INSIGHTS
The shop floor – help smaller retail teams excel with better training


The shop floor is demanding for staff, who juggle customer satisfaction, sales, inventory checks, and maintaining a tidy space. With rising digital expectations, customers seek exceptional in-store experiences. This pressure is intensified by rising costs, making it hard for retailers to invest in larger teams to meet these high expectations.

The challenges of working in retail

Customer expectations

Since the pandemic, there’s been a real shift in customers’ expectations when it comes to their retail experiences. People are doing a lot more of their shopping online, and with e-commerce becoming the norm, when they come into the store they want it to feel different. They want it to feel special.

Part of ensuring that this happens is for staff to understand that retail is in the detail for customers. Research has shown that 70% of consumers1 expect anyone they interact with at a company to have easy access to their past purchase information, whether that’s in-store or online. They want a personalized experience that works seamlessly across any number of settings, and they expect the staff they interact with to deliver on and meet those expectations.

Conflict

Higher customer expectations are leading to increased rates of conflict when these expectations aren’t met.

During the pandemic, 80% of retail workers2 experienced hostile behavior from customers who didn’t want to follow safety protocols, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of these incidents slowing down. In the UK, the British Retail Consortium found that incidents of violence and abuse nearly doubled3 between 2021/22 and 2022/23.

There’s a clear need for staff working in retail to be highly trained in dealing with conflict to help de-escalate these incidents, keep the customer happy, and keep themselves safe.

Cost cutting

With the cost of living going up, consumers are left with less to spend on shopping sprees, with many thinking more carefully before making a purchase. Reduced customer spending combined with increased wages, climbing interest rates and the rising cost of goods has left many retailers in a tight spot financially4. That’s led to store closures and staff cuts, making it even harder to deliver the top-tier service customers are looking for on the shop floor.

The two retail personalities

To deal with the fast-paced, ever-changing and challenging environment of retail, there’s no doubt that you need great staff. They’re the ones who can really make a difference when it comes down to those all-important sales and keeping your customers happy.

Something I’ve come to realize over time in the retail sector, is that staff tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to personality and skill – they’re either more operational (‘the Sorter’) or more customer-facing and sales-oriented (‘the Seller’).  The fact is that both are essential to keep the shop floor (both out front and behind the scenes)  running smoothly and successfully.

The Seller

The Seller is the extrovert. Someone who likes being up front, talking to customers, and making sales. They prefer the sociable aspect of the job over operational tasks like inventory. The Seller is probably quite happy providing the hands-on service customers expect, and (with the right training) can confidently resolve conflicts when they do crop up.

The Sorter

The Sorter is naturally introverted and detail-oriented. They prefer to steer clear of customer interactions (especially conflicts) when they can, focusing instead on organization. Their behind-the-scenes role is essential in giving customers that seamless experience they increasingly expect when shopping in-store.

Finding the balance

As I said earlier, both the Seller and the Sorter perform essential tasks in the organization – neither could exist without the other. But getting the right balance can be tricky -– especially in tough economic times. Too many Sorters and every stock take will be accurate, but you won’t be delivering that all-important customer experience that secures sales. Too many Sellers, and you’ll have lots of positive interactions but lack the structure needed to run the operation smoothly.

In years gone by, retailers might have been able to find the balance between these two personality groups simply by hiring in two teams, allowing Sellers to sell and Sorters to sort. Everyone’s a winner. But now, organizations simply can’t justify the cost of the number of staff this would take, especially considering reduced shop floor footfall.

So the real challenge is how to make sure both operations and front of store run as well as you need them to without investing in double the staff. In today’s retail world, the answer lies in well-rounded staff who can be both Sellers and Sorters, moving fluidly between sales and operations. And that’s where exceptional training comes in.

Gamified training: how two become one

Finding staff who are naturally gifted at both selling and sorting is a difficult task. But with gamified training, you can develop and nurture them yourself.

Through gamified training, you can create virtual worlds that match your in-store environment and set realistic scenarios for staff to deal with. This style of learning means that staff are immersed in their training and given a much more active role. It offers a safe space to practice everything from upselling and customer service to prioritization and operational duties, with the chance to repeat the tasks they find more challenging.

That’s exactly what Circle K did with their game-based training, ‘Customer Star’, which closed their employees’ knowledge gap by 96%. This is how you can help Sellers learn to be Sorters and vice versa, and create a much more efficient team.

The role of data

By integrating artificial intelligence into game-based training, you can also easily track and analyze learners’ training performance across your organization. You can use this data to see where individuals’ strengths lie, and where they need more support. That will help managers decide where to place people so that they play to their strengths, and highlight areas where more training is needed to ensure the best of both the Seller/Sorter role.

Retail is a challenging landscape, with businesses having to walk that increasingly fine balance between cutting costs and still delivering an outstanding customer experience.

To get that right, retailers need to focus on how they onboard staff. They need to provide engaging, motivating training that will help them become confident and proficient in all aspects of their jobs. That efficiency will make all the difference for staff, businesses, and – most importantly – customers.

Are you ready to level up your training?

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Sources

  1. Retailers Need Immersive CX To Meet Customer Expectations In 2023, forbes.com/sites/garydrenik/2023/04/25/retailers-need-immersive-cx-to-meet-customer-expectations-in-2023

  2. How the simple phrase ‘the customer is always right’ gave shoppers a license to abuse workers, businessinsider.com/customer-is-always-right-etail-worker-violence-harassment-2021-9

  3. RETAIL CRIME A “CRISIS THAT DEMANDS ACTION”, brc.org.uk/news/corporate-affairs/retail-crime-a-crisis-that-demands-action
  4. Retailers Face Headwinds In 2023 As Consumer Spending Slows, forbes.com/sites/shelleykohan/2023/04/14/retailers-face-headwinds-in-2023-as-consumer-spending-slows