Empower Field Managers with Actionable Data For Next-level Sales Associate Training and Mentoring

How Field Leaders Can Improve Data Usage to Drive In-store Performance

Retail associate cutbacks and high turnover mean fewer on-floor associates available for shopping assistance and, unfortunately, sales personnel often less knowledgeable than the educated consumer seeking them out. Today’s lean store machine challenges field managers to train quickly and mentor deeply, because every associate makes a difference, every consumer interaction counts, and every drop and increase in sales impacts the bottom line.

The all-important frontline associates, the experience makers, can no longer be managed from 30,000 feet in the air. They need boots on the ground, and field managers are today’s retail ground forces. They comprise the support team that not only views performance data and confirms knowledge transfer, but continually helps associates exercise that knowledge, grow in their positions and feel confident as part of a winning team. But where do they get the time?

New mobile technologies providing for a Mobile Associate Communications Platform (mACP) disrupts the traditional flow of retail information to allow a reverse pyramid model that starts at top with the front line – the stores associates. It moves down to manageable groups of associates, led by field managers with and right tools and data – and thus newfound time – to drive corporate strategies… today, not tomorrow. The best mobile tools reveal real-time data that store management easily can leverage to do what technology can never do: Coach, mentor, educate, chat, provide and receive immediate feedback, and help associates better understand the connection between behavior and results.

Today’s field managers need this new associate communications weapon. As the industry talks about metrics, measures, KPIs and technologies that spit those numbers out, managers often struggle with using that data more effectively to really impact associate engagements and better influence associate-to-customer interactions. Store leadership needs easy to access, ongoing real-time data that allows them to connect with individual associates, or groups of them, on a daily basis to lead and mentor.

For example, new digital, handheld, video- based associate tools for corporate, brand and sales training offload this time-consuming responsibility from field managers. Instead, managers can turn attention to ensuring associates received communications and/or training and, based on brief associate quizzes, can identify opportunities to mentor as well as reward.

For example, instead of managers taking time with each new employee to tour the store and explain the logic behind layout, associates can use the handheld devices, in between customer time, to take a digital tour then answer questions based on that presentation, which is consistent from store to store. Quiz results may show understanding or confusion as to why, for example, sweaters are here and shoes are there. Field managers, released from the physical tour, have new-found time to leverage quiz data to praise some employees as well as walk with others to explain the reasoning behind the floor plan and mentor them up to speed.

In addition, the field quickly can communicate product knowledge, new up-selling and cross- selling opportunities, problem-solving techniques, professional and management development, the latest corporate announcements and other important and timely information.

Using the Data is the Field’s New Advantage

Using the data, not the technology, is the competitive advantage that brings field managers’ influence to a new level. A new work process pivots on getting better information faster, and having more time to mix their knowledge with real-time data to engage quickly and directly with associates daily – not via store visits every other week – to assess quiz results, individual and store performance, answer questions and coach.

Whether the data is positive or red-flagged, it is the human interaction between manager and associate, based on real data, which associates most appreciate. Let’s say a sales associate is new to the store. Her manager has followed her training activities and results, and is ready at the 30-day review with an educated conversation about her progress. Can she recall what she learned about adding onto the sale? What two things did she take away from it and how can she take more effective action going forward with every customer interaction?

Deeper into the management structure, if a district manager sees that a store manager is not engaging her associates in the digital training, that’s a red flag. It’s not that she doesn’t want to engage them, but may not understand how, or may need to be refocused on its importance.

A response may be, “Hey, store manager. Back-to- school is coming up. We have lots of new fits and styles, yet only 10 percent of your associates have gone through the Denim Guide. The best way to service customers is to ensure associates leverage that training and I am here to help you if needed.”

Those accountable for store performance have the data required for clear visibility into where support and nurturing may be needed.

It’s a Loop, Not a Line

Field managers absolutely need to know if the multitudes of information being sent straight to stores are sinking in from an associate perspective. Is it doing its job? Is it driving results? Are announcements and instructions even being read?

With real-time results of associate quizzes looping back to managers, the field can quickly react to the data in a way that continuously drives engagement and performance. This feedback loop of data – which the field now understands how to use to best advantage – allows managers not only to verify and assess associate participation and identify opportunities to celebrate and mentor, but to confirm and communications knowledge transfer. Managers can react proactively to data received to continually build an associate’s skill set; this only happens with a continuous loop, not one-way line.

Real Case Examples

Here are some real case examples of how a Mobile Associate Communications Platform is leveraged:

1. Associates at a luxury accessory retailer engage at their own pace with course selections they are eligible to view then monitor their own progress. Video courses include brand story; products; specialty and outlet brand experience; specialty and outlet seasonal training; visual merchandising; and loss prevention. Field Managers can easily add, delete and modify course materials at any time, with changes broadcast immediately and simultaneously to all associates and field management.

2. When clicking on a course guide product tab, then eyewear, for example, this luxury accessory retailer’s associates are introduced to a full buffet of eyeglass and sunglass attributes, including key materials, features, shapes, lens and frame colors, selling tips and care. Even construction details are illustrated (bridge, lens, arm, etc.) as well as face shapes and the best frame styles for them. Field managers view quiz results to determine associates’ level of retention.

3. Vice president of learning and development for women’s specialty dress retailer with 10,000 employees says he’s a “firm believer in using video to model the behaviors we want to see from our sales staff. Our Mobile Associates Communications Platform allows us to play our video learning content without streaming or absorbing store bandwidth, and providing our associates with an exceptional training experience. The platform also allows associates to access the training they need on the fly – while out on the sales floor. Short, two-minute videos show desired selling behaviors in action. This dynamic approach immediately gives associates the opportunity to engage in hands-on skill practice and coaching in partnership with their managers or mentors. This results in a sales staff that is much more effective and confident. Those participating in the pilot program achieved productivity targets faster than colleagues that didn’t use the tool. In addition, all of the learning materials are well organized, which takes the guesswork out of what associates need to train on each day. The built-in tracking gives managers visibility into their associates’ performance levels and allows them to easily identify coaching opportunities.”

4. A well-known retailer streamed 800K hours of video training – without increasing payroll. Specifically, the company was tasked to deliver more than 20 hours of training to 40,000 employees without incurring additional payroll hours. It now believes strongly in video training: As a brand, the retailer uses video training extensively, and “simply needs to have it as part of our training efforts,” a company executive states. After substantiating the cost benefits of on-floor video training, the company purchased 9,700 multifunctional iPads – almost a 1-to-4 ratio – to support the new training initiative. It first had piloted three LMS systems, none of which could deliver video on its network. It then selected INCITE for, among other reasons, its non-streaming video-based training platform and dozens of program templates, which allowed the retailer to provide 800,000 hours of training without an increase in payroll – a huge cost savings. For an enterprise its size, the tight integration of single sign-on also helped eliminate potential IT burden.

5. Another retailer creates a “Focus of the Week,” such as a particular KPI, such as ADT. Management first reviews the associate communications. Is the language too elevated? If so, it is made more user friendly and actionable. For example, rather than “our goal this week is to increase ADT,” the acronym is spelled out and associates are given strategies and personalized suggestions for that increase, using customer selling situations to which they can relate. This retailer brings its communications to life on the selling floor to help associates convert shoppers to buyers.

6. At this same retailer (as #5), associates can effectively drive conversation to inspire a purchase. Depending on the shopper’s style, the retailer leverages the handheld device to train associates on responses that overcome consumer objections and help guide associates to create a conversion.

7. A successful apparel retailer uses INCITE specifically to increase team confidence in areas such as product knowledge, brand, culture, sales and service. Mobile modules that are interactive and fun for associates, especially informational videos viewed in between customer time, have increased associate engagement. In some cases, as the company grew, the modules themselves needed streamlining – an ongoing process for any retailer looking to improve associate skills, and one easily managed with today’s advanced video-based technologies.

In each of these case studies, data provided through the platform indicates knowledge transfer so that the retailers can best identify successes, opportunities and red flags. Now they can be more proactive in their stores, where front line associates top their companies’ reverse pyramid models. Field managers have the right tools, data and now more time to drive corporate strategies. Their mobile platform reveals the real-time data they easily can leverage to do what technology can never do: Coach, mentor, educate, chat, provide and receive immediate feedback. With the competitive ability to instantly view performance data and confirm knowledge transfer, field managers continually can help associates expand their knowledge, grow in their positions and reach new levels of confidence and success out on the sales floor.

The Powerful Mix of Online and Human Mentoring

Access to and delivery of information done in an intelligent way – like a university course – potentially makes average sellers significantly better performers who create considerably greater business results.

In fact, a Mobile Associate Communications Platform validates a best practice used in higher education: Give students (i.e., store associates) the tools and information they need to perform at their best and brightest, and if they are engaged, quizzed and mentored, they will be successful. If you treat the student (or store associate) who has an average IQ as if they were the top of their university class (here’s a sophisticated training platform we know you can master) most become more self-assured, motivated and will perform much better.

Another university best practice also is emulated – rigorous online coursework (i.e., the Mobile Associate Communications Platform) – supported by classroom education led by a professor (field manager) who connects with, engages and mentors students to success.


“The real value-add to retailers is when the features of a sophisticated mobile communication platform is combined with one-on-one coaching,” states Andrea Weiss, founder and CEO of The O Alliance, a transformational retail consulting model. “That’s how to elevate change the way associates behave in stores.”


Demonstrate to Associates How Much You Care

Easy-to-understand digital coursework combined with the ability to use performance data to guide on-floor employees ultimately shows associates that you care about them as individuals and are committed to helping them grow in their retail positions. This goes a long way to encourage performance and longevity.

“Employees not only want good pay and benefits; they also want to be treated fairly, to make a substantial contribution to the organization through their work, and to be valued and appreciated for their efforts,” according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Employee recognition programs “raise employee morale; attract and retain key employees; elevate productivity; increase competitiveness, revenues and profitability; improve quality, safety and customer service; and reduce employee stress, absenteeism and turnover. In addition, awards and incentives can keep employees motivated and reinforce organizational expectations and goals during times when merit budgets are small or frozen, promotions are scarce, health care premiums are on the rise and overall job satisfaction is low.”

Using real performance data, not just checkmarks for completion, plays a valuable role in attracting and retaining the best associates, keeping them engaged and productive.


Every associate makes a difference, every consumer interaction counts, and every drop and increase in sales impacts the bottom line. Field managers with boots on the ground, armed with real-time data streams are perfectly positioned and freed to drive corporate strategies – given the right tools and thorough understanding of how to leverage the data. Then they can do what they do best, which technology can never do: Get and provide immediate feedback to guide associates in better understanding the connection between behavior and results – and driving a more profitable business.

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