Retail Training: Video Is The Way Forward

  • February 23, 2014 at 9:44 AM EST
  • By Vern Hanzlik, SVP and General Manager, Qumu
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A business is only as strong as its connection to its employees. This is especially true in the retail industry where businesses rely on their sales associates to provide stellar customer service on a daily basis. Advances in technology, such as the increasing ubiquity of e-Commerce and smartphones, have changed the way many retail customers do their shopping. However, brick-and-mortar storefronts and their employees remain an important element of the retail experience.

Maintaining that connection isn’t always easy. High staff turnover, regionally-distributed locations, ever-changing promotions and complex mixes of merchandise make training store associates a challenge. Most training is done in-store, but between travel costs and busy schedules, getting the best trainers into every store is difficult. In addition, once training is complete, associates often don’t have access to the most up-to-date information on inventory and promotions.

Strategies like e-learning or in-store video modules can provide some cost-effective and personal training alternatives. With increasing economic pressure, higher demand for mobile solutions and a larger focus on customer service, retailers have been searching for a new option to allow associates to access quality training resources anywhere, anytime.

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Survey Uncovers Training Issues

Qumu recently conducted a survey in the U.S. and UK to learn more about how businesses are connecting to their employees and how that connection can be improved. Survey results quickly showed trends in the direction that retail training is taking. But, perhaps the more telling trends from the results are the opportunities that many retailers are missing to equip and support their teams to provide outstanding service to every customer.

About 60% of survey respondents indicated they currently receive some kind of training from their supervisor. While supervisor training is a good first step for a new hire, taking supervisors away from revenue-generating activities can be costly. Additionally, since not all supervisors have the same level of expertise, consistency can become a problem. With ever-changing products and specifications, consistent and up-to-date information is a key part of the retail associate’s interaction with the customer. If training is being delivered by a supervisor, it further distances the associate from the important source information.

Video training is widely viewed by industry employees as a valuable addition to sales-floor training. Nine out of 10 employees surveyed believe that video would have a positive effect on their training. Most retailers today use stationary DVDs or web-based training sessions on company computers. This type of location-specific training can go out of date quickly and be costly to update. By contrast, enterprise-video platforms provide quality, consistency and an opportunity for associates to learn on their own time, using the devices they prefer. More than half of the retail employees interviewed said they would benefit from accessible, convenient training that leaves more time to be on the sales floor, helping customers.

Cross-Channel Video Access Improves Compliance

Companies can ensure training videos are convenient for all employees by making videos compatible across devices, including smartphones, tablet and PCs. More than 75% of those surveyed indicated that they would prefer to access video training through a personal device (including home computers), and among 18- to 24-year-old respondents, 45% said they specifically are interested in accessing training via their mobile devices. As the retail workforce becomes more comfortable with using mobile video, the number of employees accessing training videos on their mobile devices likely will rise.

A large retail corporation, with stores across the United States, had been challenged with keeping widely-distributed employees on the same page with regard to a rapidly changing product base. Employees felt out of the loop and were not always up to date on the latest features of the products they were selling. To combat this, the company partnered with Qumu to enable mobile video training for their employees. Managers began posting QR codes in the employee break room. These codes link to a weekly video that details the latest changes to products, prices and policies. Employees now can watch the weekly videos when they have the time to engage deeply and fully absorb the content.

Providing time-sensitive updates not only helps keep employees knowledgeable about company offerings, but also provides employees with a way to feel greater agency in their jobs on a daily basis. In the survey, 51% of respondents felt that video would help “gain understanding of upper management’s strategy for the company.” Using video can help retail organizations provide increased awareness of how employees’ jobs impact the larger organization. This growing sense of community also can benefit companies financially. The more connected an employee feels to the overarching direction of a retail company, the more confidence they will have in connecting with customers. They will be more equipped to provide the type of experience on which the retail industry depends to generate sales and encourage brand loyalty.

The value of video is already evident to retail store associates. Companies can use video to provide more training on specific job roles, enhance the quality of training content and make video more readily available. When store associates’ needs are understood and supported through easy-to-use technology platforms, they more easily understand and retain content. Retailers consequently will receive the most return on their training investments. Whether delivered via PC, tablet or smartphones, training via video is growing in demand. Smart retailers can leverage video for improved results, both during the shopping experience and on the bottom line.


Vern Hanzlik is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Qumu, and has spent more than 20 years building and growing enterprise software and service companies. Most recently, he served as president, EMEA and member of the Board of TEAM Informatics, a global enterprise solutions and technology company. Prior to that, he co-founded Stellent, an enterprise content management software company that was acquired by Oracle in 2006 for $440 million and became the basis of Oracle’s WebCenter offering. 

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