Category: Sales Training

Fix India’s Big Retail Challenges with Online Training

Big Retail Challenges

Over the last decade, India has witnessed a continuous migration of people from rural areas to Tier I and Tier II cities. Because of this continuing population move, city retailers are enjoying an ever increasing demographic at their doorstep, creating what could be perceived as the ‘Retailer’s Utopia’. It would therefore appear that Indian retail is in for a prosperous time in the decades ahead.

But before India can dream of having its own retail utopia, the Retail Industry has to overcome two major challenges that relentlessly hound it – more so now, than ever before. These two big Indian retail challenges are those of standards and competition.

The Big Indian Retail Challenges

Standards: It is a problem that is staring us in the face – right now. While main retail chains do a reasonably good job in their showcase stores that are usually located in upmarket parts of the city or in large malls, those same standards are not passed on to their smaller branches in the suburbs. The smaller stores tend to be cluttered; not as clean and tidy; the staff not as good; and in essence, the good retail experience of the showcase flagship store is lost. Most of this criticism is aimed at the Grocery & Food sector, but other retail outlets are at fault too. Rama Bijapurkar, a consumer guru sums it up succinctly “Merchandising is lacklustre in terms not only of aesthetics but also of thinking” [1]. Bring this problem up with a shopkeeper and he will turn back and say, “People are happy with the shops, they come to shop with us and we don’t hear complaints. So what is the problem?”

Competition: The problem is that a shiny new retail competitor will arrive on the scene and woo customers away with cleanliness, order, range and eye-watering low prices. This is a problem that the Indian Retail Industry should really worry about.

Indian retailers must seize the moment and get their act together. If they don’t seize the moment now, they will be forced into a secondary role, or may just disappear without a trace in the not-so-distant future.

For a long time now, India has been operating, what amounts to, a protectionist policy regarding foreign retail. It was only in 2012 and 2013 that this was relaxed by the Federal Government, but with conditions that made it unlikely that any large chain would come to India. At that time, states controlled by Congress were in favor of foreign chains, but those controlled by BJP were against foreign firms and this culminated in the locking up by CMDA officials in Chennai of a seven acre warehouse purportedly to be used by Walmart [2]. Protectionism has never worked in any country anywhere in the world as it only leads to stagnation of industry in the country where it is practiced. This cannot last forever and one day the big guns will come marching in.

The Solution
There is a window of opportunity now for the Retail sector that must be made use of in the best possible way. For as long as the Indian Retail Industry has the field to itself, it must improve, innovate, and become as good as anything the outside world has to offer. The industry must not be complacent with the status quo, but must be prepared for a war, because when Walmart, Tesco and the like arrive on these shores, it will be a war to the death, and these multinationals take no prisoners.

By way of illustration, it is like the army of any given country: No country would accept its army fighting mock battles, and sitting back complacently and congratulating itself on how good they are/were. Instead they would expect their army to go and see what other armies do, train with them, fight with them and then come back and train, train, train incessantly to become as good as any other soldiers that may land on their shores – never stopping and continuously updating and training for that moment when it will be wanted, because then there will be no time for anything but a fight.

Indian retailers need to invest in infrastructure that is as good as anything anywhere else. They need to become more user friendly, become customer focused, but above all, just like the army – they need to train staff, train, and then train again – and never stop!

In 2007, an all conquering Tesco launched their brand in the US. In 2013, they ignominiously withdrew with a bloody nose. The reason – their main opposition there – Walmart, knew they would come some day. Walmart made sure that its products were as good as could be so that established customers would not be tempted to switch loyalties. A huge plank in Walmart’s success was (and continues to be), their training – train, train, train again, for as long as the employee is with you. Indian retailers need to take a leaf out of Walmart’s book. They need to get their retail operations up to world standard, and need to start working on that right now.

The entire Indian Retail sector was worth $490 billion dollars in 2013 (down from $518 billion in 2012), and an astonishing 65 percent of that figure was accounted for by groceries and food. Grocery & Food sector is the battleground where the war that will decide long-term ownership of India’s retail sector will be fought, eventually. That is where it was fought in the UK, continental Europe and the US – the reason being that whoever controls the food and grocery market controls the rest of retail as well. The simple fact is that when people come to do their grocery shopping, they will also buy other regular purchases in the same place if they are available – be it children’s clothes, toys, adult clothes, electrical appliances, televisions, books, cigarettes, liquor, pharmacy or hardware.

The biggest problem for retail (after investment capital), is good staff. That staff doesn’t just come on stream overnight. They need to be trained to top standard, and then be continually retrained to keep them at that standard. An endless stream of new recruits needs to be broken in to feed the engine of retail growth into the future, and the outstanding, consistently good way to do this is through eLearning.

Why eLearning? – Because eLearning (online learning) takes into consideration all the training challenges faced by this industry. eLearning will:

  • Lower the average training cost per employee by running simultaneous training across locations and time zones
  • Ensure better course completion rates through customized courses that speak the language of retail business
  • Improved employee engagement through knowledge enhancement
  • Lead to better performance tracking via assessments
  • Analyze the effectiveness of training via feedbacks, polls and surveys, ensuring 2-way communication between the learner and L&D department
  • Provide informal learning through forums, discussion groups and content sharing to create a vibrant learning culture
  • Reduce training time – quick responsive time – faster turnaround from trainee to employee [3]

Once up and rolling, etraining becomes an automatic process.
In his article ‘The Top 5 Online Training Benefits In The Retail Sector,’ Christopher Pappas stresses on the measurable results that are obtainable via eLearning that include the ability of employees to stay-up-to-date with the latest products, improved employee retention, increased sales and customer satisfaction and more knowledge retention [4]. All this directly leads to company loyalty, a sense of belonging that translates into taking pride in showcasing one’s store and products in the best possible manner, a desire to maintain the highest standards, and a drive to compete with the best. This is the attitude that is much needed in the Indian Retail Industry today.

The big players are coming and we need to get proactive and raise our game now. The right attitude will help us overcome the big Indian Retail challenges – and the proper training will get us this attitude. The big Indian retail players are aware of this scenario and have started to ready their employees with intensive training. It’s a collective effort and through unity the Indian Retail Industry will emerge as the winner.


© SHRM India. First appeared on Published with permission from SHRM India. All rights reserved.

Over the last decade, India has witnessed a continuous migration of people from rural areas to Tier I and Tier II cities...

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Use of MOOCs – A Boon for Corporate Training

Use of MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have offered multitude of online learners the opportunity to learn new skills and expand their knowledge base. However, in recent years an increasing number of employers have turned to MOOCs to train their staff online and improve their bottom line. Here are just a few of the most notable benefits of MOOCs for corporate training.

Employees can access training on a 24/7 basis
Employees need not wait for a scheduled training and can access their training anytime anywhere. MOOCs can be offered to unlimited number of employees without incurring any additional costs, be it material cost or instructor cost. MOOCs come with the flexibility of being accessed anytime by employees at the ease and convenience of their time without conflicting with their personal and work responsibilities. This ideally means that the employees are most likely to reap the maximum benefit from the online training material.

Customization and Adaptive Learning
MOOCs have the advantage of being customized. Many such courses are created using open educational resources (OER) or a mix of OER and proprietary content. Training and learning is made more interesting and relevant and responsive to real-world problems as instructors can remix, reuse, and redistribute content based on the current and changing needs of the organization. Relevant research and information can be added into a training program and can reach all learners in real-time. As a corollary a major criticism of this form of training is that it is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to a many-sized problem. However this idea is contested as new technologies are available to allow MOOCs to adapt to the needs of the user.

Boosts employee productivity and profits
MOOCs are effective for employees to develop new skills and hone their existing skillsets, which acts as a boost to their on-the-job productivity. Reasonable in its approach, such courses are void of investing in onsite instructors or more complex eLearning course design and development as it widens the profit margin while giving the employees the requisite information for their professional development. MOOCs for corporate training give organizations the chance to streamline work processes and ensure that every employee is a valuable member of the team.

Improves employee retention rates
Well trained and informed employees are content employees. When corporate employees are given the necessary information to effectively carry out their daily chores, they are more likely to remain longer with the organization. MOOCs for corporate training leads to increased employee confidence and self-esteem, which gives them the power to face on-the-job challenges and feel a sense of personal satisfaction with their performance.

Learning Analytics
Online learning is revolutionary in that it allows instructors to collect data about how their students learn, how long they spend on task, what areas of content are the most engaging, the most challenging, and so on. In the same vein, companies can easily collect data about their training programs and employees. The advantage of MOOCs is that they can provide massive amounts of data, which can help organizations understand how their employees learn and interact with the content so the businesses can improve their training programs. Learning analytics can also help companies predict employee performance and identify potential problems.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have offered multitude of online learners the opportunity to learn new skills and ex...

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The Retail Industry – Dealing with Mayhem behind the Scenes

Retail Industry – Dealing with Mayhem

Picture this: A plush retail outlet – well stocked and clean; friendly staff; soft, soothing music playing in the background; happy customers who walk down well-organized aisles; beaming cashiers who expertly handle transactions – an outlet that runs like a well-oiled machine. If you belong to the retail industry you would know that what happens behind this scene is actually a nightmare. The Retail industry’s success is dependent on customer satisfaction – providing the customer with what he wants, when he wants it – at a price he is happy with. A few decades ago if you could do this, you were considered successful. Today the same maxim holds true, however, it takes a lot more effort to pull that off. What’s happening ‘behind the scene’ are layoffs, churn, rigorous training, store operation nitty-gritty, inventory controlling and various other business processes. It’s mayhem. When we talk about e-Learning – we talk about the benefits that employees and employers can glean from it. For the retail industry, it’s not just about the benefits that employers and the employees can glean from it – but the success of the entire industry.

Who can benefit from e-Learning in the Retail Industry?

  • Customer-facing staff
  • Managers
  • Back-end staff
  • All other employees and customers who are directly/indirectly related to the retail industry

Where can e-Learning help the Retail Industry?

  • Deliver quick, seamless, interesting training
  • Reduce churn (attrition)
  • Maximize revenue
  • Reduce retail shrinkage
  • Reduce training time
  • Increase product knowledge
  • Learn about merchandising
  • Minimize risks and increase safety measures

How does e-Learning works for the Retail Industry?

  • e-learning helps align learning with business goals
  • Streamlined e-Learning saves retail organizations time
  • For multiple retail outlets, e-Learning delivers uniformity in training across geographies with the ability to make the necessary customizations for specific geographies
  • With the option of learning any time and anywhere through e-Learning – employees’ productivity is not hampered and does not decrease the time spent on the shop floor
  • Dependency on trainers is reduced – thereby reducing costs related to hiring, travel, training space and other paraphernalia
  • e-Learning increases product knowledge of customer-facing sales force – of items being sold and related items as well. It can also be used for instantly retrieving knowledge of a product and its availability at the time of need – to serve customers better
  • Upskilling of sales staff through interactive and highly-engaging courses – to open and close a sale successfully and related follow-up procedures – will ensure customer satisfaction and brand loyalty
  • Delivery of simulation-based courses on the education of in-store operations and related processes leads to the seamless functioning of the back office staff
  • Safety training through on-line learning allows employees to recognize and respond to hazardous situations, minimize risks, and learn about disaster management and evacuation procedures – in a safe environment

Orderly, highly-engaging and streamlined training that is only possible through e-Learning will automatically increase the efficiency of retail staff, allowing them to perform to their optimum best in this highly-competitive industry. It does not have to be total chaos and mayhem behind the scenes – in the end it all comes down to the type of training delivered.

Picture this: A plush retail outlet – well stocked and clean; friendly staff; soft, soothing music playing in the backgr...

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Is Your Pharma Sales Force Letting You Down?

Sales Force Letting You Down

In the year 2013, pharmaceutical companies across North America and Europe laid off a large chunk of their sales force due to inflation. Layoffs across industries were rampant and plummeting revenues made it impossible for Pharma Organizations to sustain their entire sales force. In short, the Pharma Industry – suffered. Fast forward to 2015 and Pharma companies still suffer – this time at the hands of their own sales force. It’s true – when a sales force does not perform to its optimum best or fails to reach sales targets the team/individual lets the organization down. The reason is lack of efficient and cost-effective training.

The problem exists at the very base – at the first rung of the ladder. The Pharma industry suffers desperately from a shortage of skills, skilled labor and processing capabilities. There is a lacuna and an ever growing shortfall between output from universities and demand by the pharmaceutical and health care industries for science and engineering graduates who have the ability to rapidly contribute to success in the Pharmaceutical business environment. In the light of this disparity, it is essential for organizations to hand-hold their employees and provide them with proper training before they send them out into the word with a product to sell. For all the time wasted and hoards of money spent on hiring trainers to train their globally-dispersed sales force, the result is inconsistent training across geographies. The ever-changing landscape of the pharmaceutical industry does not make things easier. Indefinite job roles merge into one another and demand that the Pharma sales force is not only adept at sales but doubles up as an excellent marketing force as well. It’s no wonder that companies are let down by their sales force.

The need of the hour is successful training that will help build leadership skills needed to navigate the complex and changing landscape of the industry. Besides being a time-saving, cost effective solution for the Pharmaceutical Industry, eLearning provides consistency of content and delivery. It is available 24/7 and can be accessed from any location with suitable inter-/intra-net access. Given the mobile nature of the pharmaceutical sales force, classroom training is impossible; however, eLearning allows the Pharma sales rep to complete training programs at his own pace and in his own time. Online courses make use of interesting elements such as graphics, videos and audio along with text and make online learning learner-friendly and retention-friendly for the otherwise easily bored adult Pharma sales force learner. The changing needs of the customer requires the Pharma sales force training to focus on selling skills and strategies that must be updated at the speed of need to match the current needs of today’s customer – this again is made possible with online learning that allows speedy delivery of updated information.

The world is making the shift to online learning. Most of the Pharma giants are using some form of online learning to train their forces already, and those who have made the move are witness to the results. If your Pharma sales force is letting you down, our advice to you is to make the move to elearning now.

In the year 2013, pharmaceutical companies across North America and Europe laid off a large chunk of their sales force d...

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eLearning for the Banking Sector

eLearning for the Banking Sector

The banking industry is increasingly growing in importance in view of the current business scenario. As a vertical market, where adoption of innovative technology is central to its growth, up skilling of employees in this sector is of utmost importance. A ‘Single Customer Relationship View’ is the key to success for BFSI companies as this enables them to ‘cross-sell’ and ‘up-sell’ their offerings. E-learning can be an effective way to bring the diverse set of people onto a common platform.The primary agenda of banks is to serve customers better. Product information needs to be taught to the sales personnel. This process can be made simple through e-learning.

Reasons necessary for e-learning to be adopted in the banking sector.

  • For tracking compliance, banks use e-learning and learning management system software that support e-training
  • eLearning enables you to easily adapt the content and transfer to the learner, which could be done at any time and from anywhere. This is the main benefit of using this method in the banking sector
  • During active production, the learning approach is a very important factor to be considered. Training should be given in terms of daily basis, so that learners develop their skills to the professional extent. In order to achieve the required objectives, we use e-learning to train employees
  • Those employed with the banking sector can improve their administrative qualities. Online learning can effectively be used to improve their communication skills and interact with clients effectively. They are provided with ample scope to apply the concepts they have gained on a daily basis

It is imperative that banks focus on maintaining and developing their portfolio of customers. Important factors that influence the company’s strength and position in the market are the quality of client service and the variety and adaptability of the products to the customers’ needs. Human resources play a pivotal role in ensuring excellent service and customer satisfaction. It can be accepted that a robust e-learning strategy has a major impact on the organizational performance. ELearning is able to successfully address critical challenges in human-capital development: rapid induction of new employees, quick launch of new products, regular andconsistent testing of employees and a need for courses that are readily accessible for any employee regardless of the location.

The banking industry is increasingly growing in importance in view of the current business scenario. As a vertical marke...

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