Boost your frontline's performance with these online retail training tips

Cydnie Smith
Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
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You have great products. You have ultra-competitive pricing. You’ve curated the perfect aesthetic, and people are always visiting your retail space. Whatever your differentiator is, you know that your competitors just can’t compete with you.

So why are your efforts not being reflected in your retail sales? 

Well… you may have forgotten about the most important piece of the retail puzzle: your retail staff.

Whether they’re stocking shelves, handling transactions, providing customer support, or chasing sales, your employees are the face of your brand. They’re the ones on the frontline, who interact with customers, and they’re the ones who ultimately determine whether or not a sale is made. 

I mean, think of it this way: would you go to a restaurant where the waiter didn't know the menu, couldn't recommend a dish, and spilled wine on your lap? Of course not. 

The same principle applies to retail – and the online retail training you offer. 

If your employees don't know your products, can't answer customer questions, and provide poor service, customers will quickly take their business elsewhere.

So how can retailers mitigate risks and ensure that their employees meet (and exceed) performance expectations? 

The answer to this question is simple.

You must provide your employees with effective training programs that equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their roles.

In today's highly competitive retail industry, providing excellent customer service is not enough to stay ahead of the game. Retailers must constantly strive to improve the performance of their frontline staff to increase productivity, ensure customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, drive revenue growth. 

So, today we'll be sharing some online retail training tips to boost your frontline's performance as well as exploring the answers to the following burning questions: 

Ready to dive in and explore our top online retail training tips?

Why bother with training your retail employees?

As with any organization, a retailer's primary goal is to generate revenue. So, when it comes to training, I completely understand if you or your C-Suite team are wondering: 

“Why invest in a comprehensive training program for your employees (particularly when turnover rates are notoriously high in the retail industry)?”

The thing is, though investing in retail training may seem like a significant expense at first, an effective training program can have a domino effect of benefits on your organization.

For starters, well-trained employees are more productive and can complete tasks more efficiently. They know their roles' expectations, clearly understand the products or services they are selling, and can confidently address customer needs and inquiries. Moreover, by investing in employee training, retailers can ensure that their team can handle complex tasks, resolve issues, and provide better customer service, which translates to a better experience for your client/customers (and increased sales for your business.)

Of course, retail training isn’t only beneficial on a consumer level. It also trickles up to an employee level. Employees who perform better are more confident in their abilities, leading to higher job satisfaction and a more positive work environment. Happier employees, in turn, can result in higher employee morale, reduced absenteeism, lower turnover rates, and, most importantly, less time and resources spent on recruitment and training. 

Effective retail training leads to happier, better-skilled employees, improved performance, increased sales, revenue growth for your business, and of course, higher return on investment (ROI).

Why offer retail training to your employees online?

Now that we've explored why training your retail employees is important, let's discuss the best way to conduct it. 

While traditional training methods, such as in-person workshops and on-the-job training, have been the norm in the past, thanks to the rise of technology, eLearning has become an increasingly popular option for businesses to train their employees. And for a good reason! 

Retail eLearning training offers several advantages over traditional in-person training, including

  • Accessibility: Online training can be completed at any time and from any location, making it a convenient option for employees with busy schedules or who work irregular hours. More online training accessibility can increase participation rates and engagement with the training content.
  • Scalability: Scalability is another key advantage of frontline retail training. As your business grows, you can easily scale your training program to accommodate new employees without worrying about finding space or trainers for in-person training sessions.
  • Cost-effectiveness: eLearning can be more cost effective than traditional training methods, such as in-person training sessions or hiring external trainers. Long-term costs are often more optimal because online training can be delivered to a larger group of employees simultaneously, reducing the cost per employee.
  • Customization: With online retail training, you can customize your content, format, and delivery method to meet the specific needs of your business and your employees.
  • Consistency: Online training ensures that all employees receive the same training content and access the same resources, resulting in greater consistency in training outcomes and more standardization across the business.
  • Increased knowledge retention: Frontline eLearning can help you track your employees' progress and assess their knowledge retention. You can also use eLearning to reinforce training by providing quizzes and assessments to ensure employees retain the information they are learning.

Of course, when it comes to answering the question: “Why online retail training?” I can show you better than I can tell you. 

What types of training should you offer to your retail employees?

We’ve already established that your team is a customer’s first point of contact. They keep the store running smoothly and ultimately drive sales. As such, providing them with the kind of training they need to excel in their roles is essential. 

So, let’s break down some of the different kinds of retail training you should offer your frontline employees and explore some online employee training use cases that you can use to boost your team’s performance.

A 3x2 grid with a caption and illustration in each. Top row, left-to-right: A character holding a box of books to a computer desk with a laptop showing a welcome screen,"Onboarding training"; a character wearing a headset at a laptop, "Customer service training"; a character jumping out of a box and holding a large lightbulb, "Product knowledge training." Bottom row, left-to-right: Two characters shaking hands with a signed contract in the background, "Sales training"; a character with multiple arms pointing to various icons that are surrounding them, "Supervisory or manager training"; a character in a safety vest and hard hat pointing to a saftey check list, with a pylon and a sign with various warning symbols, "General safety training."

Onboarding training

Simply put, thorough onboarding is crucial for employee success. Not only can it set the tone for a new employee's experience, but it can also shape their performance within their role for the future.

Thus, onboarding training should include an overview of the company culture, policies, procedures, job-specific duties, and performance expectations. Additionally, it should provide new employees with the necessary tools and resources to excel in their roles.

So how can online training ensure your employee onboarding is effective?

Well, imagine you have a team of new hires across different departments. If your organization opts for a more traditional training method, each employee would complete the same course and review the same information. The issue is that this one-size-fits-all approach to learning doesn’t consider that each new hire has different roles, experiences, and skill levels. As a result, your staff may disengage from the material or experience confusion about your expectations of them.

Online training, on the other hand, allows you to take a more personalized approach to learning and development. Custom online onboarding can be interactive and engaging, with each learning experience tailored to an employee’s unique learning style. Courses can also integrate videos, quizzes, and simulations to help new employees become familiar with their job responsibilities.

Customer service training

Excellent customer service can lead to loyal customers and positive reviews, while poor customer service can lead to lost sales and negative feedback. Your customer service training should cover effective communication, problem-solving, and conflict-resolution topics. 

Retailers can use eLearning to deliver customer service training that covers topics such as communication skills, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. More practically, you can create role-play scenarios that simulate real-world customer interactions and allow employees to practice their skills in a safe environment. This training can help employees feel more confident handling difficult customers, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction rates.

Product knowledge training

Product knowledge is essential in the retail industry. Customers expect frontline employees to understand the products they sell, and employees who can provide accurate and helpful information can increase sales and customer satisfaction. If your employees don't have the necessary product knowledge, they won't be able to answer customer questions or make informed recommendations.

Let’s look at it through a more practical lens. 

Say you manage a furniture store that specializes in custom wood pieces. Your employees should have extensive knowledge of the products they sell and the materials used to create them. I mean, think about it, customers expect to speak to knowledgeable employees who can provide them with the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. 

Now, imagine a new mahogany table comes in stock.

Traditional training methods would require your employees to take a lengthy course (that they’ve likely already taken) and click through hundreds of different product features and benefits they already know. At the end of the course, they would complete a pass/fail quiz JUST to learn the specifications for one new product. 

It may be just me, but this feels like a huge waste of time and resources. With online retail training, you implement adaptive, micro-learning courses that cover only the new specs your employees need to learn. As your employees’ knowledge grows, the adaptive architecture of the course will adjust to show only the information they haven’t mastered. That way, they spend less time completing training and more time on the sales floor. 

Sales training

The ultimate goal of any retail business is to make sales. As such, it is important to provide your employees with sales training that teaches them how to sell your products effectively. This type of training can cover topics such as how to approach customers, identify their needs, and make product recommendations.

eLearning can effectively deliver sales training to your retail employees as you can implement gamification that allows employees to practice upselling, cross-selling, and other sales techniques in a simulated sales environment. Online training can be especially helpful in developing soft skills in new employees who may not have prior sales experience. It allows you (or your sales team supervisors) to keep track of your employees’ progress and provide valuable performance feedback as they master particular skills.

Supervisory or management training

Supervisors and managers play a crucial role in the success of any retail operation. They are responsible for managing a team of employees, setting and achieving sales targets, and ensuring the smooth functioning of the store. That's a lot of responsibility; they need the right skills to handle it.

Some essential skills that supervisory and management training should cover include leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and performance management. These skills are crucial for building a cohesive and productive team that can work towards achieving the store's goals.

eLearning can be a fantastic tool for supervisory and management training. It offers mobile learning options, allowing busy managers to learn at their own pace and convenience. It also provides an immersive and engaging learning experience that can make the training more effective.

For example, an eLearning module can offer simulations where managers can practice making decisions in different scenarios instead of reading about leadership skills. This interactive approach can help them develop their leadership skills in a more practical and hands-on way.

General safety training

Retail employees work in a fast-paced environment that can pose various safety hazards. From handling heavy boxes to dealing with aggressive customers, employees must be aware of potential risks and know how to handle them.

General safety training should cover fire safety, first aid, workplace violence, and hazardous material handling. This training is essential for ensuring the safety of both employees and customers.

eLearning can make general safety training more engaging and effective by offering interactive and multimedia-rich modules. For example, a module on fire safety can include a simulation where employees need to navigate through a virtual store to find the nearest fire exit – making the training more interactive and memorable for employees.

How to create effective online retail training programs for your frontline

Sure, you hired competent employees that can likely perform the duties outlined in the job description. But real life is more nuanced than the skills listed on a resume. As an employer, your goal is to ensure that your frontline staff has the knowledge and skills they need to handle any situation that comes their way. So, here is our seven-step guide for creating effective online retail training programs for your frontline staff.

Step one: Audit your training program

The first step in creating an effective online retail training program is to conduct a training audit. This process helps you dive deeply into your current training materials, methods, and outcomes. During this process, ask yourself:

  • What topics are currently covered in your training program?
  • How often is training conducted?
  • What methods are used to deliver the training (in-person, online, etc.)?
  • What is the success rate of your current training program?
  • Are there any gaps in the current training program?
  • What do employees feel about the current training program?

Once you have answers to these questions, you can move on to the next step.

Step two: Conduct a training needs assessment and analysis

Now that you know where your training program stands, it's time to identify the specific skills and knowledge gaps your frontline team needs to fill. These gaps may include basic computer skills, product knowledge, or customer service skills. Consider questions like:

  • What skills do they need to improve?
  • What tasks do they struggle with?
  • What do they need to know to excel in their roles?
  • What changes are happening in the industry that they need to be aware of?

One effective way to gather this information is to conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups with your employees. You can also analyze performance data and customer feedback to identify areas of improvement.

Once you have identified the training needs of your frontline team, the next step is to conduct a training needs analysis (TNA). The TNA process allows you to get into the nitty-gritty details of the training program and take a deep dive into the specific skills and knowledge your employees need to improve. Understanding the what and why behind your team’s performance gaps will help you to develop clear learning objectives. Learning objectives outline what your frontline staff will learn and how they will apply that knowledge in their roles. Your learning objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Step three: Knowledge checks

Before building your online retail training program, you must create knowledge checks to assess your employees' understanding of the material. Knowledge checks are critical to ensuring that your employees retain the information they learn and can apply it to their jobs.

For more information on creating knowledge checks, explore our step-by-step guide for how to conduct a knowledge check effectively. The article will take you through all of the necessary actions to ensure your knowledge check efforts hit the mark.

Step four: Select your tools

Once you have a clear understanding of your training needs and learning objectives, it's time to select the tools you'll use to build your online retail training program. Many tools are available, including Learning Management Systems (LMS), Learning Experience Platforms (LXP), and adaptive learning platforms. When selecting tools, you must consider your budget, the features you need, and the ease of use for your employees. Remember, the goal is to create an effective training program, not to impress your colleagues with fancy tools.

Step five: Build your courses

Now comes the fun part - building your online retail training program! Course creation is where you (or your instructional designer) bring everything together, including the learning objectives, the topics and concepts, the delivery method, and the knowledge checks. When building your courses, here are some best practices to consider:

  • Make it interactive: Interactive training programs allow frontline employees to participate actively in the learning process. You can foster collaboration and increase employee engagement with gamification,  role-playing scenarios, and social components like badges, leaderboards, comment sections, and user profiles.
  • Make it accessible: Remember, your team is busy and may not have much free time to complete their training. Ensure your online retail training program is accessible and easy to use (for your less tech-savvy employees). That means making it mobile-friendly, allowing employees to complete the training on their own time, and keeping the content short, sweet, and visually appealing. 
  • Use visuals and multimedia to enhance engagement: Engaging content is key to a successful eLearning program. You don't want your employees to feel like they're back in school, reviewing slides and completing a pass/fail quiz at the end. Instead, create content that is fun, interactive, and relevant to their job. Incorporating videos, quizzes, and interactive activities can keep your team engaged and motivated.
  • Include real-life scenarios: One of the best ways to help employees retain information is by using real-life scenarios. For example, if you're training your team on customer service, create scenarios where they interact with difficult customers. These real-life situations will help them develop problem-solving skills and prepare them for real-life situations.
  • Provide feedback and reinforcement: Feedback and reinforcement are essential to learning. Provide your frontline staff with regular performance feedback and provide reinforcement opportunities through follow-up training sessions.

Of course, suppose you’re not much of a DIY course-builder. In that case, you can always enlist the help of a dedicated instructional design agency to assist you during the program development process.

Step six: Measure your results

Finally, once your online retail training program is up and running, it's essential to measure its effectiveness. Measuring the effectiveness of your online retail employee training programs is critical to understanding their impact on your business. The evaluation process will help you identify areas where your employees may need additional training and make adjustments to your eLearning program. Some key metrics to consider are employee performance, customer satisfaction, and sales metrics such as average order value and conversion rate. You can use your learning management system (LMS) to track employee progress and performance and conduct surveys or focus groups to gather feedback from employees and customers.

A step/pyramid diagram titled, "How to create effective online retail training programs for your frontline." Starting from the bottom, going upward: Step 1 - Audit training program; Step 2 - Training needs assessment & analysis; Step 3 - Knowledge checks; Step 4 - Select tools; Step 5 - Build courses;  Step 6 - Measure results.

Creating an effective online retail training program for your frontline requires careful planning, engaging content, real-life scenarios, feedback and support, accessibility, and measuring its effectiveness. By following these steps, you can create an online retail training program that helps your team meet (or surpass) your performance goals!

With your retail training online, what do you do next?

Okay – let’s skip ahead a few months into the future. After reading this article, you’ve decided that online training is right for your organization. You've even implemented your retail training program using the tips listed above. (Great job, by the way!)

But now what?

How do you ensure your online training remains a success? Here are a few steps to optimize the effectiveness of your new eLearning program:

Report on key retail training metrics

With your online retail training program well underway, it’s critical to bring your C-suite into the discussion – and deliver the metrics they will care about. They will want to know how the program is shaping employees – and whether it’s having a positive effect on production, sales, and culture. Key metrics include employee performance, employee churn, customer satisfaction, and sales metrics such as average order value and conversion rate.

You can use a learning management system (LMS) to track employee progress and performance and conduct surveys or focus groups to gather feedback from employees and customers.

Track employee behavioral changes

Your online retail employee training programs should aim to create behavioral changes in your frontline team that lead to improved performance. You may look for changes in customer interactions, sales techniques, or compliance behaviors. You can track behavioral changes by setting goals and metrics and monitoring employee performance over time.

Gather feedback from your learners

Gathering feedback from your learners is critical to improving the quality of your online retail training programs. You can use surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one feedback sessions to gather feedback on what worked well and what needs improvement. You can use employee feedback to improve the content and delivery of future training programs.

Conduct regular program maintenance

Online retail employee training programs should be regularly updated and maintained to ensure they remain relevant and effective. Regular maintenance may include updating product information, revising sales techniques, or updating compliance policies. This process ensures that your training programs continue to deliver value to your business and your employees.

I know investing in retail training for employees may initially seem like a massive investment. But proper training for your frontline is critical for the success of any retail business. By providing your employees with the right kind of training, you can improve their skills, boost their confidence, and create a more productive and efficient team. And by using eLearning to deliver this training, you can make it more engaging, effective, and convenient for your employees.

Overall, online retail training not only provides a cost-effective and flexible solution for boosting your frontline's performance, but training your retail employees can lead to increased productivity, happier employees, and better ROI – which sounds like a win to me!

If you’re ready to dive into your custom online retail journey, you can always reach out to us – we’re happy to guide you through the process. Or, if you’d like to do a little more exploring into the world of online learning, feel free to head back to our Learning Hub.

Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
Cydnie Smith

Cydnie is an experienced writer, editor, and blogger who believes that accessibility plus a dash of creative storytelling is essential to cultivating a memorable learning experience.

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