Get the most out of retail elearning

Posted on Jul 27, 2015


In the  2015 retail sector benchmark report  Towards Maturity outlines the performance of retail industry members compared to an average of all the respondents to the cross-industry benchmark survey.

The report shows that 46% of retail firms are planning on increasing the size of their training budget in the next two years, compared to the 35% average across all businesses.

Traditionally, retail has had a  high turnover of staff compared to many areas, so it’s no surprise to see induction and speeding up the time to competence as priorities for the Learning and Development departments featured in the report.

We've used the report to reveal some critical areas you can focus on to help drive results, and we offer some action points for Learning and Development professionals in retail to work on.

Check hardware issues

When considering the challenges of a retail training program we have to remember that learners are more widely distributed than in most companies.
One of the advantages of elearning is presenting a consistent approach to all learners wherever they are based. With branches spread across a wide geographic area, learning designers need to be aware of the infrastructure capabilities in each territory.

  • 84% of retail businesses list unreliable infrastructure/low bandwidth/technical factors as a barrier to progress, compared to 66% of companies across all sectors.
  • 58% list insufficient staff access to computers, with the overall average being 24%.
  • 58% support  Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) as compared to 45% of companies in other industries.

Thankfully, by designing responsive elearning you can help with the challenges of low bandwidth and lack of computers for staff to use.

An elearning tool like Adapt can help by allowing you to design one course which can be accessed by staff using any device they have available.

In an industry where 63% of learners are happy to engage in online learning without prompting, it becomes even more important to enable them to access it in the most convenient way.

Take Action: 

  • Micro learning - Break down modules into smaller chunks, allowing learners to get what they need quickly and not struggle to finish when the bandwidth is strained.
  • Offline content - Downloadable resources can spread the load on the network and still allow a lightweight online assessment.
  • Responsive design - Starting with a course that looks and works well on mobile and having it adapt itself to different screens allows learners to use whatever is available to complete the training.
  • Move to the cloud - Using a Learning Management System (LMS) that is cloud-based will allow learners to connect to their training from anywhere, so you’re not limited to using the computers available in the workplace.

Change your retail elearning focus

There appears to be a mismatch between the business goals of retailers and the learning they actually deliver.
The report suggests that the areas where retail is doing best in training terms are not those identified as business priorities.
This mismatch is a worrying trend:

  • 38% of retailers identify specific business metrics/KPIs that they want to improve through learning in partnership with senior management versus 82% on average.
  • Time to competency in retail has been reduced by 11% compared to the 12% average reduction.

This might be why the time to competency, an area which should be a priority in a high staff turnover environment, is lagging behind the cross-industry average. In an area where even the best companies are struggling it should be the retail sector leading the way in offering elearning which aids its workers the most.

Take Action: 

  • Set relevant goals - It’s critical to identify learning objectives that will benefit the business, so find an elearning supplier that can work with you from an early stage to clarify the needs that learners have and offer effective solutions.
  • Innovate - Areas which have not been well served by elearning in the past can offer opportunities to stand out from the crowd and make a big difference to your employees.

Embrace what you’re doing right

It’s not all bad news; in several areas retail is outperforming the average and even top tier companies. Knowing what you’re already good at can help you to deliver a strategy which brings out the best in your employees.

  • 70% of retail learning and development professionals strongly agree that staff can access learning directly relevant to their job.
  • The ability of elearning in retail to change procedures or products has improved by 34% versus 24% on average.

Take Action: 

  • Measure your results - Getting feedback on training in areas where you’re doing well is just as important as areas where you’re under performing.
  • Recognize the areas where you’re performing well - Take time to reflect on the training that has been most effective and analyse why it worked well.
  • Use proven techniques - If your ability to change procedures has been helped by technology led learning then apply the same approach to other areas.

If you’d like to be part of next year’s survey, whether you’re a retail organization or part of any other industry, you can  join the survey on the Towards Maturity site.

Retail businesses know that elearning can play a role in reaching their business goals. By taking note of the trends highlighted in this article they can start addressing the issues that are holding back elearning; the action points can help form an elearning strategy that offers real benefits.

Photo of Kate Pasterfield

Author:   Kate Pasterfield , Creative Director, Sponge

This post originally appeared on elearning industry , read more from Kate Pasterfield here .

Ask an expert

Kate Pasterfield, Head of Innovation, Sponge

Kate leads the innovation department at Sponge, bringing the latest learning technologies and strategies to international clients from a variety of sectors.

Awarded Learning Technologies Designer of the year, it's clear that great learning starts with bright ideas, if you want to explore an innovative learning solution with Kate, get in touch.

Ask The Expert 1 Col Kate Nicholls

You may also be interested in... View all insights

Remote onboarding - Welcome to work, but please stay at home

At Sponge, we're ready to respond to new challenges regarding remote onboarding

Read more

7 Unmissable highlights at Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2020

Sponge's curated list of seven unmissable highlights of LTSF2020

Read more

Six inspiring ways to use data in elearning - join us for a webinar with the Learning and Skills Group

Sponge's Kate Pasterfield talks about enhancing the learning experience using data

Read more