Walmart has started using Spark City, a simulation-style training game in the form of a mobile app, to assist in training its store associates and prepare them for a variety of potential in-store situations, according to an email sent to Retail Dive.
The app, which already has had more than 104,000 downloads, puts the player in charge of the dry goods department in a Walmart store, and has them face a variety of challenges that a department manager would tackle on a daily basis. As players resolve the challenges they advance to higher levels.
Before becoming more widely available, Spark City, which was developed by Walmart associate Daniel Shepherd, was piloted with Walmart Academies. The retailer is planning to launch a new version of the app that will feature other department-specific, cash register and store management levels.
There has been much talk of how retailers use gamification to make various aspects of the shopping process more engaging for customers. It includes a flash sales platform from Bluefly that allows users to earn discounts as they share product pages through social networks and an Amazon tool that allows shoppers to fuel their own furniture recommendations.
Spark City, however, represents an instance of a retailer gamifying training, and there appears to be a need. More retailers are adopting new technologies like cashierless checkout that are capable of either replacing human associates, or displacing them to the point that they need to be trained on the fly for newly defined jobs. Also, even amid the overall digital transformation of stores, some retailers have been slow to provide their store associates with mobile technology and other advanced tools that could help them perform better on the sales floor. Studies such as Zebra Technologies’ Global Shopper Study have shown that store associates are feeling overwhelmed, and know they could do better with some help.
Walmart also was an early adopter of virtual reality-based training tools, which it expanded for use in all of its U.S. stores last year. It also has offered some store associates financial assistance as they pursue college degrees.
Other food retailers have integrated new technology tools into their training procedures. Southeastern Grocers recently partnered with Waterloo, Ontario-based training software provider Axonify on a "microlearning" platform that delivers three to five minutes of information a day to store associates on mobile devices through a program called Gnome. The retailer started off with voluntary cashier training with about 12 topics and now the platform trains all 45,000 associates across 450 topics, Liz Thompson, Southeastern Grocer's Chief People Officer, told Grocery Dive at the recent National Retail Federation show in New York.
Since the company-wide rollout in 2016, the adoption rate among employees has increased from 85% to 97% and there has been a knowledge lift of 15%, said Thompson