videos, guides, and verbal sessions to make the experience more dynamic. This will keep trainees engaged and help them respond better to the content.
4. Give employees time to apply what they’ve learned. Applied learning is far more effective than theoretical education alone, so ensure that your staff get first-hand training on the sales floor. Have an experienced manager walk them through different processes, and show trainees how to deal with various situations. Conduct role-playing sessions to give your staff the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
5. Provide refresher courses if necessary. Remember that people usually retain only a fraction of the information given to them, so it’s important to hold refresher courses. You should also document your training materials and make them available after each session, so employees can refer back to these autonomously. This will mean your staff can lead and be accountable for their own success, and will also help you scale the program, so training isn’t dependent entirely on you or a particular instructor.
6. Outsource. If you already have a lot on your plate, or if educating people isn’t your strong suit, then outsourcing your training program may be the best option for you. Leaving training up to the experts frees up your time for other important tasks, like taking care of your customers and growing your business.
About the Author: Reese Evans is the Education Coordinator for Vend U, a resource center offered by Vend. Vend U allows all retailers to access webinars, articles, and whitepapers on retail success. It also has an exclusive education portal for Vend customers, which contains on-demand videos and guides on running various aspects of a retail business.