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Why South African retailers need to invest in e-learning programmes

The need for retailers to adapt to the ever-changing dynamic of the sector requires that everyone within their businesses is brought up to speed as quickly as possible. Particularly with the move towards online retail in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, it has become essential that employees possess the technological know-how to not only handle digital transactions, but be aware of the latest trends in this space.

To illustrate the point, data from payment services provider PayGate showed a 43.4% year-on-year increase in the volume of transactions for Black Friday 2021 in South Africa. The total value of transactions for the day’s trade grew by 46.8% when compared to 2020. Furthermore, data from Cyber Monday (29 November 2021) showed a 23.8% increase in transactional volume and a 25.6% increase in transactional value traded on the day, while another significant 2021 milestone was the 32% growth in first-time card transactions which suggest new or first-time online shoppers.

‘The figures are particularly pleasing given that they come off an already strong 2020 performance. Consistent year-on-year growth like this should give many traditional local businesses the confidence to invest in digital offerings to expand their reach,’ says Peter Harvey, the managing director of PayGate parent company DPO South Africa.

The transition to e-commerce is plain to see, yet it does require a driven approach on the part of businesses to train staff. It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has severely curtailed opportunities to conduct in-store training and workshops, given the need to maintain social distancing and keep everyone healthy. Yet tremendous leaps forward in technology have also meant that retailers can now access e-learning like never before. In fact, e-learning has addressed many other issues as well as the sector has grown.

For example, Paul Hanly, co-founder of South African end-to-end online learning solution provider New Leaf Technologies, points out that e-learning is able to assist new, contracted or seasonal workers to become familiar with business operations quickly and efficiently.

‘It also allows existing employees to be refreshed on certain key functions,’ Hanly says. ‘In addition, retail always has new products rolling and employees need to understand these products. This is time consuming and inefficient if done in a classroom environment. If employers manage training online and use the detailed analytics behind online training, they can target training better suited to individual knowledge gaps or concentrate on employees who need the most interventions.

‘There are often high staff attrition rates in retail, and this can also be covered effectively by means of quick onboarding together with necessary SPO and product training, saving training costs and getting a better return on investment.’

New Leaf Technologies has a wealth of experience in the e-learning space, working with a number of leading South African brands such as Wellness Warehouse and PNA to upskill staff and refine their overall operations. In the case of the former, through the provision of the aNewSpring learning platform, which enables Learning & Development professionals to create, curate and deliver blended learning that adapts to each individual, New Leaf Technologes was able to assist Wellness Warehouse’s Wellness Training Academy optimise its training and development offering.

Not only were competency rates increased by as much as 35% in some individual cases, but further assessments of retail teams’ operational knowledge could be undertaken. One of the technologies Hanly recommends for retailers is the LXP (Learning Experience Platform) system.

‘This platform is easy for learners to use and is mobile and data-light.  They can log on anytime, anywhere to access learning off their own devices. New Leaf can help get training online quickly, augmenting and supporting internal training resource skillsets.’ Hanly says with so many changes occurring within the retail environment, there is ‘no time like the present’ to embark on an e-learning programme for managers and employees.

‘I always say to our retail clients that they should think of their immediate pain points in their businesses, and start with that. They are always surprised by how effective e-learning programmes can be. The immediate effect is that out-of-office time and productivity time is drastically reduced. However, e-learning also has the advantage of making staff more classroom-ready. As the Covid restrictions ease, there will be a more blended approach, adopting online and classroom learning. By the time they get to the classroom, they will be able to get the best out of the in-person learning experience,’ he concludes.

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