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9 transformative applications of immersive learning in retail

Tips & guidance
min read
Female shopper handing a credit card over to a smiling retail worker behind the cash register

The rise of e-commerce and supply chain challenges have profoundly impacted retail and pushed the industry toward more innovation and digital transformation. Included in that disruption is the transformation of retail employee experience. With ever-evolving standards for health and safety, it’s critical to improve the hiring, onboarding, training, and upskilling of your employees.

Traditional retail simulators come in the form of video software training platforms. While they may assess knowledge by having the learner watch a simulation, it doesn’t give the learner the feeling that they are present. Nor does it offer the hands-on practice that people need to build skills. Instead, the most impactful way to do this is Immersive Learning, a groundbreaking training methodology that combines VR with advanced learning theory, data science, and spatial design.

VR is an effective retail simulator because it transports the learner to the store floor and affords them the opportunity to engage with customers they may encounter, handle difficult encounters and emergency situations, and quickly upskill on new processes and technologies they may use at work. VR is more than just content inside a headset, it provides critical benefits for retail companies, from high-stakes, high-impact situations to everyday operations. Strivr customers in the retail sector have seen the following benefits after switching to immersive learning:

  • Accelerated proficiency in their jobs.
  • Improved operations at scale.
  • Engaged employees.
  • Unique insights collected from the platform to tailor training.

Using VR for training has helped prepare over 1 million retail employees at leading Fortune 1000 companies like Verizon, Sprouts, and Walmart. Discover a full list of VR use cases for retail & hospitality.

Here are the top 9 immersive learning applications that benefit both employees and customer experience to bring business impact to retailers.

01. Realistic job expectations for smooth onboarding

Before ever stepping into a new work environment, immersive learning enables candidates and new hires with first-person experience on the job site. By placing them in scenarios that will quickly become familiar in their role, they get a sense of company setting and culture and begin to acclimate to their new positions. A realistic job preview helps retailers recruit and retain more informed, committed employees. Using VR for training to get employees enfranchised in company culture and values right from the start leads to a uniform brand experience for customers.

02. Faster proficiency for store operations

The first day on the job can be intimidating for frontline employees. Between logistics, operations, and customer interactions there’s a lot to learn, usually in a pretty chaotic environment, quickly. Using VR for training offers a lifelike simulation of stores and restaurants — down to seating areas, service counters and food-prep stations — for accurate and comprehensive operational training. Retail employees can practice in immersive learning without impacting a busy 7-day-a-week operation, building situational awareness and confidence before facing customers.

03. Customer service & empathy

Virtual Reality puts frontline employees into the lives of customers beyond the store, to better empathize with a wide variety of life situations and personality types. Emotions are running higher than ever these days, and using VR for training helps employees walk in the shoes of their customers so they’re better prepared to provide excellent, empathetic service.

When Walmart added a VR component to its beKIND empathy training, employees jumped at the chance to practice their soft skills, achieving 100% of their adoption goal in just a few weeks, despite not being a mandatory training.

This application can also be valuable in the call center, where agents tend to speak with the most frustrated customers.

Quotation mark
Immersive learning gives you perspective on what the customer might be feeling when they are calling.
— Verizon employee

04. Handling difficult conversations with employees

With immersive learning, retail store managers can practice interpersonal skills and leadership tactics to better handle difficult situations and tough conversations. They learn how to recognize and respond to situations in appropriate ways that diffuse problems and circumvent challenges. A key benefit of using VR for training is that they can play back their response to the situation, so they’re more aware of their language and the impact they have on employees.

05. Emergency situations

Training retail workers to react in rare emergency situations such as store robberies has always been tricky. You can present them with a list of protocols and conduct role-playing exercises, but it’s impossible to predict how an employee might react in a real-life emergency situation — except with VR, which gives employees realistic experience of armed robbery and active shooter situations.

Using VR for training allows them to experience the critical steps of de-escalating a high-risk moment in order to create situational awareness and emotional preparedness. Most importantly, it helps keep them safe.

Watch the video below to learn how armed robbery VR training helped 97% of frontline retail associates at Verizon feel more confident and prepared to safety navigate similar situations in real life:

06. Rollout out of new equipment

Introducing new technology and equipment to the retail floor presents a conundrum. Mastery requires practice, but obtaining that practice live in front of customers compromises service. Using VR for training, retailers can realistically simulate practice before associates hit the store floor so they’re confident in their skills with the equipment. It also helps retailers get the most out of technology innovation and competitive advantage with quicker and more consistent rollout.

Watch video below to learn how Strivr helped Walmart reduce new technology training time by 96%, from 8 hours to 15 minutes:

07. Preparing for the holiday rush

The holidays can be a very stressful environment for retail employees. With immersive learning, in retail companies can create or capture real-life experience of retail floors and checkout lines packed with customers, chaos, and stress, and help employees get practically and emotionally prepared without interrupting the business. This helps avoid any potential incidents and protect brand image.

08. Package handling & logistics

For logistics, manufacturing, and distribution workers, VR can help instruct trainees on proper package handling techniques. Learners experience the virtual dock environment while being guided through proper methods such as how to open a trailer, use a load stand, and connect a conveyer. VR can also teach proper lifting techniques and best practice for moving objects from unloading rollers to conveyor belts and vice versa.

As the learner participates in activities that will be used on the job, they better identify improper methods and understand the consequences. This is critical in an environment where worker safety is paramount and operational efficiency crucial, but turnover tends to be high, so it’s key to be able to onboard quickly and thoroughly.

Retailers using VR to onboard distribution center employees have seen productivity increases of up to 19% within just one month, while simultaneously seeing speed to proficiency cut in half.

09. Candidate assessment

Skills assessment in VR provides a powerful predictive analytics model that combines both decision data and immersive attention data captured in-headset. Companies can better understand how a candidate might perform in a given job, or how an existing employee would be suited to a new role. Immersive learning can indicate how a candidate might prioritize different tasks, communicate with co-workers in times of conflict, and exercise a variety of leadership skills. Examining explicit responses to decision points created in simulation helps predict which candidates would perform well in real-life.

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Key takeaways

  • Strivr customers in the retail sector consistently benefit from increased operational efficiency, employee engagement, and employee learning retention.
  • Retail organizations who utilize Strivr's immersive learning solutions for customer service and soft skills training see significant improvements in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and sales.
  • Immersive learning helps enhance workplace safety and security by giving organizations the power to safely expose learners to those rare, high-stakes, hard-to-train-for scenarios that would normally be dangerous, expensive, or impractical to replicate in the real world.

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