Does Online Training Work in Retail?
32 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2015 Last revised: 20 Sep 2018
Date Written: September 17, 2018
A knowledgeable retail sales associate (SA) can explain the features of available product variants and give a customer sufficient confidence in her choice or suggest alternatives so that she becomes willing to purchase. Although it is plausible that increasing a SA’s product knowledge will increase sales, training is not costless and turnover is high in retail, so most retailers provide little product knowledge training. Thus, an important research question is how much, if at all, does training on product features increase a SA’s sales productivity? To answer this question, we partnered with ExpertVoice, a firm that provides online, self-guided training modules for retail SAs, and Dillard’s, a leading department store chain whose more than 50,000 SAs had access to the ExpertVoice modules. We assembled a detailed data set of the training history and individual sales productivity of Dillard’s SAs over a two-year period. We found that as SAs engaged in training over time, their sales rate increased by 1.8 percent for every online module taken, which is a much higher benefit than the direct or indirect costs associated with this training. Surprisingly, brand-specific training did not significantly affect the sales of the focal brand but it did improve overall sales of all brands. We also assess how the training benefit varied depending on the SAs tenure, sales rate prior to training and number of modules taken.
Keywords: Retail Operations, Online Learning, Business Analytics, MOOCs, Empirical Operations Management
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