Where Retailers Go Wrong in Learning and Development

Where Retailers Go Wrong in Learning and Development

Consumers buy at retail stores for three main reasons: 

  1. See, feel and touch products; 
  2. Get advice/validation from a live person;
  3. Take the product home on the same day.

The challenge for retailers is to satisfy consumer desires to make sales and keep them coming back for more. And a part of that is keeping employees engaged in learning and development programs that help them meet and exceed customer expectations.

When employees don't have effective training, they lack the confidence to speak to customers about products and services. If a customer goes to a physical store to purchase something and an employee can't answer their questions, they are more likely to stay home and shop online next time–or go to a different retailer. And the razor-thin margin of error retailers were working against only got tighter with the pandemic — The percentage of shoppers heading into non-essential retail stores is down significantly, with those braving stores spending less time in them to shop around

Why retail training goes wrong

Outdated delivery 

Too often, retailers implement legacy ways of training, even when they aren't working anymore. Why do they do this? It may be they are locked into vendor contracts, have already invested heavily in a traditional LMS solution, or L&D managers have a hard time making the case to upper management to try a new approach. 

Whatever the reason, long, mentally-draining mandated training does not inspire employees' confidence. Content doesn't resonate due to boredom of delivery and the volume of information covered. Traditional training sessions also take retail employees off the store floor, costing retailers money while keeping them from selling to customers.


Many retailers tend to look at training from a corporate point of view, rather than looking at it through retail employees' eyes, which renders training efforts weak and meaningless. Retailers should make use of modern ways to connect with staff, such as mobile, engagement-based training. When retailers relate better to how an employee thinks and is motivated, employees engage more, retailers get their messages across, the consumer walks away happy, and everyone wins.

Mandated training

Another reason learning and development strategies fail is retailers are forcing employees to learn when they should be encouraging it organically. Hourly employees do not want to be beaten over the head with mindless training exercises. Long content courses focusing on deep learning are detrimental; the mentality of the 21st century retail employee is to be entertained, engaged, and to stand out to peers. They respond to engaging tactics and seek to be confident in selling to customers, particularly when incentive is involved.  

sales associate using mobile device


How retailers can fix their training 

Make learning easy and accessible

Learning doesn't have to be boring. Retailers can make learning available to employees via their phones, eliminating the need to share store devices or attend group training sessions. Instead of forcing employees to learn, retailers should provide fun bite-sized training employees can access via their mobiles during down time on the sales floor.  

Provide learning incentives

Using a learning and development solution with gamification and incentives keeps employees coming back. Good incentivization will employ a points system that employees can use to earn prizes or participate in contests. When you force employees to learn, motivation and engagement is low. But using fun, exciting games and prizes reduces the boredom and disinterest and increases learning and retention.

Modern learning and development with SellPro

In an age of retail uncertainty, retailers need to implement new learning and development strategies quickly. SellPro offers a unique mobile-first engagement platform allowing retailers to better prepare and motivate their employees. The SellPro app is being used by over 150K US retail employees and includes powerful tools to easily facilitate:

  • Mico-learning
  • Gamification and incentives
  • Sales tools
  • Virtual training events
  • Instant communications via push, feed, chat and forums
  • Real-time polling
  • Big data reporting and analytics

Reach out to our team to learn how to boost your learning and development program and to find out how to empower your vendors to support and invest in product training that resonates with your staff.

Schedule a consultation



Additional Resources:

mLearning Courses Your Retail Employees Need Now as Stores Reopen
Communication is Key: Planning the Return to Retail
Gamification Tips for Better Retail Employee Engagement
Employee Forums for Engagement, Communication, and Inclusion

Written by SellPro

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