The Majority of Back-to-School Shopping Will Take Place In-Store: Are Retailers Ready?
The back-to-school (BTS) shopping season is well underway, with total retail sales projected to reach a whopping $27.8 billion. However, despite claims that Amazon.com is destroying retail, more than half of U.S. consumers are planning to shop for supplies in-store instead of online this year. So, what does this mean for brick-and-mortar retailers?
The BTS shopping rush isn’t just about managing an influx of customers. This shopping season will be a major indicator of whether retail stores can compete with online shopping going forward. A good consumer experience could mean repeat business beyond the BTS shopping rush. But a poor one? That will get consumers running right back to Amazon. The question is, how can retailers take advantage of this opportunity and secure repeat customers?
First, Reconsider Your Tech Investments
Increased adoption of flashy in-store technology in the form of smart mirrors and iPads isn’t going to solve retailers’ woes as they fight to remain relevant in the age of e-commerce. Yes, retailers must leverage technology if they want to remain competitive, but not in the way recent media trends have discussed. Instead, tech investments should be directed toward the development of employees via modernized training programs. The true differentiator between in-store and online shopping isn’t going to be whether a store is equipped with an Alexa assistant, but rather whether employees are able to deliver an experience that rivals the convenience of online shopping.
Investing in learning technology that’s built to deliver personalized, intuitive experiences allows employees to customize training based on their individual job roles. Traditional training formats, like instructor-led courses or mandatory workshops, can’t achieve this level of personalization, which leads to a lack of engagement not just with training content, but with on-the-job functions as well. This lack of engagement among employees significantly impacts the customer experience, which is why it’s critical that retailers invest in learning technology that transitions training from a mandatory, check-the-box task to a valuable, dependable resource.
Make the Case for Career Progression
Retail is known for historically high turnover rates, especially because employees are often hired for seasonal needs or to fill temporary positions. From the moment an employee starts, regardless of their role, they have to be exposed to training that emphasizes your company’s mission and clarifies how each employee can contribute to larger goals. Approaching the onboarding phase this way is especially important for seasonal or part-timers so that they can see the big picture beyond a part-time gig, and understand that their professional development is a priority.
Training strategies that are rooted in technology not only allow retailers to deliver personalized learning experiences, but also arm HR with the tools they need to ensure career progression remains a focus. These tools help leadership understand where skills gaps exist or recognize employees that are excelling and deserve to be promoted. Having access to this insight helps HR ensure that they’re prioritizing the development of all workers, which in turn gives employees the motivation to continue working toward their goals.
Remember That Experience is the Best Teacher
In retail, no day is the same. Different customers have different needs, and it’s a challenge to train employees to be able to handle the vast range of interactions and requests they could face in a given day. While it’s impossible to prepare for everything, it’s important that employees have constant access to hands-on, experiential learning opportunities to become as well-rounded and adaptive as possible. Experiential learning is the most impactful way to give employees an understanding of how to actually apply what they’re learning in the real world.
Supporting employees to learn primarily through experience can be achieved through embracing a 70:20:10 model of learning. Adopting this approach ensures that 70 percent of learning happens via on-the-job experiences, like managing a disgruntled customer, for example. An additional 20 percent of learning should take place through interactions with peers, which means that your training program should be equipped to facilitate social connections between various storefronts and levels of expertise, whether that’s through virtual coaching capabilities or social media-like chat forums. The remaining 10 percent of learning should be held in traditional environments, yet these experiences don’t have to follow the rigid structure often associated with traditional training formats. Instead, these more traditional sessions can be interactive, intuitive, and actually heighten engagement with learning content when informed by predictive technology.
At the end of the day, whether brick-and-mortar retailers succeed this BTS shopping season and beyond won’t depend on if their fitting room is equipped with a smart mirror. The customer experience will be retailers’ primary weapon when competing in the Amazon age, and their most significant investments should always be in the development of their people.
Patrick Sanders is a customer success manager at Docebo, an AI-powered learning platform working with more than 1,300 companies around the world, including Starbucks, Uber and HubSpot, for training and development and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Patrick Sanders is a customer success manager at Docebo, an AI-powered learning platform working with more than 1,300 companies around the world including Starbucks, Uber and HubSpot for training and development and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Working as a Customer Success Manager at Docebo for over a year, Patrick dedicates his time to helping his customers find the most value in their learning projects. Before Docebo, he taught high school economics and prepared his students to be adaptable for the ever-changing economy.