What Resources Can Make the GM/HBC Shopping Experience Better?
Editorial by Dave Wendland, Hamacher Resource Group, special to GMDC
Retailers are constantly looking for ways to update and upgrade the appearance of their storefront to consumers. They invest in new fixtures, trendy colors, new categories and often add ‘retailtainment’ to their repertoire. Seasonal aisles are frequently works of art. However, the unfortunate reality is that too few invest in the single most important asset within their retail operation – their people.
Effective training must go beyond the basics. This is extremely important in general merchandise (GM) and health & beauty care (HBC) products, where training has been woefully lacking. Such training needs to extend beyond the basics into insights as to how shoppers navigate decision-making and provide product knowledge to help staff direct consumers to an informed decision.
How much time and energy are retailers placing on this important training aspect? Not enough. Experience suggests there is a direct correlation between a well-trained team of associates prepared to sell in a confident, consistent manner.
Programs that provide tutorials on questions consumers ask and product knowledge relative to GM and HBC would fill a major gap in satisfying consumer needs. These types of program have proven effective in helping retailers take the all-important step in making the shopping experience an optimum one for consumers. Consumer research has consistently proven that customer service and availability of helpful, trained staff are among the most important criteria when deciding where to shop and whether or not to return.
The blurring of the retail channels makes it a requirement to differentiate at retail in new and innovative ways. The shopping experience is a critical competitive differentiator, and knowledgeable, motivated employees are better equipped to deliver a superior shopper experience, build loyalty among consumers and enrich market baskets. But, employee-training programs can be expensive and time consuming, so it is important to determine how they actually impact sales. Training programs need to not only teach how to interact with consumers but must also feature accountability and compliance monitoring to ensure ROI.
This whole issue is very poignant for GM and HBC categories since they have been challenged of recent to develop strong growth trends.
Investing in a staff’s ability to delight customers will put a retail organization on the path to delivering a market-winning environment. And, we believe that it begins in the aisle, especially the GM and HBC aisles, as associates interact with consumers – making or breaking the experience.
Discussion Questions: Can a strong emphasis on training
bolster sales in GM and HBC departments? Is it the missing element in GM/HBC
merchandising? What should training programs be combined with to maximize productivity?