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. 

Proven ROI of 484%

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

*over three years.