Immersive Learning And VR In Corporate Training
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How Advanced Technology Can Change Corporate Training

Many experts predicted the death of conventional retail with the rise of eCommerce. After all, who would take the trouble of traveling to a store when everything is just a few clicks away? But the sector has proven itself to be extremely resistant and highly adaptable to change. By leveraging advanced tech to transform Customer Experience, retailers are not only surviving but also thriving. Walmart’s "store of the future" where AI-enabled cameras monitor inventory levels is one such example. But it isn’t just AI that’s being applied to innovate the retail business. Immersive learning through VR software and headsets has become commonplace in major retail stores. In their bid to provide the best possible customer service, brands like Walmart and Lowe's are using Virtual Reality to upskill their employees.

But How Does Immersive Learning Play Out In The Retail Environment?

In 2018, Walmart distributed 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to its stores. This was the first time many people learned that VR headsets had utility outside of arcades. But Walmart knew that this move would reap benefits in the future. "What makes it so compelling is that costly, difficult, or otherwise impossible scenarios and simulations become not only possible but immediately within reach," head of Oculus business partnership Andy Mathis said in a press release.

And this argument holds true. Sometimes it’s extremely costly to train employees in certain situations. New hires in the retail sector cannot be trained to deal with the chaos of Black Friday with conventional means. Similarly, VR is also useful in teaching employees how to operate machinery like forklifts—where it eliminates any chances of property damage or physical injury. Companies such as Lowe's and Volkswagen have followed Walmart on the path of Virtual Reality. But is this strategy viable for small to medium retailers who have a limited budget?

Potential Benefits Of SME Retailers Adopting VR For Employee Training

Let’s say, you run a medium-sized retail company that does not have the resources of a Walmart. Would VR be worth the investment? A Capgemini report that discusses the future of retail points out that a "digital wave" can bring $2.95 trillion in profits in the retail industry. Retailers who are able to address demands from consumers and competition through technological innovations would ride this wave while others will be left behind. This includes consolidating the buying experience on smartphones through mobile coupons [1] and making in-store shopping seamless. In more than one way, immersive learning can help achieve the latter.

1. Employees Are Trained Without Disturbing The Store Operations

Usually, on-the-job training disturbs the busy 7-days-a-week operations. New frontline employees are often intimidated on the first day and can be overwhelmed by the operations, logistics, and customer operations. Medium retailers risk a bad reputation if this training causes a problem. This is where VR comes to the rescue. By creating a life-like simulation of stores, it builds situational awareness and confidence in employees before they face the customers.

2. The Chances Of Workplace Accidents Decrease

Employees in the first few months are more likely to suffer from workplace injuries than their colleagues with more experience. This creates a dilemma for retailers as they strive to get new workers up to speed through hands-on training. But at the same time, putting sophisticated machinery into fresh hands is not free of risk. Luckily, the entire purpose of VR is to create life-like scenarios. There are plenty of simulators where new workers can learn how to operate machines like forklifts without there ever being a chance of a workplace safety incident. Physical injuries of workers can be detrimental to medium-sized retailers as they lack the resources to deal with the legal issues that follow. Here, immersive learning serves as a safeguard against a potential disaster.

3. Companies Gain Critical Assessment Of The Candidates

Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Associate Experience Drew Holler articulated that immersive experience allows his company to understand the capacity of an employee from the leadership perspective. Assessment from VR provides critical information on a prospect. By combining both immersive attention data and decision data, it creates a predictive analytics model. This allows companies to understand a candidate’s decision-making process, priorities, and communication skills in complicated situations. By using this information, companies can understand how a candidate would fair at a given job or whether an existing employee is suitable for a new role.

4. Money Is Saved In The Long Run

When you factor in injury and insurance-related costs and the lack of disturbance at work, immersive learning can save your business quite a lot, although, it’s hard to pinpoint just exactly how much financially beneficial VR learning will be for a business. But it’s no secret that SMEs, regardless of the industry, are always after cutting costs. Initially, implementing a Virtual Reality training program would require some capital. However, the returns of this investment will be exponential in the long run.

5. Employees Gain Empathy For Customers

Many of the VR simulations are specifically designed to help the workers gain a perspective on the customer. A customer might be a bit slow to count the change, frustrating the employee. However, it might be the case of a customer who’s growing through financial difficulties. What immersive learning does is that it makes the employees more empathetic, which equips them to provide excellent customer service. It goes without saying that customer service which is based on empathy can result in a lot of goodwill—something that SMEs strive to gain.

Things To Consider Before Implementing Immersive Learning

Despite all the benefits it provides, it is important for small to medium retailers to consider the following 2 factors before investing in VR:

  1. It’s reported that 40% to 70% of people experience motion sickness while using VR technology. The levels vary with some feeling mild nausea while others experiencing dizziness. This is something that can ruin a training program. Higher frame rates, sit-down training, and specified color schemes are some proposed solutions to this issue.
  2. When one includes the cost of high-quality VR headsets, creating simulation from scratch, and the physical space that’s needed for the entire training to take place, the entire operation is pretty expensive. The upfront cost is significant even though it pays dividends later on.

As always, the best way to properly utilize this technology is through proper planning. Rushing into this solution could actually be detrimental to the business. Retailers should first seek out an existing program that might benefit them, identify the areas which would benefit from the VR, and run pilot training sessions. Similarly, it’s imperative to have measurable goals in mind regarding the program. Is it the productivity of the staff that you seek to improve or their overall proficiency? Set certain parameters for success.

Conclusion

In the 21st century, technology is disrupting every industry, and retail is no exception. Whether it’s AI, Big Data or IoT [2], advance tech is completely reshaping the way products are being bought and sold. Virtual Reality is now being used by major retailers to uplift Customer Experience. Retailers that are yet to make it big need to catch up fast if they’re to offer a legitimate competition to giants like Walmart and Amazon. But the path to immersive learning for the up-and-coming retailers isn’t so straightforward. A lot of research needs to go into their plan for integrating immersive learning. Without a doubt, VR is the future of retail. But only with a viable strategy can a business make the best of this technology.

References:

[1] How Mobile Coupons are Boosting Sales

[2] How AI, IoT and Big Data Are Disrupting Retail

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