Opinion: Hopping on the training track

Luxottica Group Global Channels Business Training Manager Dimitri Lungo discusses the new digital learning centre developed by the eyewear company 

In this guest column, Luxottica Group Global Channels Business Training Manager Dimitri Lungo discusses the changing face of the travel retail environment and consumer behaviour, and how these factors affect the consumer retail experience. He evaluates the importance of training in the travel retail channel, and how it can be used to overcome these new challenges in this ever-changing environment.

Looking at the performance of the eyewear category in travel retail over the past few years, we have truly achieved something that is nothing short of phenomenal. According to Generation Research, we’ve progressed from the 20th to the 12th most important category in the travel retail sector, all within 10 years.

However, we still have a long way to go before we are able to break into the top 10 categories in the channel, and as we move into the future, we need to consider how else we can overcome the multitude of challenges in this dynamic environment. At Luxottica, we see training as one of the key areas that we are able to develop further, retaining and inspiring our staff and attracting new ones so as to help elevate our position in the channel. And to be honest, it’s not just for the eyewear category, but for the industry as a whole.

The Changing Travel Retail Environment

The travel retail world is changing – quickly and often. Already, we face limited brand visibility and space constraints that prevent us from showcasing our full product portfolio and the opportunities of the digitalised world also bring challenges into this sphere.

The travel retail environment is becoming increasingly sophisticated

For one, consumer behaviour is evolving thanks to technology – consumers are becoming more educated and informed on the products that they’re buying, with more than 80% of consumers conducting some form of research online before making a purchase decision. On the one hand, this high level of product knowledge is positive, but on the other hand, it could mean that the consumer relies less on the expertise of the sales associate because they know the price of the product and its characteristics even before stepping into the store. When you add to this the fact that consumers have become accustomed to a seamless, omnichannel shopping experience, the challenge is ripe.

The Role of Modern Physical Stores and Sales Associates

Still, what you can’t buy online is the feeling that a beautiful store, a passionate sales associate or a memorable experience can bring. It’s these feelings, the intangible, that will keep the store experience alive and well.

People want more than just a transaction, they want a memory. The perfect shopping experience is like a puzzle, of which travel retail is doing very well to fit in all the pieces. As a channel, we’re creating experiential places for brands to create a connection between their consumers and products. Virtual try-ons, augmented reality and personalisations are a few of the digital buzzwords that are being used time and again, with all of us playing our part to reach new heights to engage consumers and elevate the channel overall.

Sales staff help complete the travel retail puzzle

The puzzle isn’t complete without the human-to-human factor. It’s the piece of the puzzle that sometimes goes missing. The sales associates then become crucial to this puzzle – they are the providers of the ‘money can’t buy’ encounters for consumers. Not only are they key purchasing motivators, but they are also part of the omnichannel marketing strategy and are able to give consumers an unforgettable shopping journey. Getting sales associates to walk the walk and talk the talk of a brand is vital for growth.

In line with the evolution of consumer behaviour, it’s no longer enough for sales associates to simply ‘sell’ a product: they now need to be able to sell a belief, instil confidence in a consumer, promote a feeling and create an experience. Otherwise, what’s going to keep consumers coming into the store?  At Luxottica, it is here that technology presents us with a solution: a digital training plan that underpins our commitment to training our sales associates.

Luxottica University – A digital learning centre

The Luxottica University will be accessible on tablets and phones in multiple languages

Luxottica has developed a dedicated travel retail digital learning platform for sales associates, which will launch in March 2020. Through five-minute micro-learning sessions, with modules that range from general subjects to product knowledge and category basics, our sales associates will be equipped with the tips and tricks of consumer engagement and product information. To further develop this learning culture with our clients, the Luxottica University has been developed based on the “any time, anywhere, any device” concept, so that all content can be accessed via tablets and smartphones and is available in multiple languages.

Putting all of this together, our ultimate aim is to create a ‘sunglasses community’: a group of experts who believe in the category and who authentically buy in to the Luxottica mindset and are able to elevate the category within travel retail.

This group of experts represent us on the ground, so if you think about it, our sales associates are key in providing the three Es when it comes to consumer engagement: Experience, Expertise and Exceptional Service. It then comes as no surprise that investing in their learning and development is vital in enhancing our position in the travel retail channel.

If brands and retailers are able to work together to improve the skills and know-how of their retail staff, I trust that the performance of the industry can be taken to greater heights and the puzzle can be completed.

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