When it comes to embracing the online world, retail businesses haven't always been the fastest.
But there's been a healthy shift in the retail sphere lately, with more and more high-street businesses using digital technology to enhance and improve their services and processes.
Topshop and Gap are using Augmented Reality (AR) in their stores, and US chains like Lowe's and Target are already using in-store AI to create a new customer experience.
But there's one type of modern technology that's often ignored by retailers – and it's a far more simple and elegant solution than the fancy science fiction of AR and AI.
If retailers want to cut costs and improve their efficiency (and by extension, better compete with ecommerce giants), they need to start embracing modern learning solutions for training, too.
So if you're running a retail business, you can't afford to ignore e-learning. And here's why:
You're going to need a lot of training
As an industry, retail has to deal with some worrying statistics.
It has the second-highest rate of staff turnover across all sectors, with an employee turnover rate of 13%.
And in the UK alone, more than a quarter of retail employees are considering a job change – or have changed jobs in the last year.
In some cases, that's down to poor working conditions. But even the most employee-friendly retail businesses have to deal with the reality of their industry: a young and mobile workforce, part-time students, and seasonal employees who naturally come and go.
No matter how well you treat your staff, you'll have a constant need for onboarding, induction, and compliance training. (And that's before you start to think about the ongoing learning that comes with a constant stream of brand-new products.)
So here's the bad news: If you're dead-set on sticking with traditional methods of training, you're dead-set on wasting time and money.
Delivering training through e-learning takes 40-60% less time than traditional training – and the average corporation saves between 50% and 70% of their training costs when they switch to digital learning methods.
And when you apply those numbers to the huge levels of ongoing training that retailers have to face, it's really a no-brainer:
The more training your business needs, the more you have to gain by being efficient.
Your customers are changing
The high street's been struggling lately. More and more shoppers are turning to online stores, and it's predicted that 17% of all sales in the US will be online by the year 2020.
Some retailers keep trying to compete on price, shifting higher and higher volumes of goods to compensate for their shrinking profit margins.
But that's exactly where the strengths of online shops lie. And it's not easy to beat them at their own game.
Instead, smart retailers are looking to change their own game. They want to give their customers the one thing that the online giants can't give to their own customers: a personalised, one-to-one shopping experience, enriched by the valuable expertise of an engaged and knowledgeable in-store sales team.
According to PwC, 78% of consumers say that having 'sales associates with a deep knowledge of the product range' is the most important factor for an in-store shopping experience. And that means you'll need to give your employees an entirely new set of skills.
This kind of real-world customer service is one of the few important points of difference left that can help a high-street retailer stand out against the online competition – and to help your staff get there, you'll need an affordable and scalable learning system that drives employee engagement.
Your employees aren't getting the help they need
We've already seen how retail is an industry with one of the highest rates of staff turnover.
Part of that problem comes from its young and temporary workforce. But the truth is that retail employees simply don't have the same benefits that other types of employees are used to.
It's rare for the average retail employee to have access to a computer with an internet connection – and it's rare for the average retail employee to have a clear and visible path for their career development and progression.
In fact, nearly 60% of retailers say that their staff don't have enough access to computers for e-learning to be worthwhile, and 84% say that technical issues (like low bandwidth or unreliable IT infrastructure) are barriers that restrict their learning opportunities.
But while these statistics might be worrying, they really serve to illuminate a deeper problem:
Retailers simply aren't aware of how e-learning can help.
Modern learning solutions (like Moodle or Totara Learn) can give you the flexible, scalable, and mobile-friendly learning environment that suits retail and warehouse employees best. They can learn anywhere, at any time – and they don't need a dedicated computer in the workplace to do it.
Ready to transform your retail business?
We've been helping retail companies on their journeys towards e-learning since 2004 – and that means we know exactly how to guide you through and around all of the challenges you'll face along the way.
We've put together a few of the best bits of our collective wisdom in our recent eBook, 'Building a Business Case for e-learning in Your Company'. It’s packed full of useful tips and facts to help you on your way towards e-learning, from understanding your own goals through to presenting to your stakeholders.
And if you'd like to know more about how an LMS can help your retail business, give us a shout – we'll be more than happy to talk you through it.