eLearning is reshaping traditional retail customer service in ways that were never thought possible before. From simulation-based courses to soft-skill training that teach employees to be courteous, responsive, and consulting, all while being an expert in their domain, eLearning has indeed opened new avenues of training that traditional training once couldn’t achieve.

The retail industry is in the midst of a power struggle. There are two uniquely defined retail styles within the industry contributing to this. Both are important formats of retail, and none can truly out-trump the other. When modern consumers think of retail—the two primary types of retail that come to mind are—online retail stores and traditional retail stores (brick and mortar). In this series of two articles, we are going to take a look at how eLearning is currently reshaping specific elements of both these formats, starting with how eLearning is reshaping traditional retail customer service.

So, how is eLearning reshaping traditional retail customer service?

Right off-the-bat, anybody who has experience with training the retail industry, and/or has tried their hands at training retail staff, may have faced one of the following issues:

  • A high ratio of trained employees exiting to untrained workforce joining.
  • Training employees that are hired on an hourly basis.
  • Strengthening the workforce for the holiday season.
  • Providing sales training to employees with no prior sales training.

Training retail store employees has always been a challenge, but the need to do so has increased exponentially since the advent of online retail stores and its massive popularity amongst modern day consumers. Fung Global Retail and Technology (a consultancy), estimated 10,000 stores in America will shut down in between 2019-20 as a direct result of online shopping.

When looking at the future of traditional retail stores, one has to stop and think­—what is the solution to this crisis? Online stores offer the luxury of shopping from your home along with the ability to choose from thousands of products. Traditional stores can’t offer either. They can’t offer you the luxury of comfort, neither can they exceed their storage capacity. So what is the real advantage of traditional stores?

There are primarily two reasons why traditional stores still operate—products are available for instant purchase and the experience of purchasing a product after testing, trying, comparing, and receiving guidance from an expert.

Even to this day, traditional stores operate because they cater to a set of socio-psychological factors where the ability to interact with people while experiencing a store combine to give the shopper a one-of-a-kind experience.

The only thing that a traditional store has in its defence against the onslaught of online retail is providing top quality retail customer service and experience. There are very few other reasons for customers to otherwise choose traditional retail over the online format.

Why is eLearning being used to improve retail customer service?

Retail is facing high attrition rates. It ranges from 45%-70% and adds to the overhead costs of training new employees. Furthermore, the average lifespan of a retail employee with an organization ranges from a week to two months. When you add the costs of training a workforce that has frequent dropouts and additions, it really does not make sense to do it in a traditional manner. The only option that is both economic and viable in the long-run is training through eLearning.

Retail Dive carried out a research on the retail industry as a whole, they found that only 32% of the retail workforce to be trained. 22% of which were trained using online training and the remaining 11% using traditional methods.

When you look at an attrition rate that is ranging from 45%-70% and the percentage of employees trained at 32%, it is quite easy to assess the problems being faced by retail companies.

Some retail companies like Walmart know this, hence, they set about developing 200 employee training centres across America and invested $3 billion in its workforce’s training, a majority of which included investing in online and eLearning strategies. Walmart’s intentions are noble, and they are obviously trying hard to combat the high attrition with quality training, which is also evidently paying off.

In spite of most retail organizations losing out on their net sales, Walmart managed to bag $495 billion in net sales for 2018. This is an increase of $9 billion in net sales from 2017, Statista. So evidently, Walmart’s eLearning strategy is paying off, but the battle for Walmart is far from over.

One has to understand that attrition is just the beginning, great customer service/experience is where retail stores differentiate themselves. Also, good customer handling skills come naturally to very few people. The majority of the retail workforce has to be trained in this matter. Customer service is one factor every buyer will consider when justifying the efforts of going to a physical store rather than purchasing online.

How does eLearning help with retail customer service training?

eLearning is highly versatile. It is also a multi-dimensional approach to training, using simulation, visuals, audio, interactivity, and animation to deliver a point. On the other hand, traditional training is two dimensional. It simply relies on a trainer-student relationship, which uses the standard format of lecture and handwritten notes to deliver training.

The reason why eLearning is much better with training in the retail space, more specifically with the customer service part of retail is that it is multi-dimensional. If soft-skills are what your retail employees want, then combine audio with text and media training to deliver an impactful training module. In fact, it will outperform traditional training. If customer service is the training you are looking for, consider a scenario-based approach or a training video that showcases different types of customer interactions that help drive home the point.

Since the retail space has a lot of human interactions involved and usually revolves around customer servicing and customer handling, multi-dimensional formats like eLearning make much more sense.

Now, try imagining training a group of 50 employees in the art of customer servicing, where elements such as speaking to people in person, convincing them to purchase a service or product, or act as advisors is a primary function, would something as two dimensional as traditional training help? Or would something as multi-dimensional such as eLearning?

In our next article, we will go into the specifics of how eLearning helps with the actual training.

At Abara, we have spent countless hours consulting and talking to retail companies. Our mission was to find a workaround the issues of retail services, and the problems that the retail space brings, especially with regard to training. Click here to initiate a free trial of Abara LMS or sign up here and one of our representatives will get in touch with you shortly.

How eLearning is Reshaping the Retail Customer Service