Omnichannel is an opportunity for L&D to renew its business value

Posted on Nov 01, 2017

Learning strategies



Reports of the death of bricks-and-mortar shopping have been greatly exaggerated, to misquote the words of American novelist, Mark Twain.

On the contrary, high street shopping is still very much alive and kicking. Just ask Amazon.  In 2017, the world’s largest online retailer bought US chain, Whole Foods, for almost $14 billion. 

Amazon’s purchase of the up-market chain has created a whole new shopping experience. If you go in to buy your groceries (now offered at discount prices by Amazon), you can expect to see a stand with Amazon Echo, aka AI personal assistant Alexa, in amongst the fruit and veg.

The message is clear: while bricks–and-mortar shopping is here to stay, it won’t be anything like it was before. It’s about offering a great customer experience in-store, and it’s about connecting the omnichannel.

The rise of omnichannel presents workplace learning teams with an opportunity to renew their value to the business. As options increase and purchase decision-making evolves, employee knowledge and capability must keep pace to provide a truly differentiating retail customer experience. Here are a few concepts to keep in mind as you develop your L&D team’s ability to support a growing omnichannel strategy:

1. Channel Awareness

Many customers will know what’s available on your website before they enter the store. They’ve come to the store for an experience or because they want to purchase something immediately. Your employees must be equally knowledgeable about your online offerings so they can further differentiate the store visit from the website purchase. In addition, stock-outs should be almost extinct in an omnichannel setting, given the extended inventory reach. Employees should be comfortable shifting from the store to the online environment to provide customers with purchase options even if the store cannot fulfil the request immediately.

"Employee knowledge and capability must keep pace to provide a truly differentiating retail customer experience."

2. Speed of Information

An omnichannel strategy provides the business with great flexibility when it comes to timely product and pricing offers. Therefore, it is critical that the organisation has an equally flexible information strategy in place for employees. L&D must partner with the operation to build an engaging communication strategy that leverages technology to ensure the right information gets to the right people at the moment of need. This ensures the information will not only be consistent, but won’t be out of date by the time the employee learns about it.

3. New Skill Requirements

As channels begin to blur, and services such those offered by Amazon change the way people buy and receive products, employees must also develop new skills. L&D must be ready to rapidly deploy learning and support solutions to meet the needs of the business as these new skill sets are introduced across the omnichannel environment—without requiring the operation to pause for hours of formal training.

4. Shift from Product Knowledge to Consultation Skill

Why would I buy a shirt in the store when I can buy the same shirt from home via the mobile app? Well, what if I’m not quite sure if this shirt matches the rest of my outfit? What if I don’t want to bother with the hassle of shipping it back if it doesn’t fit? It’s no longer sufficient for employees to know product details and availability. Now, they must act as consultants to help customers solve the fundamental problem that is driving the purchase decision. Therefore, instead of holding costly but infrequent formal training events, L&D must provide ongoing training to help employees develop their consultation skills. Social tools are also great for sharing ideas and techniques between stores. Microlearning principles can be applied to successfully fit continuous learning into the busy retail day without taking associates off the floor.

For a brand to thrive in this new era of retail, it will require a seamless connection between bricks-and-mortar and online channels, an upskilled workforce, and an enjoyable customer experience. The three elements are 100% interdependent – you could say they’re all part of the same package.

This content first appeared at Axonify, written by JD Dillion, Principal Learning Strategist, Axonify. See the original blog here.

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