Last updated: 06.03.15

Can retail technology trends improve staff training?

Staff performance is a big issue for retailers, but what role does technology have in this?

Technology has rapidly changed the face of retail, with some commentators saying it marked the end of the Great British High Street as we know it. Although the High Street is still very much there, the growth and expansion of online retailers like Amazon has significantly changed consumer habits, expectations and how purchases are made.

Some argue that retail and technology can work together, with a number of leading brands using it to significantly improve staff performance and the customer experience.

Digital strategy company Econsultancy made a list of the best ways that retailers can engage their customers and use technology to their advantage.

For example, Burberry's flagship store in London invited customers to use their devices on the high street by installing mirrors that doubled as video screens and equipping their staff with tablets. They also implemented radio-frequency identification technology (RFID) to show catwalk footage when some products are taken into a fitting room.

Other retailers are using technology in a more practical sense, with portable devices adding another level of flexibility to the shopping experience, enabling customers to finalise their purchase from anywhere in store. This not only reduces congestion around a designated checkout area, allowing other customers to easily view all the items on display, but it also reduces the frustration associated with waiting in line to make a purchase.

However, technology doesn't just have a place at the top end of retail. Also on Econsultancy's list is the British institution of Marks & Spencers. In its Cheshire Oaks flagship store, the retailers used tablets to allow customers to view other products, and even see makeovers.

So does this mean the old retailer is dead, and if you don't adapt to implement devices in your store you'll wither in the face of your competition?

Well maybe so, but it's important for retailers to not see this as the sole area that needs investment. According to the UK Shopper Satisfaction Study, 43 per cent of shoppers believe that websites are more intuitive than the level of service available in store.

It also found that poor customer experience played a significant part in this, with many complaining that staff were often unknowledgeable and unproductive. In fact, a fifth of the 2,000 consumers included in the survey would rather turn to their smartphone to answer their query rather than the in-store staff.

The study suggests that although technology can have its place in improving the customer experience, it should never be at the expense of investing in staff. Although many consumers appreciate technology that makes their purchasing journey easier, it is unlikely they will want this instead of being able to speak to someone in store. This is especially important for smaller or independent retailers. If you don't have a large turnover profit, it would be foolish to invest all of this in new technology and leave no finances for training and keeping staff happy.

However, some brands are showing that technology can help improve training outcomes, boost performance and safeguard the customer experience.

Retail Sales Marketing Management states that online learning can combine these two important factors, allowing staff to learn while on the shop floor. This can be a fantastic way to keep staff members on top of the latest techniques and developments in their sector, as well as a brilliant way of ensuring that everyone has the latest product information at hand.