Run stores are facing an uncertain future. An equally uncertain economy is causing consumers to slow their spending as debt, including credit card debt, becomes more expensive. So what is a run specialty store to do?

It might seem to be common business sense to cut spending at such a time and step away from new investments. But on the flip side, equally common business sense realizes that new technologies are coming to the fore that have the ability to counteract any expenditure on them by driving sales, enhancing staff profitability and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of store operations. 

Whether or not such tools are right for an individual run store or chain will depend on a variety of factors, which is why it is vitally important that owners, operators and managers know what’s out there to help them run a more efficient, more profitable business even in uncertain times.

Evolving the Conventional LMS

Those who keep up on retail software are most likely already aware of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) — basically apps that help to train and upskill staff with pre-loaded learning content about sneakers, gels, singlets and all the other stuff in your store. The upshot is that, historically, such systems have saved on training costs by onboarding staff digitally and helping them be more successful on the job. Arguably, systems like that aren’t particularly useful in times of austerity and budget slashing, when run stores have to do more with less. 

Often they aren’t even very useful for employees on the floor — surfacing lessons that are redundant or that staff members don’t need to go through again runs the risk of becoming counterproductive. In the past and as a rule, such systems have employed a one-size-fits-all, single-pathway approach to learning.

However, the cutting edge of retail technology for run stores has gone beyond this model into sales enablement for associates — essentially solutions that provide a full suite of resources and tools to increase sales capability and agility. 

With sales enablement apps, brand-specific training, store-related learning content, sales incentives and rewards all get integrated with real-time store-staff performance data to provide personalized recommendations and smart actions for each individual staff member. 

That’s the rub here — and the kernel of what makes sales enablement for retail such an advancement over earlier technologies. 

How It All Works

The process is simple once you take a close look at it.

Basically, sales associates get smart notifications to complete in-store tasks, in-app learning activities or achieve sales milestones; for instance, when their app smartly judges that it’s time for them to receive such content, based on their past performance, their sales productivity and their preferences. 

So the app is not merely “teaching” or educating sales associates as much as raising them to a higher level of sales performance, enabling their productivity. 

At a time when many software tools are emphasizing “team coordination,” such a system instead enables individual sales conversions for run stores, which directly impacts store revenues. Team coordination is important, but it’s in the individual, face-to-face dimension where sales happen.

There’s also the question of how the data a store may or may not collect gets used. If a run specialty store collects and processes financials or sales commissions data and stores that data in back-office systems, the sales enablement platform can integrate with those systems and then leverage that data to change the targeted actions recommended for specific store associates. 

Those different pathways can emphasize different store metrics depending on how the data shifts. For instance, if monthly revenues are down, the app might then show more content to drive sales on low-hanging fruit, such as gels and bars. 

In essence, sales enablement for retail is about much more than simply training and learning or coordinating teams. It is working to pick up the slack generated by slower consumer activity. It enables sales associates for continuously higher daily performance, not merely training them to do their jobs.

Next: Performance Enhancement

The questions will naturally arise — Why should store associates use such an app? What kind of buy-in do they have? Both are good questions because sales enablement systems for retail stores are only effective if the staff uses them — and staff generally only use them to the extent that they feel it is in their best interest. 

This is where rewards and recognition, and more broadly what has been called “performance enablement,” enter the picture. 

A completely end-to-end sales enablement platform will wrap its training, learning and customer management and experience solutions in smart sales incentives — whether that is an end-of-week prize for most units moved, the bragging rights of receiving a salesmanship award or simply getting ahead on the staff’s sales leaderboard. 

Everything is happening seamlessly in one platform, one app that the associate is using. This consolidated suite with multiple solutions is also known as a performance enablement platform and it’s generally a more modular, holistic solution than sales enablement. It incorporates more aspects of the store associate experience while remaining agile. It is less lightweight than a simple sales enablement platform, but at the same time smarter, with even more data driving smart salesfloor actions and recommended tasks. 

Essentially, what you’re doing is bringing multiple tools together under one umbrella and making sure data travels smoothly from one tool to another. Without getting too into the weeds tech-wise, recent learning and training data for an employee might trigger a highly personalized sales incentive — say, for instance, using her knowledge to make a sale on the specific shoe brand she’s developed expertise around. 

The point is that when the associate receives a notification, she knows it’s “just for her.” It is customized for her specific skills, challenges and goals. Imagine a kind of Uber app for run stores, changing to fit the user. This technology not only drives sales conversions, but overall associate performance, including retention, engagement and other key metrics to continuous store success.

Two Paths for Run Stores

The current moment offers run store owners, operators and managers a choice.

 • They can slash technology expenditures at a moment when customer behaviors are changing and many are less likely to part with their dollars. 

• Or they can rethink the role of technology in their business — not to passively train, onboard and schedule associates, but to activate and enable their selling potential in order to meet this more hesitant, inflation-afflicted consumer where they are. 

Sales enablement technology driving staff performance is here for those who wish to upgrade the associate, and store operations at large, for the 2020s and beyond. 

About the author

Alec Niedenthal is Senior Writer for Rallyware, where he writes about and researches the retail, wholesale, and direct selling verticals. 

Rallyware, the performance enablement platform for large sales forces, recently acquired Myagi, a retail sales enablement platform that works with almost every running store and brand in North America, Europe, and Australia, including Nike, New Balance, and Fleet Feet. 

Delivered as an app for the workforce, Rallyware’s smart tools for continuous learning, upskilling, sales incentivization and more provide an average of 24X ROI for customers. Request a demonstration, email us at [email protected], or call at (877) 858-8857 to talk to a product expert and learn how Rallyware helps run stores actively sell to consumers, rather than simply being bought from.