5 Common Problems with Retail Sales Training and How to Fix Them

01 August 2019

Training & learning

What are the first few things that come to mind when you think about work-related training?

If we're being honest with ourselves, here's what pops up: 

  • Overwhelming
  • Boring
  • Information overload
  • Can't remember anyone's name
  • I ate all the free donuts 

Training that doesn't help people learn and retain the information is costly and detrimental to good performance on the job.

But the effects of insufficient training become exponentially more problematic for retail sales associates, because they're in direct contact with customers every day.

Short on time? Watch the video blog summary! 


What happens when a retailer gets their training wrong?

Opportunities are missed, customer experience gets worse and sales are lost.

It's clear that most retail sales training doesn't provide store associates and customers with what they need.

83% of customers think they're more knowledgeable than sales associates, and 28% of store associates said they couldn't find the information they need quickly enough to help shoppers. 

But what happens when a retailer gets their training right?

That's where all the magic starts.

The retailers with the best store associate training programs are the ones with the most satisfied customers and the most sales growth. 

Training Magazine's ranking of the top 125 organizations with the very best training programs in the US ranked 2 retailers in the top 5 - discount retailer Dollar General at #1 and Best Buy at #3!

Dollar General started ramping up its training in 2018, which focuses heavily on knowing the customer and capitalizing on experienced store manager knowledge. Customer satisfaction went up by 790 points and sales increased by 6.8%.

Coincidence? Probably not.

Here are 5 common problems with most retail sales training programs, and how retailers can fix them.

1) Training is too long, but not long enough.

Yes, you read that right.

Most retail sales training is too long because employees spend hours or days completing it.

Most retail sales training isn't long enough because it's only focused on the employee's first few days or weeks. After that, they're on their own.

The problem here is that long training that isn't continuous doesn't help employees retain the information and skills they'll need. In fact, the Forgetting Curve model originally created by German psychologist Hermann Ebinghaus in 1885 estimates that even if 100% of information is retained at the time of training, it drops to 50% by the next day.

How to fix it

Make training sessions quick and bite-sized - also known as microlearning. Deliver these sessions continuously with the goal of not just training, but also refreshing knowledge.

2) Training isn't relevant to the employee's role.

Yes, training needs to be standardized across the entire organization. But the problem with most retail sales training is that employees get too much information (so they don't remember the important things) or not enough (so they never learn the important things).

Training should take the employee's role into account. A part-time employee who never works from open till close doesn't need to know the same store procedures as a full-time employee. Some stores have larger product ranges than others - employees at these stores need more product knowledge training.

How to fix it

Identify the skills and product knowledge every employee needs and standardize these trainings. Gain an understanding of differences between stores and sales associate roles to create additional learning tracks that deliver what's most useful.

3) Training is not convenient for a deskless workforce.

If most corporate workers think the typical conference room inductions and e-learning sessions are a little dull, imagine how a deskless employee feels. Dull training doesn't help anyone retain information better, especially employees who are never sat at a desk all day.

Retail employees tend to be younger, working part-time or seasonally and on the run between work and school or job #1 and job #2. Training that shifts the burden of learning onto the employee's own time is not the most effective method and might not even get done.

How to fix it

Make your bite-sized chunks of learning goodness accessible to employees wherever they are (a.k.a on their mobile phones). Gamify your training, but understand what is it about games that motivate us to succeed beyond the fun - autonomy, mastery and a feeling of belonging.

4) Training is isolating.

Any customer service role is a social one. Working in a retail store is all about teamwork. But most retail sales training is passive and one-sided - employees listen to their manager, a trainer from head office, or someone blathering on for 2 hours on an e-learning video that was recorded in 2007.

Retail sales training should be social and collaborative for the same reasons that people love using social media. It's addictive to see what your peers are up to. People love to share what they've done. And maybe, they like a little bit of friendly competition. In fact, 41% of millennials and Gen Z would like to see employers incorporate social media into their training.

How to fix it

Make your training about showing and doing as well as listening.

Create visibility in your training programs so employees can see how they rank against their peers (leaderboards are great for this!)

Take a look at who your employees are learning from as well. Trainers don't necessarily have to come from head office and have the word "trainer" in their title. What about an experienced store manager, or someone who's been promoted to a head office role from within?

5) Training is stagnant.

Most retail sales training doesn't evolve with store associates and give them a sense of agency in choosing what they want to learn.

Employers who excel at retaining employees are the ones who provide clear paths for evolving and growing within the company. Training is a huge part of this. And whatever preconceived and incorrect notions people have about store associates, the truth is they want to learn.

How to fix it

Create learning tracks for advancement, cross-training and much more. Make employees aware that this training exists as part of their career development and progression. 


It's no coincidence that the retailers who rethink retail sales training see their sales grow and experience less turnover.

YOOBIC Boost empowers your store teams to perform their best and makes training something they'll actually look forward to. Check out this quick video to see how!