The recent increased emphasis on in-store experience has focused mainly on engaging with customers on an emotional level that makes them remember your brand and want to return to shop again. But an essential, often overlooked component of that experience is around training associates to ensure they can not only be product knowledgable, but also play a vital role in bringing together the other pieces of that experience.

Poor Training Makes Poor Associates

Many retail employees feel the training they receive is insufficient to enable them to do their jobs at their maximum potential, and even fewer said their training made them feel highly engaged. A new “State of Workplace Training” survey by training software provider Axonify, as reported by Retail Dive, revealed that among employees surveyed, just 35% said their training was “very effective,” and 31% said it makes them feel “extremely engaged” in their work.
Even more stunning, the study showed that 32% of retail employees reported receiving no formal training whatsoever, with 22% receiving online training and just 11% receiving only classroom training, according to Retail Dive.
At the associate level, retail work is difficult, often low paying, and frequently thankless. This is owed in part to companies wanting to save on labor costs, and one way to reduce those costs is by cutting training costs. This creates a workforce that lacks in-depth product knowledge, minimally cares about enhancing a store’s reputation, and without the ability to effectively engage customers in a way that drives sales.

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Going Beyond the Training Basics

Employees at a bare minimum must be trained in the store basics, such as how to operate a cash register, how to stock shelves, ship items, ready online orders and use the in-store POS system. But that is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes an effective associate. Product knowledge training must be an essential component, a knowledgable sales associate will perform their jobs better, and be able to offer more complete service to customers. Lastly is the behavioral piece, in which associates learn the critical skills of how to approach and engage customers and play a key role in their purchase journey.

Retail associates should be confident in their knowledge of your store’s products, invested in representing the ideals of its identity, and able to apply that knowledge in a practical way. Without proper training, associates can do little more than point customers to the area of a store that contains the items they’re looking for. This is a flat approach to customer service and one that leaves customers largely on their own in finding the items they’re looking for. It also adds nothing to the experience portion of in-store shopping, which is proving to be the most effective tool in keeping brands in customers’ minds.

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