Retail Training Trends: The Importance of Front-Line Employees

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Retail Training Trends - Shopping CartAs a young adult, I worked a few hours a week at a national clothing retail chain to stay in the “now” on clothing trends and, of course, for the employee discount. Looking back, I didn’t receive a single minute of training outside of how to use the merchant system to ring customers up.

As organizations try to stay ahead of retail training trends in a rapidly changing environment, the need for effective training is becoming more prevalent. Why? Research shows that training and development programs can improve productivity, performance, and motivation at work. This is even more relevant with front-line employees, like retail associates, as the most in-touch with consumers, they have more influence now over buying decisions than ever before.

As you evaluate your current retail training programs, consider three questions:

Who is the consumer?

Technology can now capture and transmit information about what consumers look for, when they look for it, and most importantly, how they want to purchase it. With retailers using this new technology to track search behavior, consumers often see previous product searches in their browser the next morning or in their email inbox. The new expectation is that retailers know what consumers are looking for, even in brick and mortar locations. Put a plan together to increase knowledge of “who” the consumer is and what they are looking for in order to help employees put the right product in consumer hands quickly.

Can employees assess situations?

Millennials aren’t that different from the rest of us in how they learn because the way we all learn has evolved. However, because advanced technology has been available most of their lives, their social maturation is different. They are generally much more in-tune with what makes them happy, however, they often need training on how to quickly evaluate situations, body language, and facial expressions to pick up on consumer needs. And because compared to other generations, millennials are five times more likely to hold retail merchandising jobs, it’s crucial to consider their learning styles.

Are employees brand influencers?

Due to social media and the constant sharing of information, the power of any single employee on a brand is more potent now than ever. The key is to help employees understand how influential they can be, for the positive and negative. Even with a high retail turn-over rate, companies can consider training investment as a way to build brand champions. If retail employees are drinking the ‘Brand Kool-Aid’ you have loyal customers for life. I know I am, I bought a new shirt from my previous employer just last week.

There are multiple ways to address the retail training needs above, a couple of approaches we often use at Allen include:

  1. Building situational and scenario based learning – Build the cognitive muscle memory for quicker perception of situations. This can minimize bad consumer experiences in real-life transactions.
  2. Bite-size, visually pleasing modules – Focus on short modules with open navigation and different types of media to reinforce learning principles such as infographics, gamification, action planners, etc.
  3. Easily accessible and searchable assets –LMS/Learning Portals that allow employees to easily find learning content in the moment of need will prove to be invaluable in the retaining of information.

Since front-line retail employees are arguably the most in-touch with consumers, leverage that power. The options of how to attack the learner needs in retail are endless.

What are your challenges with retail training? How are you solving them?

Interested in more retail training design strategies? Contact one of our learning directors to see award-winning retail training examples or to start a conversation about how to apply these strategies to your projects.


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  1. Tom

    Nice blog, I’m glad you’re bringing attention to the importance of retail associates. Since they are the employees who interact with customers everyday, they end up being the face of the brand to most customers. I know I’m more likely to remember how a retail associate treated me and helped me than if a display was set up properly. Giving them enough training on how to interact with customers should definitely be a priority.

  2. Paulina

    I’ve been looking for practical suggestions on how to incorporate the knowledge about differences between generations into learning. Thank you for including so many of them in your article. I’m not working with retail learners but I believe that the ideas you’ve shared will work with other learners as well.



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