Let me start this post with a brief personal story. A month ago, I decided it would be a great idea to buy a new car. Like 90% of you, I did my research online. The experience on each website was incredible: I could find all the information I wanted, build the car with the options I wanted. My hesitations between two models were quickly resolved by a savvy digital marketing price promotion on one model. I went to the dealership recommended by the website, and after a conclusive test drive, pretty much everything unravelled. The salesman knew less than I did based on the information I had previously collected. Worse he started contradicted information given on the website. Finally he was unaware of the very price promotion that drove me to the dealership in the first place and had to “check with his manager”. Well, I am still driving my old car. The millions of dollar spent on digital marketing were wasted by the very people in charge of closing the sale.
Forrester predicts that these type of cross-channel sales (defined as transactions that are influenced by digital medium but completed via an in-person channel) amounted to $1.4 trillion in 2014 and will reach $1.8 trillion in 2018. In 2014 it represents more than 4 times the amount of total online sales !
For brands, the next frontier is to control the customer experience at every touchpoint. A recent Gallup study shows that brands that can provide alignment and consistency across channels witness a 36% uplift in profit or market share compared to their competitors. Through the rapid adoption of digital marketing technologies, marketers have done an awesome job driving people to their web properties, to their product, to their stores or their dealerships. But what happens next in the sales cycle, the live experience remains outside the control of the marketers.
Sales has always been based on a imbalance of information: the salesman knowing more than the customer, about the product, the pricing, alternative offerings etc… But the Internet has reversed this paradigm: nowadays the customer often knows more than the sales people, source of many frustration and potentially lost sales. The solution is simple: ensure at least equality of information by providing better front line employee training.
But just like the world of sales and marketing has changed, so has the world of employee training. In the old world of training, organization would create an entity for sales enablement typically siloed from the marketing organization. That entity or department would then take the content received from marketing and create learning courses deployed to employee via an inflexible Learning Management System (LMS). It then requires front line employees to dedicate long hours to consume that content and be tested on it. This structure, very top-down, very slow and time consuming for the employee provide limited feed-back on training effectiveness. This is really a train and hope for the best approach …
A new world for employee training is emerging. A world where most of the training now happens peer to peer, directly on the job, where employees are looking at consuming training and knowledge at the moment they need it, in the format and the device that will be the most appropriate for them. It is no longer a one size fits all world. To bring this new area of training to life, new technology is required. Technologies that have more to do with digital marketing than with traditional learning systems.
The new learning systems must focus on the contextualization of learning, ingesting as much data about the employee, its tasks at hand, his expertise, his training history but also about the content and its effectiveness in diverse context in order to serve the right training content at the right time, in the proper format. It uses big data to contextualize the content.
The new learning system must also enable anyone to publish learning content and reward for content creation. Not all content will be perfect and the best content will be crowdsourced through rating, comments and analytics on effectiveness. It will be a fundamentally social system.
Finally the new learning system must be integrated with marketing asset and campaign management in order to speed-up the alignment of the brand with training material and content. It will reduce the latency between the marketing campaign creation and the delivery of the training. It will also ensure the campaign is not rolled out until a certain percentage of employee are ready for it.
New learning systems will have more to do with web content management systems than with traditional LMS. They will provide personalized digital learning experience to employees at the moment they need it and ensure that employees can best represent the brand in front of the customer. Had the dealership I visited benefited from such a system, I would probably be driving a new car …