How to Improve Product Knowledge for Frontline Staff

Expectations for frontline staff are shifting.

When customers walk into brick & mortar locations, they expect more than just friendly staff. They want employees to be product experts; able to recommend relevant options and answer any questions they have.

And if they don’t get that experience, many simply leave.

90 percent of customers leave without purchasing when they can’t find a store associate to help them.[1]

Knowledgeable frontline employees affect everything from how likely the customer is to buy, to how much they purchase, to how likely they are to return to your store.

Delivering on customer experience also lets you side-step the price slashing war with competitors; 86 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. [2]

Just look at one industry leader — Sephora.

Sephora’s staff are incredibly well trained. They know their products. And they’re able to help you with whatever you need — whether it’s locating a product, finding the right solution, or even teaching you how to use it.

Sephora isn’t competing on price; they’re competing on experience — and their frontline staff are a key part of how they excel at just that.

Product Knowledge Training Objectives

So how do you turn your frontline into product experts? The obvious answer is great product training.

94 percent of retailers agreed that investing in associates as frontline contributors was either “extremely important” or “very important” to improving customer experiences and satisfaction, and achieving business and financial goals.[3]

An effective product training program does three main things:

  1. Increase product knowledge

  2. Build confidence using products

  3. Make staff comfortable recommending and/or supporting products in retail situations

Product knowledge in a vacuum isn’t useful. You need staff to be confident in that knowledge, and apply it when they’re on the retail floor.

6 Best Practices for Improving Product Knowledge

1. Encourage Regular Training Habits

Having staff take training regularly (even daily) keeps product information fresh. Repetition helps transition your training from memorization to mastery; staff become confident in their product knowledge.

Building daily training habits also makes it easier to train staff when new products are released or updated. Instead of trying to get them to take the training, you can simply push new content onto your platform.

2. Make it Mobile

A significant number of frontline staff work away from desks and computers. They’re out on the floor, interacting with customers — and that’s where you want to keep them.

Making your training available on mobile devices (like a store iPad, or even staff’s smartphones) lets your frontline can take courses in lulls between customer interactions — or look up information when they need it.

3. Use Microlearning

Microlearning makes it quick and easy for staff to get the product information they need when they need it. It also allows you to structure your program logically around products. You can create courses about specific products, starting with modules about product benefits and moving on to the more complex details.

4. Include Role-Play Scenarios

Give staff a chance to practice recommending or supporting products before they hit the floor. Role-play scenarios help staff recognize opportunities to bring products up & builds their confidence, so they’re comfortable discussing those products in retail situations.

Role-play scenarios can also help develop your frontline employees’ communication skills and improve your customer service.

5. Run Product Simulations

Beyond knowing the benefits and features, your frontline staff need to understand how your products work — especially if they’re digital (like an app).

A great way to encourage product mastery is to give staff a chance to actually use the products. Product simulations can be built for both staff and customers, then integrated into your training platform so they’re available on demand.

6. Make it Fun

People learn better when they’re actively engaged with content, instead of passively reading or watching. Strategies like game-based learning or gamification encourage staff to care about the content being learned — and keep playing until they master it.

Plus when training is fun, it’s much easier to create habits of daily training which are so important for retention & application of product information.

The Bottom Line

Customers are researching products more than ever. But that process is often overwhelming — which is why many turn to frontline staff for help.

To transform your frontline into the product experts customers expect, you need a killer product knowledge training program. And your employees need to use it regularly.

Set your program up with fun, short, mobile accessible learning modules that teach product benefits & facts. Encourage staff to take training daily. And use role-play scenarios and product simulations to build their confidence so they’re comfortable recommending products in retail situations.