Why You Should Develop A New Retail Sales Training Strategy

The Crucial Importance Of The Right Retail Sales Training Program

The golden age of retail is over. Between 2010 and 2017, Amazon’s revenue in the United States increased from $16 billion to $80 billion; over the same time period, Walmart grew by a mere 3%[1]. With no rivals 20 years ago, brick-and-mortar shops are now victims of their multiple limitations vis-à-vis online commerce: articles are often more expensive, stock is limited, and there are various points of friction (travel time, stock, delivery).

eBook Release: Training In The Retail Industry
eBook Release
Training In The Retail Industry
Discover the most practical tips for deploying a training strategy that focuses on staff member engagement and creates an outstanding customer experience!

This does not mean that there is no future for retail stores, but that they need to reinvent themselves, adapt to new customer behavior, and become “digital-first”. Previously, brick-and-mortar shops were primarily a place where business transactions occurred; they must now become an inspirational destination. The retailer’s ability to create and maintain an exceptional customer experience will enable them to stand out and continue to prosper.

Training plays a central role in this process, provided that it can successfully adapt to an environment that is constantly evolving. First major change? The trainer’s role; it has been re-evaluated and has evolved. The trainer is no longer the only person in charge of defining training content. On the contrary, today, an agile structure is needed to guarantee top quality in-store customer experience and to adapt this experience based on the latest market trends. This requires all involved to work together; from the sales department to HR, including marketing and training departments.

Retail is not the only sector being affected by this profound and fundamental change: the need to create an agile workplace structure capable of constantly adapting and capitalizing on their knowledge has never been more important. This is what some call a learning organization[2]. Understanding and putting into practice this concept is key to adapting your organization and keeping up with the transformations of the 21st century.

To achieve this, the trainer, responsible for learning within the company, plays a central role. They must have a twofold approach:

  • Turn the store into a place of learning by allying training and performance-based goals to provide an exceptional and constantly improving client experience;
  • Transform your sales team into a community of learners, able to capitalize on their knowledge and spread it within the company.

Clearly demonstrating that training is no longer an obsolete, mandatory, outdated, and sometimes even boring process is crucial. Training must now be considered a strategic tool at all levels of the company. Properly training staff members has never had higher performance stakes.

Why Brands Must Offer An Experience: 3 Things To Consider

Studies show that 40% of the French population could do without brick-and-mortar stores if the internet could provide an equivalent service[3].

1. The Internet Changed The Rules Of The Game

Since the democratization of internet access, eCommerce has grown at an exponential rate. In 2017, online commerce accounted for 10% of total sales and experts predict this number will increase to 25% by 2030[4]. This trend is also reinforced by the ever-improving quality of the online shopping experience. Ten years ago, same-day delivery seemed utterly inconceivable. Today, you can have a product delivered in just two hours thanks to Amazon Prime.

The competition is particularly fierce because, in parallel, social networks have become indispensable and allow consumers to directly compare and reach out to hundreds of different brands. Consequently, it is not longer the official brand message that prevails in the customer’s mind, but the brand’s wider reputation.

2. Brand Confidence Has Been Eroded

84% of consumers trust social networks more than any other form of communication[5]. Today, more than ever, brick-and-mortar stores must provide an irreproachable experience for clients, or they will pay the price online. It is a difficult game to cheat at: customers expect a frictionless experience and will not hesitate to share their dissatisfaction online.

In 2017, the video of security agents forcibly dragging a passenger out of a plane that had been overbooked was seen over 100 million times and, beyond the buzz, caused United shares to drop 4% over the course of just one day[6]. It is probably a safe bet to say that this experience has influenced, and is still influencing today, the airline choice made by millions of Americans. Making every effort possible to ensure exceptional customer service is no longer optional; it is a necessity. To achieve this, each person involved in the customer experience must be able to adapt and be fully aware of his or her individual role. This entails a major training challenge: you must be able to quickly and efficiently distribute information within the company.

3. The Store Must Become The Center Of The Customer Experience

In 2016, 90% of companies will compete on the basis of their customer experience[7]. It must go beyond its transactional nature to become the physical embodiment of the brand's values and offer a memorable and lasting experience for clients.

Despite the rise in online shopping, the physical store remains an important step in the customer experience. Emerging trends including ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline, which means that more and more clients are buying online and retrieving their purchase in-store) makes the shop complementary with digital communication and eCommerce strategies. The store must therefore be thought of as an important moment of the customer journey, to create a true omnichannel brand experience (with a coherent brand message, regardless of the form of media).

Furthermore, stores allow for physical and "real" experiences and remain the unrivaled arena of emotional impact. It is currently the only place where you can still persuade a client, who was not previously convinced, to make a purchase; on the internet, this feat still remains impossible. The figures reflect this behavior: 90% of French consumers who visit a store ask the sales staff for their expertise[8]. More significantly, this number is growing: only 80% of people reported doing so in 2012. Human contact and the opportunity to be advised by others are increasingly strong expectations for consumers. This forces brands to pay particular attention to training of in-store sales staff.

Best Practice

Kiehl's, an active New York cosmetics brand, bases their in-store performance measurement on their Net Promoter Score (NPS). After leaving the store, if a client does not rate their experience at least 8/10, they will probably never return to Kiehl's and will not speak positively of the brand to others. The brand relies on their core DNA, inherited from their start as a pharmacy, to focus on advising clients and the customer experience. In-store sales staff follow numerous training programs dedicated to these topics.

Do you want to discover the most practical tips for deploying a training strategy that focuses on staff member engagement and creates an outstanding customer experience? Download the eBook Training In The Retail Industry.


[1] Statista, www.statista.com

[2] Chris Argyris et Donald A. Schön, L'apprentissage organisationnel, théorie, méthode et pratique, 1978. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA

[3] Dentsu Aegis Network. Stor’eBoard, 2015

[4] Cushman & Wakefield. Retail Report, 2016

[5] Nielsen. The Paid Social Media Advertising Report, 2013

[6] United Airlines : L’évacuation forcée d’un passager fait scandale aux USA. Le Monde, 2017

[7] Magids, Zorfas & Leemon. The New Science of Customer Emotions. Harvard business review, 2015

[8] IFOP for Wincor Nixdorf. Le Parcours de l’acheteur, 2013

eBook Release: 360Learning
Quickly create and publish courses to seamlessly onboard, train, engage, & upskill your entire enterprise, all in one place. Built for tomorrow. Available today. 360Learning.