You've heard it for the past few years; we've entered the Experience Economy. Brand loyalty is now built primarily on the experiences a company delivers to consumers. They buy, re-buy, and recommend based on how the company makes them feel above all else.
Today, customer experience is more powerful even than the quality and/or cost of your products, as proven by study after study.
This is particularly true (and sometimes painfully felt) for brick-and-mortar retail stores, many of which haven't survived the transition to the world of experience. Online commerce has overtaken in-store shopping for its convenience and comprehensive comparative capabilities — in a few clicks, you can compare products, prices, reviews, and more — a luxury that your in-store clerk is likely unable or unwilling to provide.
As described on the Qualtrics blog:
With the increasing dominance of online retail, it’s ever more important for all retailers to consider the experience they provide customers. For example, customers are accustomed to internet shopping sites remembering their credit card information and recommending products based on what they’ve purchased in the past, so it can be jarring to walk into a brick-and-mortar store with none of these conveniences."
In other words, everyone's had to up their game in the retail industry, digital and physical sites alike. But, it can be a more daunting undertaking to overhaul the physical store experience. The online experience can be centrally managed by a team of tech whizzes behind the scenes, whereas the in-store experience is spread across disparate locations, not centrally managed, and in the hands of living, breathing people, unable to hide behind a beautifully designed web interface.
Training to deliver standout shopping experiences
Most brick-and-mortar retailers know the clock is ticking on transitioning their stores and their teams over to the Experience Economy. Malls are closing at an unprecedented rate and many people prefer clicking over walking. More than 9,100 retail stores are expected to close by the end of 2019.
For those that have made the transition, the bar has been set very high and the leaders stand out. Think Tiffany and Co., Lush, Disney, or name your favorite "experience store."
Under the larger umbrella of great CX, what's the biggest thing these stores have in common? And remember, we're comparing diamonds to soap to toys here, so it's definitely not similar products.
The answer is incredibly well-trained salespeople.
In the case of cosmetics retailer Lush:
Lush is well-known for going the extra mile for those customers that ... want a little more interaction, offering product demonstrations and valuable advice in its stores. Lush employees typically go through extensive training to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to deliver this kind of service."
It's rigorous training that enables these retailers to develop salespeople who delight each and every customer. Strategic, centrally managed training programs enable leading companies to deliver consistent, continuous learning to sales staff anytime, anywhere, on any device. When a customer approaches with a question, they're armed with the very latest product and company knowledge. They're prepared to speak to competitive points and industry happenings. They're groomed on critical "soft skills" for sales and customer service, such as active listening, communication, problem solving, etc.
And, if you think this isn't possible — to train salespeople to this degree across hundreds of locations — think again. Here's a case in point.
When's the last time a shoe changed your life?
Walk in to shop for a new pair of shoes. Walk out changed by the experience of personalized service, fit, and comfort.
As Forbes recently reported on how The Walking Company uses SAP Litmos Training, the company sells leading comfort shoe brands, but differentiates itself by offering what it calls "experiential retail." They train salespeople to deliver customized service based on each individual's precise footwear needs, so that every customer feels the experience has been tailored to their unique expectations. Consistent, outcome-driven training is the key to ensuring this happens homogeneously across more than 200 stores throughout the US.
We needed to get sales teams to go through training and use that knowledge to provide great life-changing experiences for our customers."
— Barry Weinstein, Vice President of Training and Business Development, The Walking Company
The retailer is taking retail sales training to new heights by using gamification to increase employee engagement, retention, and performance.
The company applies a behavior-based training model, which relies heavily on gamification capabilities in SAP Litmos Training to reward employees with points when they participate in learning activities and translate that knowledge into new behaviors. As an example, salespeople receive points when they engage with training content, which they can then redeem for for prizes. This incentive has transformed formerly disenfranchised employees into sales superstars who look forward to new training modules because of how it benefits them, their customers, and the company.
According to Weinstein, as quoted from Forbes, "SAP Litmos has given me a way to put my philosophy into action, which is to make training fun and engaging. Now people are knowledge rich and empowered to make business decisions — and better sales.”