Will virtual reality become the ultimate retail training tool?
Walmart has recently started using virtual reality (VR) to train store associates.
According to Walmart’s blog, the idea came from an associate after he saw the technology being used by the University of Arkansas football team during a practice session. The players were testing their skills and reactions in a virtual game in preparation for the real one on the field.
“Imagine you’re a new Walmart store manager and you’ve never experienced a Black Friday,” according to Walmart’s blog revealing the initiative. “Wouldn’t it be helpful to understand the dynamics of such a busy day before you ever had to actually manage your associates and customers through it?”
VR was incorporated into 30 Walmart Academy facilities to train associates on how to handle everyday situations like managing the fresh area, as well as rare events, such as the Black Friday rush. In some cases, a store manager is able to virtually transport to another store and see how they ran things to gain a different perspective.
Walmart wrote, “VR allows associates to experience a lifelike store environment to experiment, learn and handle difficult situations without the need to recreate disruptive incidents or disturb the customers’ shopping experience.”
Associates going through VR training were also found to retain what they’ve learned in those situations better than those who hadn’t. VR training is being rolled out to all 200 Academy facilities by the end of 2017, reaching over 140,000 associates who will graduate each year.
Walmart summed it up, “What’s so great about using VR? Well, it’s really easy to use – as easy as using a smartphone. It creates a passion about learning because we’re trying something new. And associates are better able to retain what they’ve learned.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of virtual reality as an associate training tool? What do you see as its advantages and disadvantages versus in-store training?