Ever since the first retail storefront opened in ancient Greece, employee productivity has always been a challenge. Over time, the role of the sales associate has expanded from the role of middle person and deal broker to product expert and brand representative. Store associates are no longer just processing shipment, refilling inventory, monitoring for potential theft, ringing up sales, and fulfilling orders – they are also providing detailed information to serve the individual needs of every consumer who walks into the store.
In this era of e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Zappos, the entire retail world is shaken to its core. Consumers are more knowledgeable about the products available to them and expect to encounter store employees who are product geniuses and ready to provide useful information and immediate assistance. At the same time, the retail workforce is trending younger, tech-savvier, and less tolerant of convoluted, offline processes and support.
Retailers have no choice but to develop and engage their employees in ways that meet their learning styles and needs. Otherwise, employees will come across as unknowledgeable, disengaged, and less compelled to go that extra mile.
Social collaboration: The path to knowledgeable, stronger, and successful sales teams
As the industry’s workforce turnover continues to hover around 4.5% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, retailers need to train associates well without taking time away from the sales floor. This is where social learning can help. Associates are connected with the right people and content easily and seamlessly. More important, they have more reasons to stay engaged and empowered to deliver the best-possible customer experience. Here are five of them.
- Social learning makes product and brand education that is natural, fast, and easy. By bringing mentorship into the forum of a social community, social learning taps into the natural learning styles of today’s workforce. Not only does this approach increase sales knowledge and productivity, but it also gives employees an opportunity to find new and inventive ways to get answers and further their on-the-job learning experience.
- Collaboration that goes beyond the store. By building a bidirectional community, employees can work with any employee in any store in any region, anywhere in the world and any decision maker in the corporate office. Everyone in the employee network can share news, information, and best practices; discuss topics; test new ideas through polls; get feedback on endcap design and more. New hires – no matter their position or work location – stand to benefit the most by immediately plugging in and taking advantage of the company’s collective wisdom.
- Peer-based expertise endorsement and recognition. Maintaining a positive work environment is a constant battle for store managers – especially when consumers are tough to please. However, it is incredible how powerful recognition and congratulatory credit are when they are communicated across the business. Social collaboration makes it easy to share news and best practices that can help every store increase their skill, knowledge, and performance.
- New hires who are supported and productive from day one. Social collaboration supports an onboarding process that is automated and integrated. Quick and efficient connections enable new hires to jump into interactions with key people in the organization who can answer questions and direct learning. No longer an island, new hires are productive from the start with a community of peers companywide to support them in their first months or their 100th.
- A way to stay up to date on the latest competitive information. No matter what is being sold, chances are the inventory is completely different from what was available a few months ago. This constant change requires associates to stay attune to the latest trends, consumer demands, and products. However, every moment on the sales floor counts. By integrating social learning into the entire blended learning experience, employees can see which courses are relevant and recommended. Retailers can decrease learning costs and time by making training accessible anywhere, anytime, on the device that is most convenient for the employee.
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