5 Reasons poor workforce readiness will cost your product launch

5 Reasons poor workforce readiness will cost your product launch

The days before a big launch, event, or holiday sale can be fraught with nerves and a flurry of urgent activity. Head office, store management, and frontline staff all want the launch to go well:

  • Head office wants the revenue boost and branding lift from a successful launch or promo
  • Store management wants a memorable customer experience and potential for return customers
  • Retail staff wants the information and tools to execute the event without a hitch – and take ownership over the organization’s success

All want the event to succeed…and yet many retail launches fall flat on their face. This happens for a multitude of reasons, but the most important – and the most impactful – reason is the simple fact that retail workers were left unprepared. 

As organizations continue to navigate the new normal, workforce readiness is playing a make-or-break role. This isn’t the sole responsibility of the store manager, or the retail staff. Head office and leadership have a major role to play in making sure each and every worker has access to the training, information, and tools they need to successfully execute on a key event with consistency. And in this, the industry is unfortunately lacking. 

This training gap affects day-to-day performance, of course. But it also greatly impacts launches and events–times when a sales associate is going to promote a new, little-known product. 

When people at the front line are unprepared, things can go wrong in a multitude of ways. Here are 5 reasons poor workforce readiness will cost you – big time: 

1. An inconsistent customer experience

Whereas online shopping experiences are more consistent, in-store shopping experiences can be hard to standardize. Two customers walking into the same store at the same time may have wildly different experiences depending on the product they’re looking for and the associate that they talk to. Things like signage, shelf stock, and POP marketing materials affect their experience, too. 

Another impact of online shopping is now much information customers are armed with when they want into a brick-and-mortar store. It’s gotten to the point where customers might even know more about the product than your own retail staff. 81% of retail shoppers do their research online before even stepping into the store. Unless you’re investing in workplace readiness, your customers might come into the store with more training than your associates! 

If your frontline staff is going to keep up, you need to help them prepare. They need in-depth information – not just the “what,” but the “why,” and “how.” They need knowledge testing, pulse surveys…they need the resources to showcase your product effectively and deliver a consistent (and memorable!) customer experience. 

2. Poor launch performance

You could liken a retail launch or promo event to a sports game. Everyone needs to pull together in both scenarios. Without all staff mobilized around a single goal, the odds of having a successful outcome are stacked against you. 

Sure, some retail locations might be star performers, or a single location might have a superstar retail worker, but that’s not going to carry your brand through a poorly-executed launch. It’s like when Lebron James scored 50 points in an NBA finals game but still lost because the rest of his team couldn’t deliver: it’s a bright spot, but it doesn’t scale widely enough. 

What will scale is adequate workforce readiness and training. By spreading the training resources across your retail workforce, and taking steps to improve knowledge retention and address gaps, your launch has a greater chance of enjoying operational consistency and widespread success. 

3. Inefficient use of labor

Think back to the last time you threw a birthday party or took a road trip. How prepared were you? How hectic were things a few hours before show time? We’re willing to bet you were running around doing things at the last second, and that those things could have been done much earlier. 

Take that stress and multiply it a hundred – or even a thousand! – and that’s what it’s like for your frontline staff. Without steps in place to ensure workforce readiness, the days and hours prior to a launch will be filled with floor managers fielding question after question; leadership making extra visits to various locations; countless phone calls to answer (and ask!) questions. In short, your staff will be pushed to their limit, before the launch has even started. That’s an inefficient use of labor. 

Retail workers are already in a very difficult position, with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the other work-related stresses involved. A recent study by The Retail Trust found that 84% of retail workers admitted to their mental health deteriorating during the pandemic. This resulted in symptoms such as increased anxiety, changes in eating and sleep habits, and prolonged sadness for more than a third of the staff. The report went on to say that younger retail workers in their 20s are among those workers with the lowest levels of wellbeing. 

Preparing your workforce well in advance of your event will help alleviate this stress, and boost their performance, morale, and ability to provide excellent service. 

4. Lost revenue

Making money is one of the primary goals of any product launch. And yet, by leaving staff untrained and unprepared, retail companies are unnecessarily reducing the revenue they could pull in. 

42% of Americans will stop shopping with a brand after only two bad brand experiences. So if your staff winds up disappointing a customer due to lack of preparation, then you’re halfway to losing a customer for good. And if you’ve disappointed that customer before, then you’ve just pushed them over the edge. 

Additionally, another study on consumer behavior found that 93% of customers are likely to make a purchase and (85% buy more!) when helped by a knowledgeable associate. The same report found that 80% of retailers saw sales increase by 25 to 50% when their customers were assisted by knowledgeable associates. 

So what makes an associate knowledgeable? The study found that associates who took at least one training module made an average of 46% more sales per hour compared to those who did not. At the simplest level, the data shows that the associates who are well-trained and armed with information are making your organization more money. You’re essentially leaving money on the table every time you run an event without looking at workforce readiness.  

Can you really afford that?

5. Chronic preparedness problems intensifying the above issues

The only thing worse than failing a launch is not knowing why it failed in the first place. It’s easy to put the blame on the most convenient or safest excuse, like “oh, people weren’t ready for the product,” or “Amazon ruins everything,” and ignore the real root cause – your lack of workforce preparedness. 

According to Salesforce, 53% of millennials don’t think store associates have the tools they need to provide great customer service. This includes mobile devices for looking up customer profiles and recommending products, access to online channels for tracking down the product in-store, and general knowledge of what products are on sale. 

Beyond technical needs, poorly timed launches also mean there’s not enough preparation time. This preparation could impact anything from shift schedules to store displays to product familiarization…if you give it the time it deserves. 

So, what should you do? The path forward is pretty clear. 

Your retail workers need all the help you can reasonably provide in order to make your launch or event a success. This includes effective training, sufficient preparation time, and administrative support. And while it definitely will require additional investment, the actual cost might not be that big of a burden as you might think – especially given the potential benefits.

Wondering where to start? Here are 5 questions to ask to to know if your staff is prepared for your next product launch. These questions will give you a sense of where you’re at in terms of workforce preparedness – and what you need to do, before you launch. 

5 ways to know if your staff is prepared for your next product launch

5 ways to know if your staff is prepared for your next product launch

As we settle into a post-pandemic “normal,” the retail world can shift their attention back to the initiatives that drive a significant part of their annual revenue. We’re talking product launches. Season promotions (the holidays are coming!). Even operational shifts, like the protocol changes and updated processes we’ve all become so familiar with over the past two years. 

And as the key events take place, there’s one question retailers need to ask: is my retail staff prepared? 

After all, your associates are crucial to the success of these product launches. If they’re not prepared, if they’re not armed with the right information, if they don’t know the promo inside and out, your organization is at risk to lose precious revenue – not to mention deliver poor customer experience. 

But here’s the challenge: when your retail staff numbers in the thousands and is spread across the country (or beyond!), how can you know if everyone is prepared? How can you be sure that every location is staying consistent with their execution? What’s the metric that measures workforce readiness

Digital communication to the rescue! With the right retail communication strategy in place, you’ll be able to identify and support at-risk employees or locations before your product launch – and even learn the cause, whether it’s missing information, ineffective communication, you name it.

Ready to set your next product launch up for success? Here are 5 questions you can ask to know if your retail staff is prepared for your next product launch:

1. Am I sharing enough information? 

There’s no way your retail staff will be prepared if they don’t have access to the right information. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how often this step is missed, and crucial information is left un-shared. To help with knowledge retention, keep your internal communications bite-sized – but also keep larger resources like handbooks and launch assets on-hand in an easy-to-access hub. 

This is also where the right technology comes into play. In a recent survey, 70% of deskless workers reported that more technology would help them do their jobs better. Having a digital platform they can access from their phones (we know a great one!) ensures they have the right information at the right time, which can be the secret sauce of a successful product launch. 

2. Am I testing their knowledge retention?

Sure, you can monitor your workforce metrics to see if your associates are reading your communications. But there’s a big difference between reading information and retaining it. The forgetting curve tells us that workers are likely to forget up to 70% of new information within 24 hours. That’s why it’s so important to avoid overload by reiterating information in bite-sized pieces – and focus on testing employees on an ongoing basis. 

The best way to know if they’ve truly absorbed the intel is to test them. Use quick, engaging quizzes to see if your retail staff knows the key elements of your product launch plan. Look for major knowledge gaps that need to be addressed at the employee, location, or regional level. 

3. Am I reinforcing tasks?

Ah, operational consistency. A crucial part of any successful product launch. A tried-and-tested way to ensure that your workforce is sticking to your SOPs and keeping execution as consistent as possible is to reinforce tasks on an ongoing basis. In fact, this repeated recall of information can improve knowledge retention by up to 80 percent.

This could be done at each location during pre-shift huddles, or scaled up to the full organization using a central task management system (Nudge has one baked right into its communication platform!). 

4. Am I pulse-checking their confidence?

Employee pulse checks aren’t just for employee engagement. You can use these quick surveys to ask your retail staff how confident they are about upcoming product launches, new promos, or other company-wide initiatives. This is a great way to uncover concerns at the associate level that have gone completely unnoticed at head office. Let’s not forget that terrifying iceberg of ignorance

5. Am I gathering feedback?

Another way to know if your staff is prepared is to gather upward feedback. This will not only identify problems before the product launch, it will also unearth those untapped ideas and insights your retail staff is holding on to that could improve the process. Fostering a feedback culture is crucial at any time, but when you’re gearing up for a product launch, you need to be especially open to hearing concerns, ideas, and best practices that can boost efficiency at scale, and remove any unnecessary barriers that could hinder a successful product launch. 

Asking yourself any of these five questions is a great way to check in on the effectiveness of your retail staff, the level of workforce readiness you’ve achieved, and the operational consistency of your organization as a whole. But answering all five of these questions when you’re gearing up for a product launch is a fantastic way to know exactly how prepared your workforce is – and what you need to do to set everyone up for success.

How 4 companies accelerated change during the pandemic 🚀

How 4 companies accelerated change during the pandemic 🚀

For many industries, COVID-19 has been a lesson in rapid change. Last week at DX3, Canada’s retail, marketing, and technology expo, a roundtable discussion explored how four companies are staying relevant – and resilient – by accelerating projects, iterating roadmaps, and more. 

Here’s a look at how four companies accelerated change during the pandemic. (Hint: it’s all about their frontline employees!) 

Mastermind Toys launched a digital platform in 5 months

Sarah Jordan joined Mastermind Toys as CEO in January 2020 – and within two months, her stores were shut down coast to coast. “We were a retailer who did not have a contactless curbside option, and our website, our web experience was severely lagging our competitors,” explained Jordan at the DX3 roundtable. 

To catch up, Jordan and her team focused on the customer experience. “In the middle of a pandemic, we launched a brand-new digital platform. We did it in five months, from scratch, including all of the ecosystem around it, including a customer service platform, review platform; you name it. Everything was overhauled.” By Christmas, they were offering one-hour curbside pickup – with signature wrapping paper, no less. 

How they did it:

“Progress over perfection,” says Jordan. “Also, the employee experience drives the customer experience, and so for me the employee experience mattered in all of this.” For Mastermind, a big component of that was bringing employees into the decision process, and giving them space to collaborate and share ideas. 

“We want everyone to co-create with us; it’s one of the reasons why we rolled out Nudge. The biggest change is how empowered our frontline feels to provide ideas and best practices, and it’s been game-changer for us.” 

Nudge veered off its product roadmap to give brands what they needed

Nudge has spent a decade building the complete digital solution for empowering frontline workers and driving better business outcomes for companies – but when COVID-19 hit, the needs of Nudge’s customers changed. Fast. 

“We took our product roadmap, put it all out on the table and reoriented around our customers’ needs,” said Brennan Wilkie, Chief Revenue Officer at Nudge. “Courage means doing the right thing even when it’s hard. Or especially when it’s hard. And we saw a lot of businesses doing that, putting people before profit – their employees and their customers alike – but it changed the way they operated. So we reacted to this change.” 

The result? Nudge found new ways to help brands communicate and engage with their frontline workers, and stay nimble in the ever-changing pandemic reality. 

How they did it:

With so many of Nudge’s customers representing retail, food service, and other essential businesses, they refocused the product roadmap to focus on tools that would help teams navigate the rapidly-changing protocols and restrictions. For example, automated onboarding was developed to get employees ramped up quickly when businesses started reopening, and a task management feature was fast-tracked to help managers reinforce new, one-off and recurring tasks. 

“What do they need to strengthen their business, and how do we reorient what we do to best serve them?” said Wilkie. “It was a great challenge for us and one we’re proud of. It was the right, reactive move at the right time.” 

Sobeys did a last-minute overhaul of a launch two years in the making

The early days of COVID-19 were a flurry of activity for grocery stores. “The grocery industry became an essential service effectively overnight,” said Sarah Joyce, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce at Sobeys Inc. “Everybody just moved immediately in the same direction with agility and velocity in a way we never have before to react to the change around us.” 

But while they were implementing plexiglass, one-way aisles and senior shopping hour, the company was also prepping something else: Voilà by Sobeys, a large-scale robotic automated warehouse grocery home delivery service. “We were preparing for two years for the launch of a new business, and pretty much the entire launch plan changed in the final weeks,” said Joyce. 

“We had to talk to our suppliers about what product was actually available for us, given the constraints that they were facing. We had to change our delivery protocols so that we could have increased sanitation, contactless delivery, and all of the new important emerging safety protocols in that field. And then we had to change our entire marketing launch plan – the messaging, the channels – to reflect the mood of the nation and the state of the reality of where everybody was in and how we were going to reach them now compared to how we might have prior to the pandemic.”

How they did it:

“It was agility and it was empathy,” said Joyce. “Everything we were doing was on behalf of the customers and the teammates – and everything we were doing was as quick as humanly possible.”

In other words: investing in their people was a crucial component to accelerating change. “Our teammates were the real heroes of the last year, and they continue to deliver exceptional customer experiences to the customers that are still coming in our stores or receiving our deliveries. They make all the difference.”

Marriott stayed relevant with new COVID-relevant offerings

When travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders brought occupancy from 80% down to 2%, Marriott International quickly shifted their focus from luxury events and corporate travel to creative new products geared toward current needs. For example, Work Anywhere with Marriott Bonvoy offers room packages for remote workers who need a break from their home office. They also focused on the contactless experience, like mobile check-in and mobile keys. “We needed to make sure we were keeping travellers feeling confident that, if they needed to travel, they would be safe. Or if they were considering travel in the future, we’d be ready,” said Laura Pallotta, Regional Vice President of Sales and Distribution, Canada, at Marriott International. 

Marriott also has an eye to the future. “We know the luxury segment is pent up,” said Pallotta. “We’ve already seen it in the U.S. with our luxury brands. They have missed major milestones in their family: birthdays, graduations, weddings, that kind of thing. They’re buying out suites; they’re spending a ton of money. So we’re definitely looking at how to make sure that we’re out in front of that customer.”

How they did it:

For Marriott, accelerating change started with listening closely to what’s actually needed, both now and in the future. Now, that means bleisure and staycations; in 2023 or 2024, that means a luxury boon. But beyond that, it goes back (again!) to the employees. “Mr. Marriott always says that if you take good care of your associates, they will take good care of your customers, and the customer will come back. So I think that’s really the foundation of our culture,” said Pallotta. 

 – – –

The biggest takeaway from this DX3 roundtable? Success starts with your employees. Especially during unprecedented times, investing in the employee experience is the first step in next-level customer experience, loyalty and more.  

The secret to customer loyalty in fast casual? Your frontline staff

The secret to customer loyalty in fast casual? Your frontline staff

In food service, one of the categories to watch in recent years has been the fast casual chain. In fact, it’s actually been called the biggest food trend of the past decade by The Washington Post. As fast casual brands capture a growing share of the restaurant market, there’s a different kind of battle for customer loyalty taking place. The key to success for many fast casual chains as the Post points out has been the ability to put the diner in charge, with quality, customization and customer experience, all built into the business model.

The magic number in customer loyalty: 4 visits

Fast Casual declares four visits to be the “magic number” for sustained customer loyalty in this fast-growing segment. Attracting new customers is, of course, a key area of focus for chains establishing a foothold, but industry stats also reveal the following:

  • After the first customer visit, there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll return
  • Once a customer has visited twice, there’s a 70% chance of return
  • After a fourth visit, the repeat visit percentage jumps to 85%

The key driver in customer loyalty: your frontline staff

How can fast casual brands elevate customer experience during these critical first-to-fourth visit interactions? At Nudge, we believe strongly in empowering associates to bring the brand experience to life and driving customer loyalty. As fast casual offerings become more diversified and consumer expectations increasingly favor convenience, speed, and experience, the frontline associates are a key driver of these factors and will help determine whether or not first time customers will return for a second visit, let alone fourth.

Frontline staff who are engaged and inspired to deliver on the experience today’s “fast casual foodies” are seeking can be a strong differentiator in a highly competitive category. The foodservice brands who lead the pack understand the value of reaching and effectively communicating with their associates, empowering them to keep pace with evolving menu offerings, limited time offers, and drivers of consistent customer experience.

“Always be consulting”: The new store associate mantra for improving the customer experience

“Always be consulting”: The new store associate mantra for improving the customer experience

With growing customer expectations and direct-to-consumer brands gaining momentum (and market share), you may be wondering, how can brick and mortar excel in this new environment? At the Future Stores East Conference in Miami, leading retailers shared their hypothesis on building for the store of the future and the role technology, people, and processes will play in evolving the customer experience.

While AI and other emerging technologies received notable mentions, one thing is clear – store associates will continue to play a critical role in delivering a remarkable customer experience in-store, even as brick and mortar becomes increasingly digitized.

Meet rising expectations with consultative sales practices

Store operations leaders will be familiar with the age-old sales mantra, ABC or “always be closing”. This expression has previously been used to encourage store associates to find the quickest opportunities for a sale when interacting with a customer in-store. According to Gene Lunger, EVP, Licensee Operations, Business Development & Retail Education at Ashley HomeStore, this model is no longer sufficient to meet the rising expectations of today’s customers.

Instead, Lunger recommends that brands focus on consultative sales practices, which helps store associates uncover the unique needs and preferences of customers to effectively guide them along their path to purchase. Leading retailers that are able to encourage genuine associate-customer interactions, with a focus on consulting-like practices, will be able to deliver more personalized in-store experiences and improve overall customer satisfaction.

Empower store associates by sharing the “how”

To develop consultative sales practices in-store, frontline store associates must not only be empowered to take ownership of their role in delivering the customer experience but also understand the specific actions that will deliver the right experience. To do so, April Wagner, Sr. Director of Customer Experience Strategy at Best Buy, shared her methodology for enabling Best Buy associates to deliver on their customer experience vision.

Wagner shared that developing a CX vision provides a north star for all of an organization’s efforts, aligning associates to deliver not just a positive experience but the right positive experience — one that delivers on the promise of your brand. Once a brand’s north star has been established, it can then be broken down into the actions and behaviors store associates can take to deliver the experience customers need, want and expect from your organization.

At Nudge, we believe that technology can help brands influence and inspire store associates to deliver consistent and remarkable in-store experiences. To learn more, check out our Lookbook,written especially for experience-driven brands who are seeking more meaningful experiences for their customers through their physical footprint.

The “future” of retail is a throwback to the physical store

The “future” of retail is a throwback to the physical store

As reported in a recent Retail Dive article reflecting on key takeaways from NRF’s 2020 Big Show, physical retail is experiencing a “comeback” of sorts. Though industry commentary has been refuting the “retail apocalypse” for years now, the offline channel continues to offer compelling new reasons for the importance of physical stores, including cost of customer acquisition, digital communication fatigue, and the old fashioned need for human connection.

Reduced ROI on digital customer acquisition: Direct-to-consumer (DTC) was once a low-cost model that dangled the dream of high profit margins for brands whose digital storytelling would pay off in e-commerce transactions. As more and more brands invested in digital, advertising rates on popular social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook skyrocketed, raising the cost of customer acquisition to a disproportionate level. In this context, a physical footprint is no longer looking like a high overhead cost.

Deluge of retailer brand media: Communication from even our favorite retailers is hitting a point of extreme consumer fatigue. Retail Futurist Doug Stephens spoke on Day 1 of NRF and reflected on digital advertising losing its “edge,” even as it becomes more prolific, as reported by Retail Dive. “We are swimming in a sea of media and communication from brands,” he said, and “stores are the new channel for retail.” Hearing a Futurist call stores a “new channel” brings an intriguing perspective the reintroduction of brick and mortar into the 2020 conversation.

Consumers are seeking human connection: This brings us to the enduring theme of the need for human connection, which only seems to strengthen as digital gets more pervasive. Even as the online channel expands its share of transactions, industry reports continue to reveal up to 90% of purchases in some retail categories still taking place in-store. It comes of little surprise that we’re seeing a resurgence of consumers seeking out a more personal connection with the brand, one that can’t be replicated online.

At Nudge, we believe strongly in the influence of store associates in the ongoing “human factor” of brand affinity. Read more in our Lookbook, written especially for experience-driven brands who are seeking more meaningful experiences for their customers through their physical footprint.

Proven ROI of 484%

Forrester Consulting's Total Economic Impact™ study found a 484% ROI with Nudge!*

*over three years.