4 Ways To Improve Retail Training

4 Ways To Improve Retail Training
Summary: Learn how to best train retail employees to compete with online sellers.

How You Can Improve Retail Training In 4 Easy Ways

Brick-and-mortar retailers have competed against eCommerce for a while now. Long enough, in fact, for the more traditional business to figure out how to compete and stay relevant. The techniques, plus demographic trends, have proved compelling enough that online-based brands have started to open physical locations, like Warby Parker and Untuckit.

Those brands opened storefronts in part because they received favorable leases from landlords looking to attract a younger crowd, according to the Wall Street Journal. But there's another sound business reason for the move: 70% of Millennials and 77% of Gen Z would rather shop in-person than online [1].

Of course, eCommerce has fundamentally changed the retail experience. It's not enough to have associates milling about waiting to help customers try things on or ring them up at the end. These millennial and Gen Z customers are multi-channel shoppers—people who either research offline and buy online, or research online before buying in-person.

When a multi-channel shopper goes into a store, it's to find what they can't get online: a quality human experience. They expect an in-person interaction that reflects their online experience with your brand. They expect a staff that can anticipate needs and inclinations and provides the right human touch.

So, how does one go about training employees to provide something as nebulous as a good human experience? There are ways, and chances are, you already have an idea of the organizations who have already wrapped their minds around the concept.

It's about going beyond just knowing the basics of the products on the shelves. Here are 4 ways you can build a training program that yields quality retail customer experience.

1. Focus On Employee Experience

Customer experience is, naturally, a major focus for any retailer. Less obvious is the fact that the employee experience should be on par with the customer's experience. If you want employees to offer more to the customer, well, offer more to the employees. Give them the means to do so. Unfunded mandates rarely succeed.

What you're training employees to sell is an image, a brand. Employees have to understand the image before they're able to sell it. Think about a new hire—someone who joined the company because the customer-facing brand resonated with them—and the effect that handing them a page-worn training packet would have. If training doesn't match your customer-facing image, employees are going to feel that disconnect. It feels hollow. And that feeling can taint customer interactions.

Ensuring a high-quality customer experience depends in part on internal brand consistency. The corporate values or mission statement need to be more than just words on a page if you want employees to buy into a concept.

2. Create Connection

All of that last section underscores the importance of creating a connection between your organization and your employees. The better a person understands why they're doing something, the more impactful and meaningful the work itself becomes.

The ultimate point of aligning business goals with organizational values is that philosophical alignment helps take the company culture that develops organically during an organization's early years and turns it into a culture that's mission-driven, sustainable, and scalable.

3. Knowing Is Half The Battle

The most resonant cartoons speak to some relatively indisputable truth. The mid-1980s G.I. Joe television series nailed one with their PSA about knowledge being half the battle. The best retail employees are usually the ones who know the most about what they're selling. Equip your employees with knowledge and interpersonal skills, and they'll earn the confidence of your customers.

Retail workers need to know more than simply the product specs, however. Shoppers today tend to have established relationships with brands. They build rapport through social media. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat—customers learn about new products as they're released. These different social media channels also offer customers the opportunity to know more about your own brand before they walk in the store.

Part of the knowledge retail employees needs is what the company shares on social media. The campaigns and brand promises are important to know, so employees can prepare for and anticipate customer questions.

This holistic view of marketing and sales in the social media age can help you develop sales strategies that complement the shopper's online experience.

4. Importance Of Listening

Active listening is a wholly underrated skill. Customers aren't waiting to crack open their wallets for the best possible sales script. They mostly want salespeople to meet them where they are, whether that's researching products or purchasing an item they've already researched.

Essential for employees here is the ability to discern what type of experience the customer wants. Soft skills can be taught and practiced. Show employees how to listen without preconceptions. Maybe a customer is looking for affirmation of their prior research. Maybe they're having a bad day and just want to vent. Reading a customer's mood unlocks for retail employees the ability to craft an exceptional customer experience.


  1. Five Signs That Stores (Not E-Commerce) Are The Future Of Retail