Since the beginning of the 21st century, the retail industry has been experiencing a global revolution. Thanks to digital technology, the power is back in the hands of consumers. People everywhere are using the web and social media to spot the latest deals for the newest products. Even competition between businesses has increased because of these changes. Winning the loyalty of customers online is the greatest challenge facing retail companies today. As a consequence, the investment that brands and stores make in training programs has increased significantly to better prepare employees and managers to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. The results of these trainings are not only to improve the usage of technology, employee motivation, loyalty, skill development, and also to boost their business performance to an entire new level.
In both the United States and Europe, the expansion of digital technology has allowed both e-commerce and m-commerce to grow: e-shoppers made up about 57% of the US population in 2014, and are expected to grow to 23% by 2017. Although customers still prefer brick-and-mortar stores, the future of retail is now dependent on the relationship between stores and the web. A study carried out by the Xerfi Group in the last year further confirms the fact that web and traditional stores complement and echo one another. Indeed, while digital platforms bring in new clients and generate in-store traffic, 91% of the population feels that stores should have a website.
As you may imagine, this intrinsic connection has put Human Resources departments in the spotlight for finding ways to improve employee performance. While streamlining processes within an organization would be HR’s first choice, it seems that outside the growing need for technological and business skills, the relationship to the customer is still the key to success. Indeed, digital moved the focus back to the people. This only can mean one thing: customer satisfaction. And while the challenges of HR departments never cease to increase, the equipment needed to change and successfully complete a multi-level transformation, requires new portable, malleable, and individualized learning technologies. This will answer the needs of each employee and contribute to an overall skills development objective. Here are three steps to successfully putting your retail business on the road to a more successful future.
First: Finding Talented Employees
Attracting talented employees and gaining their loyalty is already difficult, but doing it while preparing them to be up to your company’s standards is the biggest challenge of the industry. Understanding how digital can help extend the services provided by human resources can be the key to your success.
- Attracting Talent: As you may know, the retail sector is the first victim of high employee turnover – from 5 to 10% increase per year (Hey Group Study). It is also one where 66% of its customers consider the expertise of sales associates as a vital element to their sales satisfaction, and where the cost of onboarding new employees is exceedingly high – the average being $3,300.
- Training is the Key to Success: Faced with the incredibly high expense of onboarding, employers have no choice but to invest in programs that prepares new employees for their new job as quickly as possible. This can be accomplished by integrating the products with the philosophy of their new brand. And chances are those programs are partly digital, quick and easy to use from day one. Digital also allows for programs to be accessible from various devices and with unique features such as gamification and self-evaluation.
- Creating Loyalty among Employees, Retaining and Developing Talent: The challenge after getting talent to join your company is to keep it there at all costs. Although digital training does contribute to fulfilling that objective, career management stays at the top of an employee’s list: 46% of young employees in the retail sector consider an employer more attractive if they offer interesting career development opportunities (Last Millennials Survey, PwC). So, how can a company offer the best of all opportunities while minimizing costs? That’s easy; again the answer is digital training. Saving on traveling costs can increase the ability to implement features such as online MOOCs and certification programs. Both those features have become indispensable for retaining talent.
Second: Making Retailers Experts in Customer Relation
A sales associate has many crucial roles in the world of retail. Sales associates are brand ambassadors, experts, advisors, coaches and helpers. These extraordinary people are an essential element to the success of a business. Unfortunately, their crucial role often fails in being considered as such by their employers. But who said that could not change? It seems like the moment to start prioritizing their well-being.
- The New Demands of the Connected Customer: Whether it be product satisfaction, immediate availability, management of sales outlets, customer to sales relationships, or the whole the shopping experience, excellence is now the standard expected of any retail outlet. And while the role of the sales associate is expected to meet those standards, it is difficult to ensure that they are respectful, attentive, considerate, and provide accurate advice, possess knowledge of all the new products, and above all, kindness towards the incoming customer. So what’s better than keeping them motivated to do so?
- Changes in Retail Outlets: The focus has to be put on drawing the customer in. One of the most successful examples would be that of Ralph Lauren, a brand that creates three unique universes in its New York stores on Madison Avenue. Each universe is spread throughout the floors of each shop. The women’s department is decorated to feel like you’re traveling back to the 1960s. The men’s department is designed to resemble a mountain cottage and the colors and shapes in the children’s department couldn’t get any brighter or happier.
- Accompanying, Guiding, and Advising: the Human Touch: Now, whatever efforts have been made to make the online retail experience more people-oriented, will never compare to in-person human interactions. No online tool could ever match the efficiency and the accuracy of the personalized guidance of a sales associate. That guidance requires multi-level expertise, like the ability be a brand advocate customer advocate, and sales person.
Finally, engaging Managers, Employees and Consumers with the brand and business culture
What if we could take your business to whole other level? One where managers implement strategies, coach their teams to grow, and where employees and even customers contributed to the success of a business through social media?
- A Manager is a Leader: If the sales associate is now working hand in hand with a customer, a similar trend should be altering the relationship retail managers have with their teams. The key is to provide the necessary support needed to transform sales associates into experts. Flexibility, mobility, and agility; these features are what the new generation is looking for in management and throughout their careers. These attributes can be accomplished through digital technology.
- Business Focus on Employees: Have you heard? Making employees happier makes for a better business. According to the CERF (2012), employees that are happy at work are more productive, creative, loyal and grateful to their employer. Maintaining a healthy psychological and physical well-being in the workplace means that sales associates are in sync with the values of the business, which will ultimately make them more loyal to the brand itself.
Customers as active ambassadors of the brand: More than half of Facebook users, as well as those on Sina Weiba (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), say that these networks have a great effect on their buying behavior. Thanks to hashtags, brands can gain visibility on various social media platforms at one time. The same platforms can be used to implement innovative marketing strategies, which can lead to an increase in sales.
In this new challenging retail environment, changes are needed on every level of a company to keep up, not only with the expectations of the industry but also with the growing expectations of their customers. The costs of continuous training can be high, and may seem infeasible. If the sector chooses the adaptable, individualized, and interactive capabilities of an online learning platform, then the impossible suddenly becomes possible.
If you want to learn more about the industry of retail and their biggest challenges, download CrossKnowledge’s first edition of Learning for Business! Click here.