A retail employee helps a customer shop for shoes.

How to Make the Most of Retail Employees’ Limited Training Time

Jason Bacaj | 4 min read

Retail training boosts sales, but two-thirds of retail workers get less than 10 hours of training each year.

Retailers are in a crunch.

The more employees know about a product, the better they’ll be able to sell it. For example, after a month of product-specific training Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply saw a double-digit boost to sales of that product. And the boost lasted for a year.

Still, when there’s only so much time in a given day—Retail Systems Research estimates that about two-thirds of retail workers fit in less than 10 hours of training each year. L&D pros need to get creative with their solutions, and doing more with less.

Tools

First things first: you need the right tools. It’s obviously impractical to have experts trailing employees around the floor. But with a learning management system (LMS) you can provide employees with a similar on-demand resource.

An LMS allows you to create, distribute, and update training materials. It’s a single, online location for employees whenever they have time to learn more about brands, products, or sales techniques.

Of course, is an LMS truly available on demand if it isn’t immediately on hand? Your learning strategy is more effective if employees can interact with it on a mobile device. While the Pew Research Center says more than three-quarters of adults in the U.S. have a smartphone, it’s better if employees on the floor have access to a tablet or other mobile devices.

Not only can tablet-wielding employees can train when they have a spare moment, but they can use the device to provide higher-level customer service. After all, omnichannel shoppers often spend a lot of time researching before they step into a store. There’s a fair chance a focused shopper has more product-specific knowledge than an employee.

A retail employee helps a customer shop for shoes.

Techniques

Equipped with the right tools for the job, it’s time to look at the different ways you can provide training. One key element to keep in mind is: how can you make training and product knowledge available to employees in the flow of work?

Microlearning makes intuitive sense when time is a factor. Maybe it’s a list of bullet points detailing the product’s features and functionalities. Maybe a fun fact to keep a particular brand top-of-mind for employees on the floor. Or maybe a short video about the product’s unique manufacturing process.

If you do end up putting videos together for employees, there are a few guidelines that are useful to follow along the way. Keep them short — as in a minute or less. And make sure to use captions in the video.

Not only do captions make the video more accessible for those with limited hearing, but employees won’t have to use headphones to understand the content.

Headphones are today’s office walls, a signal that the wearer is busy and not to be disturbed. And that’s not particularly conducive to quality customer service.

Follow-up

A significant part of successful learning is in the follow-through, same as in many sports. Find ways to build in periodic refreshers on important details to ensure that employees actually are absorbing the information.

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that people steadily forget new information over the course of a day. The best way to ensure that current product knowledge and sales techniques stick over time is through spaced repetition.

One way you can fit regular refreshers into a workflow is through a sales contest. For instance, L&M Supply, one of our clients, uses monthly contests as a way to drive sales for specific items.

While L&M didn’t launch the contest specifically to reinforce product knowledge, their case study demonstrates that a sales contest drives employees to the LMS. Since the challenge launched, L&M has seen involuntary engagement levels above 90% and voluntary engagement of more than 80%—some of the highest levels among Wisetail clients.

Putting it all together

Making the most of a retail employee’s limited training time is tricky. You have to prioritize learning and provide support—from encouragement to the right tools, like an LMS and mobile devices so employees can train in the regular flow of their workday.

Microlearning pieces, easy-to-find product information, and short videos with captions all help employees integrate training and continued learning into their workflow. Paired with regular follow-ups like a monthly contest or knowledge checks, and you’ll be well on your way.

Wisetail LMS client Bailey Nelson.

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