opinion

How to Master Online Training for Retail

How to Master Online Training for Retail

Imagine you’re in a retail store. You want to make a purchase but aren’t sure which product to choose. As your eyes scan the shelves, different thoughts cross your mind: “This one has the most attractive packaging.” “But I’ve heard good things about the brand that makes that one.” “What’s in front of the box over there? I think it’s a tester. I’d better have a look.” “Maybe I should get the one featured in the wall poster. The model holding it looks happy!” Suddenly, a box with a red “sale” sticker catches your attention. You pick it up. “This is affordable,” your inner voice says. “But why has it been marked down?”

Finally, you think, “I give up. I need help. Where’s the sales assistant?”

Our customers place a high level of trust in us, and online training is a practical and effective way to keep earning that trust every day.

This is exactly the kind of situation where knowledgeable sales staff can really make a difference in guiding a customer toward the best purchasing decision for them. How do you help your staff become knowledgeable? With product training — and these days, as likely as not, that training will take place online.

Choose Your Adventure

Considering how much we already rely on digital technology to communicate, it’s a safe bet that online methods of staff product knowledge training are here to stay. That’s not to say that face-to-face training has become a relic of the past. In-person training is still valuable for both educators and learners because, depending on the setup, it can be more conducive to building relationships, having natural interaction and improving communication skills, accountability and time management. But in some circumstances, online is the way to go.

Online training can take many forms. It could involve online material that staff access in their own time, during scheduled live sessions or through a combination of both. Of course, there’s the issue of whether staff are compensated or otherwise incentivized to complete online training, especially if it is taking place outside of their rostered hours. And if it’s during their shift, there needs to be a backup person to assist customers and process sales.

One of the simplest and most accessible ways to deliver staff product knowledge training online is via a digital conferencing platform that offers video, audio and chat. Some businesses are even taking advantage of virtual reality learning, where staff can practice how to apply their new knowledge and skills in a simulated environment and obtain feedback, before interacting with customers in-store.

10 Tips to Train Like a Pro

In delivering online product knowledge training, educators must help staff become “experts” who can tackle any question or problem that comes their way. Most of the time, it's about a product’s price, features, benefits, usage and customer success stories. Other topics may include comparisons to competitors, overcoming customer objections, troubleshooting, and using the product with complementary items or compatible technologies. In summary, the goal is to give staff what they need to sell more of a product. Another important guideline: Keep it simple!

Here are 10 tips helpful for developing and planning an online training session:

1. Practice in advance:

Choose your online platform and the space you will conference from, then test your video, audio and lighting. Keep your backdrop and computer desktop free from distractions. Rehearse looking into the camera.

2. Set your host controls:

Decide on the session settings, whether to mute participant microphones and whether to record the session for future reference.

3. Share a preview:

Consider whether participants might benefit from receiving some slides or discussion questions ahead of the session, particularly if screen sharing may be a problem.

4. Anticipate technical challenges:

Plan what to do if a participant has a slow internet connection or is unable to see or hear everything.

5. Provide warmth and clarity:

Remember that for the host, “on time” means signing in early! Greet participants as they join, welcome them as a group, and provide an outline of the session’s purpose, objectives, content and any other relevant topics.

6. Be your authentic self:

Talk participants through the training material, but do more than just read word for word. Use a conversational style and don’t be afraid to ad lib. Incorporate product demonstrations to help participants see what you’re explaining.

7. Ask questions:

Engage participants by seeking their opinions or starting a discussion via video or group chat.

8. Monitor group chats:

Regularly check participants’ comments so you can answer questions, clear up any confusion and identify points of interest.

9. Run a pop quiz:

Ask surprise questions at the end of the session to gauge how effectively participants paid attention or understood.

10. Encourage useful feedback:

Give participants the opportunity to provide constructive comments about the training session so that you too can learn and improve.

Done right, online staff product knowledge training can be as much of a learning experience for those providing the education as it is for those receiving it. Ultimately, it’s worth the effort and investment to make sure your staff is well equipped to provide the help customers need, when they need it. Our customers place a high level of trust in us, and online training is a practical and effective way to keep earning that trust every day.

Vanessa Rose is a certified clinical sexuality coach and the account manager for Australia and New Zealand at multi-award-winning brand Svakom Design USA Limited.

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