Effective training is essential for success in retail, shaping both customer experiences and employee development. As the demands on retail professionals evolve, so too do the skills and knowledge required to deliver exceptional experiences for customers. To remain competitive in a crowded marketplace, retail businesses need to be able to offer tailored training programs at scale, with content that adapts to the shifting needs and expectations of the consumer. With employee training such a high priority, many businesses have implemented a Learning Management System (LMS) to help handle the management, assessment and tracking of their retail training programs.
From streamlining onboarding processes to facilitating continuous skill enhancement, the right serves as a strategic tool, empowering you to deliver to your workforce. With so many options on the market, however, it can be hard to decide which platform is right for your retail business. We’ve laid out some key considerations for you to keep in mind when choosing the right LMS for your retail learning initiatives and offer some tips for getting the most out of your employee training program.
The Aaron's company, a North American lease-to-own retailer, elevates its employees with an award-winning skills-based training initiative. Learn more about their Black Belt program.
The learning challenges in retail
Learning leaders need to be constantly on the lookout for solutions that are not only effective, but also adaptable to the dynamic nature of the industry. High turnover rates require an agile and efficient onboarding process to get new team members up to speed quickly, and the evolving product landscape means any training program needs to provide real-time updates on new products and services.
The diversity of job roles in the retail sector adds a layer of complexity to corporate training needs, with everything from frontline sales associates to managerial positions requiring customizable training to address the skills and knowledge needed to perform their roles. Here are just a few examples of the different training requirements of your retail team:
Sales Associates: Often the face of the brand, sales associates require comprehensive product information, as well as coaching in effective communication skills and customer-centric training to deliver consistently exceptional service.
Retail Managers: In managerial roles, training needs extend beyond customer interactions to encompass leadership, decision-making, and strategic planning skills. Managers must navigate the intricate balance of overseeing day-to-day operations, optimizing team performance, and aligning with broader organizational objectives.
Warehouse or Back of House (BOH) Associates: While these employees don’t require the customer-focused training of their peers, your BOH team has to be kept up to date on the latest developments in inventory management, stock checking and safety requirements to make sure they can effectively support the front of house team.
Tailoring training programs to meet the needs of each role is essential for creating a proficient workforce capable of achieving success as a team. An LMS can be especially useful in this area, giving learning leaders the tools to customize training content, and ensuring that sales associates and managers alike receive targeted information.
8 key features and functionalities for a retail LMS
When choosing training software for the retail industry, learning leaders should prioritize features and functionalities that align with the expectations of their customers, the demands of the industry and their business objectives.
Onboarding capabilities: Due to high turnover rates in the retail sector, as stated by US Bureau for Labor Statistics, a key consideration when choosing an LMS is your platform’s onboarding capabilities. An effective LMS should streamline the onboarding process, offering interactive modules, multimedia content, and quizzes to accelerate the integration of new hires. Learn more about onboarding in our Essential Guide here.
Customization options: Retail roles vary widely, requiring tailored training approaches. Learning leaders should seek an LMS that allows for the creation of modular content and adaptive learning paths, enabling customization based on specific job roles. This ensures that employees receive training that directly addresses their individual needs and learning styles.
Real-time updates: Things change fast in the world of retail. Whether it’s new products, changing regulations or industry trends, your LMS should be able to adapt to give your team up-to-the-minute information. To foster an agile, well-informed workforce, you need an LMS that can facilitate the seamless update of training content so you can adapt your training on the fly.
Mobile accessibility and microlearning: Microlearning is a bite-sized learning approach that delivers content in small, focused segments. It caters to learners that are short on time and are juggling lots of balls. When training is accessible on mobile devices, it makes it easier to fit in between employees' other responsibilities. Shorter, more specific training content also allows for customized learning pathways where learners only see content that’s relevant to them. Read more about microlearning here.
Reporting : Analytics are indispensable for measuring the impact of training programs. Retail learning leaders need insights into employee performance, completion rates, and areas that may require additional attention. An LMS with comprehensive reporting capabilities allows for data-driven decision-making, enabling continuous improvement of training initiatives.
Collaborative and social learning features: Forums, discussion boards, and collaborative projects within your LMS can help create a sense of community and knowledge-sharing among employees. By encouraging team members to learn from each other, you can enhance team cohesion and ensure knowledge is spread throughout the workforce.
Compliance training: Compliance training is essential for organizations to adhere to industry regulations, legal standards, and ethical practices. A SCORM-compatible LMS should include features that facilitate the creation, delivery, and tracking of compliance courses as well as certification management and automated reminders for recertification.
Integration with retail technology: Your LMS should be able to integrate seamlessly with other business systems such as Human Resources (HR) and Point of Sale (POS) systems, which are essential for a seamless training experience. Choosing a retail LMS that integrates with your existing tech ensures that employee data is synchronized, and training efforts are aligned with your brand’s broader goals.
To meet the goals of retail businesses, an LMS needs to empower learning leaders to create an adaptive training environment, ensuring that employees are well-equipped to meet the challenges of the industry.
Customization and content creation
With a diversity of roles and training needs across retail organizations content must be customized to be impactful. By customizing content, organizations can address the distinct needs of these varied roles, ensuring that training materials are relevant, engaging, and directly applicable to daily responsibilities. A tailored approach not only enhances the effectiveness of eLearning but also increases the sense of relevance and applicability among employees.
Crafting engaging training materials for retail, especially in product knowledge and customer service, requires a blended learning approach, mixing multimedia training content with in-person coaching where possible. For example, videos and interactive presentations can highlight the latest features and benefits of products so your team can effectively communicate them to customers.
Gamification—game-inspired elements that aim to make training more engaging—can turn routine training into a more dynamic process, encouraging participation and even improving knowledge retention.1 Adding features like leaderboards, badges and progression systems can also introduce an element of healthy competition while giving learning managers insights into training performance.
The key is to decide which learning approach best suits what your business is trying to achieve. If, for instance, you’re trying to improve consumer loyalty and satisfaction, interactive simulations and role-playing exercises could help your team brush up on their customer service skills. On the other hand, if you’re launching a new product and want to get your team up to speed, videos and infographics can reinforce product knowledge with short quizzes to test what your team has learned. A fully-featured LMS can help you continuously adapt your training, giving you the data and insights to craft a training strategy that aligns with your business goals.
Selecting the right retail LMS
When selecting an LMS vendor for retail needs, it’s also worth considering the following 7 factors to ensure seamless integration into your organization:
Content (creation) is king: Consider the ease of content creation and management, user experience, security measures, and the level of technical support offered by the LMS provider.
Do your research: Begin by thoroughly evaluating vendors based on their track record, customer reviews, and industry reputation.
Scalability is the best ability: Assess the scalability of the LMS system to accommodate the evolving needs of a retail workforce, ensuring it can grow seamlessly with the organization.
Flexible finance: Prioritize vendors that offer flexible pricing models, such as per-user or subscription-based plans, aligning costs with the organization's budget and scalability requirements.
Never short on support: Opt for vendors that provide comprehensive technical support, training resources, and a responsive customer service team.
Book a demo: Conduct free trials or demos to experience the functionality firsthand, and seek real-world success stories to gauge the LMS's effectiveness in similar retail settings.
Keep an eye on ROI: Finally, weigh the cost against potential return on investment, factoring in reduced compliance violations, improved performance, and streamlined processes.
By emphasizing these aspects during vendor selection, organizations can make strategic choices that align with their budget constraints, scalability expectations, and long-term employee development objectives.
Real-world success stories
Whether it’s U.K. supermarket Tesco saving £1 million ($1.2 million) per year in costs through eLearning, or Flash Foods increasing training completion rates by 73%,2 there are countless LMS success stories in the retail space.
Canadian fast food chain, A&W came to Absorb looking for a way to train their staff across 900 franchise locations. With each restaurant individually managed, maintaining brand integrity was a challenge for the company, so they needed a way to teach team members about A&W employee standards, expectations, and responsibilities while delivering a cohesive, consistent experience from a decentralized LMS. A&W needed a new LMS—a system that would be accessible to all of their employees, from veteran users to complete beginners.
A&W deployed Absorb LMS with Absorb Engage which allows learning leaders to add and update content easily, delivering standardized training across hundreds of locations in Canada. A&W employees across Canada rely on Absorb LMS for eLearning with over 45,000 employees having completed training on the platform to date. Their New Employee Training Module is mandatory for all new hires, and they offer an optional Management Development Program for employees pursuing promotion. The system has been a hit with employees too, says Emily Duholke, Manager of Restaurant Training & Transformation, “It’s so intuitive. We have a wide range of people joining our team, including a lot of different languages and different familiarities with technology. Everyone familiar with our old LMS has agreed that Absorb LMS is much easier to manage.”
Measuring the ROI of a retail LMS
To make sure your business is getting the most out of your retail LMS, it’s a good idea to calculate the ROI of your training. Tracking the ROI of a retail LMS involves monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) that directly impact business outcomes. These include:
Completion rates: The percentage of employees successfully finishing training modules, reflecting overall engagement.
Compliance violations: Gauge the reduction in infractions after LMS implementation, highlighting its impact on regulatory adherence.
Audit success rates: These offer insights into the LMS's effectiveness during regulatory inspections.
Cost savings: quantify the financial benefits derived from reduced violations and legal actions.
Employee feedback: This can be a useful way to track your training's effectiveness and pinpoint areas where training could be smoother.
Incident reduction: These metrics demonstrate time saved due to fewer workplace incidents, giving you an idea of the LMS's contribution to operational efficiency.
Measuring the ROI of employee training can also be instrumental in demonstrating the value of your training strategy to stakeholders. Using the ROI metrics from your LMS, you can provide a quantifiable assessment of the impact of training initiatives on your organization's financial health and strategic objectives. Detailed evaluation not only justifies ongoing investments in training programs but also positions employee development as a strategic investment contributing directly to the organization's success and long-term sustainability.
In an episode of the Return on Intelligence (ROI) podcast, the learning team from Aaron’s detailed how their training programs have a direct impact on their corporate strategy, as well as the importance of manager engagement, empathy and the strong links between culture and learning.
Challenges and solutions in retail LMS implementation
As with any new technology in the workplace, there are several challenges when implementing an LMS into a retail business, so learning leaders should be prepared for some of the more common roadblocks. Retail is a fast-paced industry that places many demands on employees from performance targets to customer care.
As a result, some employees might perceive training as a distraction from their daily responsibilities. To overcome this, start by clearly communicating the benefits of training, and highlighting the ways your eLearning program will make their lives easier. Here, it’s useful to get buy-in from senior team members so that you have passionate advocates for learning throughout your organization who can help spread the word. Buy-in starts early. Bring together the leadership team and other salient stakeholders when you’re deciding on your LMS. Throughout the implementation process, ensure you’re collaborating and communicating at all stages. How do you ensure the long-term success of your learning and development program? It starts with an LMS implementation plan. Learn more.
Due to evolving guidelines and regulations, it can be hard to keep your compliance training content current. Your LMS can help organize regular content audits and facilitate collaboration with compliance experts to ensure that you’re always training your workforce on the latest information. Certification and recertification is also greatly simplified through an LMS, giving you crucial oversight on the progress of compliance training throughout your workforce.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to keep your learning modules bite-sized and mobile accessible so that your team can complete training in short bursts when they have some downtime. Utilizing microlearning techniques in your retail LMS allows you to customize learning paths more easily. With regular assessments and quizzes to test employee performance, it’s possible to use a data-driven approach to tailor training plans to the specific needs of individual learners and make sure they only see the content they need.
Ready to unlock the potential of your retail workforce?
Choosing an LMS for the retail industry can have a transformative effect on your business, boosting productivity and team cohesion, as well as improving customer service. An LMS-powered training program can help with everything from onboarding to compliance training, offering up-to-the-minute product knowledge and customer insights so that your workforce can stay informed on the latest developments in your industry. By implementing strategies like microlearning, gamification, and multimedia content you can keep learners engaged throughout their training journey and make learning a central part of your brand’s culture.
Selecting the right LMS vendor involves thorough research, taking into account retail-specific learning features such as scalability, pricing models, technical support, and live demos to ensure the chosen system aligns with your organizational goals.
If you’d like to find out how Absorb LMS can unlock the potential of your retail business, get in touch with the team, or book a demo today.