With the influx of data, the move towards being omnichannel and being tuned into social media, staff in all industries are having to adapt quickly to the changes within their companies, and new tools and technologies are enabling this move.
Brands such as Acer, Lenovo and Facebook are developing tools to help train staff on data and social media to ensure their knowledge and skills are aligned with industry developments and trends.
“The future skills of employees will be more about leveraging networks and sharing,” says Christopher Crummey, worldwide director of sales, social business and exceptional digital experience at IBM.
IBM is launching new software to allow employees in all sectors, from marketing to human resources, to produce, share and distribute digital content to mobile and social channels without the need for technical help from experts or the IT department.
The software also includes data analytics, a function for employees to interact with each other via social channels to share knowledge, and staff can also create video content that can be viewed on the website and mobile and social channels, without the need for technical knowledge.
Staff receive training on how to use this tool rather than having to attend seminars or workshops on data analytics and social media. It gives the power back to the employees to be a part of the wider business. They use the insight from data and social media to implement campaigns specific to their roles.
As more information becomes available, staff are able to learn how to respond to shopping trends immediately
Staff are being trained to use this ‘digital experience’ software that will enable, for example, a chief marketing officer to provide customers with information and offers that are based on preferences and can be published to social media channels and mobile devices.
Yum! Brands in the US – owner of restaurants chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – has used it to turn its 700-page manual on how to cook products into an app, where staff can learn about cooking food as well as watch videos.
IBM believes modern business is about the sharing of information and training or enabling staff to analyse data and share it independently. At the moment information is usually kept in the silos of the organisational structure.
Crummey says: “Most companies are held back by staff organisational charts. Information can’t afford to stay within that tree, it needs to go up, down, left, right, 360 degrees around the world. A lot of people feel their individual value as an employee is based on the information they keep.
“We are changing that thinking. The skills and, most importantly, the way that employees think needs to be different going into the future, as the more you share information equals your value.”
Understanding data, therefore, is no longer the job of the analysts and creating content from data insight is no longer tied by the timing of those analysts or experts in passing on information to the relevant departments.
“Social media proves how fast information can flow and corporations cannot afford to keep barriers up,” says Crummey. “You have to put the decision-making back into the hands of the people that know that information – the speed is fundamentally important.”
IBM isn’t alone in creating solutions for employees to be trained in data use, regardless of the job title of the members of staff. In the US, Facebook deployed a programme for all its employees on using data analytic tools to promote a culture of using data to launch new products, for design changes and improvements.
Lenovo is also training its staff and agencies globally in using a tool that will enable the sharing of information across all of its regions.
Working with TubeMogul, the brand is implementing a planning and buying platform and analysis tool to unite all its agencies and staff on buying video media on a real-time bidding basis, as well as providing an aggregator for best practices and metrics.
The brand is using the tool for a dual purpose: strategically to organise its real-time bidding processes across regions, as well as to ensure staff are learning from other regions as the platform aims to align Lenovo’s disparate product teams around the world.
The brand is also well known for laptops in the US and smartphones in Asia, so training them in the same way ensures each region of the business maintains a streamlined brand identity.
This will lower costs, achieve reach, drive brand lift and result in a more educated marketing population globally according to Lenovo.
Lenovo is in the initial stages of implementing TubeMogul’s platform and training its agencies and staff, but plans to roll out a ‘deeper dive’ programme globally.
“It’s not an overnight process,” says Gary Milner, director of global interactive marketing at Lenovo. “It’s important to have all regions on the same page but it’s also a challenge because we’re growing our marketing prowess globally, going from a small to a large player, and growing our staff alongside that.”
Training staff in data analysis is an important process, however, with many brands having to prove the return on investment and basing decisions on data analysis.
EBay announced an opt-in service for its consumers that will allow the brand to offer high-street stores online shopper data, meaning store assistants will be served information on shoppers’ previous purchases and product preferences via an app.
Phuong Nguyen, head of eBay Advertising in the UK, says: “The ability to harness consumer insights is what makes online advertising so powerful, and it is increasingly necessary to have a more analytic marketing approach to it.
“At the same time, the industry is evolving with programmatic buying and real-time bidding, revolutionising the way ad inventory is bought and sold online. With this progress, the skills to harness these technologies must also evolve.”
Milner believes brands should make sure they know what the best systems are to approach digital media and marketing because it’s an area staff do not always understand. Once those tools are in place they can help staff understand best practice, knowing what works and doesn’t, and what drives brand uplift. This then drives creative execution and can be shared among staff globally so they learn from other experiences.
One sector that has seen a lot of change in recent years is retail, particularly with the rise of online shopping, mobile and tablet use and the trend of ‘showrooming’, where consumers physically shop around in stores but then go online to find the product at a cheaper price.
Changes in how consumers research, shop and buy products means staff need to ensure they are trained in a multichannel approach in retail and understand shopper behaviour.
Major retail brands such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer took leading roles in multichannel activity last year by adding and promoting services such as click and collect, mobile shopping functions, in-store digital kiosks and equipping staff with tablets to help consumers find products online if they are not in-store.
The Perfume Shop launched a concept store earlier this month and is ensuring its staff are fully trained. The store will be entirely open-plan with no counter and there will be a focus on technology, with digital screens and iPads for advertisements and in-house point of sale.
The store concept encourages more customer interaction without the barrier of the counter. Customers can try out, touch and play with all the fragrances with the help of the in-store team.
Jo Walker, managing director of The Perfume Shop, says: “Making sure our staff are comprehensively trained and have a full understanding of the business across our multichannel output is key.”
The brand ensures it has a high level of customer service, with multichannel becoming an extension of this. “In addition, we are ensuring our staff are fully trained on all the services we provide, such as ‘store to door’. This ensures a customer will have their desired product delivered if it is not available in a branch, and our Rewards club card allows for a fully integrated customer experience,” says Walker.
She also believes there is a trend towards staff becoming experts in their field, with industry bodies making qualifications compulsory (see Q&A below).
The Perfume Shop has introduced a new learning programme, The Perfume School, so that all employees can learn about fragrance. Staff are also given the opportunity to enrol in the Certified Fragrance Sales Specialist course, which allows them to gain an industry-recognised qualification.
But companies must make sure they assess staff’s level of knowledge before embarking on training, as ’digital natives’ may not need much guidence.
IBM’s Crummey believes ensuring you train staff on tools that allow them to use social networks and new technology is the future, as new employees are already working in this way.
He says: “Old models of traditional work will be forced out as new university students come in. There is a generational gap in the way people think, work and share ideas, and corporations need to address that. It can singlehandedly be used as a way to attract and retain talent.”
The Perfume Shop
Marketing Week (MW): Has the dynamic of what staff need to be trained in shifted with the emergence of new technology in stores?
Jo Walker (JW): Technology has a lot to offer retail as most customers have smartphones and feel comfortable with technology as a form of information and advice. Our staff at the new concept store [at Westfielf Stratford City] are required to have a keen interest in technology and will be trained on what the brand can now offer through additional channels. We want to make sure The Perfume Shop offers our customers a seamless experience from offline to online.
MW: How are the in-store staff trained to adapt to the new concept store?
JW: The new concept store is a result of listening to our customers and how they want to shop with us. Staff training has been a combination of our comprehensive product-led training with a strong focus on utilising digital platforms to provide a seamless multichannel experience.
MW: What are the benefits of having staff trained in other elements of the business aside from their own roles?
JW: Making sure our staff are comprehensively trained and have a full understanding of our business across our multichannel output is key for The Perfume Shop. As a retailer, we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional customer service and having a multichannel presence is an extension of this.
MW: What are the trends in staff training in the retail environment?
JW: We have found it is increasingly important that no matter what industry you work in, staff are fully trained and become experts in their field. Also, more industry bodies are making qualifications compulsory and this will be a key trend going forward.
Senior marketing manager
For Toshiba, training is all about engagement through interaction. We work with field marketing expert Gekko to ensure our retail field team are fully immersed in the brand through interactive training.
The level of data management with our training allows us to offer more information and knowledge because we are able to have a greater understanding of the hundreds of stores nationwide that carry Toshiba products and promotions.
Data collection, for example, enables us to monitor activity on a highly detailed level, which, in turn, positively affects the information we pass onto store staff. The training element evolves constantly.
We use our own Toshiba tablets to equip staff using information in real time to bring them up to speed on the latest developments and promotions. As more information becomes available, staff are able to learn how to respond to shopping trends and promotions immediately.
It’s essential that store staff are fully up to date with key features and the latest product developments. If staff can project Toshiba’s brand message seamlessly in their approach it will form an intuitive reputation among consumers to drive sales and loyalty.
Peter Abraham, Econsultancy executive vice-president of EMEA and Asia gives tips to optimise staff training:
- Identify current levels of understanding of digital across the business through assessment or gap analysis.
- Learning is an ongoing process – provide an environment that promotes ‘self-learning’.
- Encourage staff to refresh their digital skills by using online resources. Sites such as insidesearch.blogspot.co.uk and analytics.blogspot.co.uk and apps like Pocket are good sources of information.
- Experimentation is important – create an environment where staff can try new tools and techniques in their everyday work.
- Make sure training provides sufficient insight to ensure the session is providing real benefits to the business.