Key to Making Retail Holiday Magic: Invest in Employee Knowledge Now
With the holiday shopping season less than two months away, retailers are in full swing working on strategies to win in an increasingly competitive landscape. As the worlds of brick-and-mortar and online continue to merge, retailers are investing in new technologies as part of their digital transformation initiatives to create a more personalized shopping experience. While artificial intelligence, digital payment technologies and consumer data analytics applications all help to deliver smarter and faster experiences for customers, they often fall short in the ability to treat shoppers as individuals. Retailers are overlooking a critical component to delivering a premier customer experience that gives them a leg up on the competition — frontline associates.
Today’s Consumers Are All About the Experience
We now live in the experience economy where consumers expect more than just a great deal on a pair of jeans or the next generation of flat-screen TV. They also know more than ever, which means associates must be confident and up to speed on your brand, products and promotions. In fact, according to research from GetApp, one-third of shoppers rate salespeople as the "strategy" most likely to impress them when they walk into a store. In addition, more than two-thirds were likely to revisit a store due to a great, personalized experience.
A superb customer experience is the convergence of a unique offering and a highly knowledgeable, trained employee that can navigate customer service issues (e.g., low or sold-out inventory, delivery issues, returns and exchanges) while giving a customer what they crave — a human interaction. In order to create a fully integrated customer experience, it's imperative that frontline employees are empowered on this digital transformation journey to deliver top-notch service to a whole new complex, omnichannel customer. This is particularly challenging during the holiday season when the workforce is often a mix of regular and seasonal employees who are difficult to reach directly with messaging and inundated with competing corporate priorities. Frontline associates need to stay on top of new technology, regularly changing inventory and merchandising plans, new products, regular and last-minute marketing promotions. They also need to remember all of these moving parts while maintaining safety and loss prevention standards, as well as managing high-volume customer foot traffic.
All of this leaves frontline employees pushed to their limit and prone to forgetting the critical things retailers want them to know. When associates lack the information or answers shoppers are seeking, it creates friction in the customer journey. This results in a disconnected and unsatisfying experience that can harm a brand’s reputation and lead to the loss of loyal customers.
A Healthy Bottom Line Starts With the Frontline
So, how can retailers improve frontline performance and change behavior with these employees that are often hard to reach, possess different levels of knowledge, and are definitely suffering from information overload? Forward-looking retailers are investing in microlearning, a modern, business-driven approach to training and communication which focuses on changing behaviors in a way that impacts business results. Microlearning continuously delivers short bursts of daily information personalized to each individual employee’s knowledge level. This helps retailers reduce time-to-competency when onboarding new associates and ensures continuous learning and development for each individual associate. The approach fits right into an associate’s workflow through existing mobile technology or point-of-sale systems, so they stay on the sales floor where you need them. Giving associates the knowledge and tools they need to be successful in their jobs, in a way that fits naturally into their routines, is proven to drive deeper engagement, ultimately changing behavior and ensuring customers enjoy a consistent brand experience.
According to ShopperTrak, 40 percent of all traffic during the holiday season occurs during the 10 biggest shopping days. Retailers must ensure they're investing in their frontline workers now to reap the benefits during this short window for success. A microlearning approach works to deeply ingrain the knowledge associates need so they can confidently recall it during critical customer interactions, helping them to deliver a next-level customer experience that will not only keep shoppers smiling during the season, but keep them coming back long after the holidays have ended.
Carol Leaman is the CEO of Axonify Inc., a disruptor in the corporate learning space and innovator behind the Axonify Microlearning Platform, proven to increase employee knowledge and performance necessary for achieving targeted business results.