This guest post comes from Doug Baker, Vice President, Industry Relations, FMI.

As private brands grow into robust brands in their own right, it’s more important than ever to get the word out to shoppers.

That’s why FMI recently explored whether getting store associates more engaged can make a difference. In conducting research for our annual private brand reports, we surveyed food retailers on whether front-line store associates are engaged with private brand products and in-store execution.

The majority of respondents — 65% — said store associates are only somewhat engaged with private brands currently.

That led to a key follow-up question: What impact could store associates have by becoming more engaged with private brand execution?

Store Associates Can Make a Big Difference

One hundred percent of retailers surveyed said it would have a “major impact” if store associates become more engaged. That stunning level of agreement is rare and needs to be taken very seriously.

The results of the survey and strategies for making progress are outlined in a newly released special edition of this year’s Power of Private Brands report geared for store operations. It’s called: Turning Store Associates Into Private Brand Ambassadors.

Education and Training are Key Strategies

The survey found that about 60% of food retailers don’t offer or require private brand education and training for store associates. Close to a third of retailers said training and education is offered — although less than 10% require it.

Despite what appears to be a lack of training, almost 100% of retailers said it would be very or somewhat valuable if private brand education is offered for store associates by an industry association, possibly with a certification program.

Turning Associates Into Ambassadors

There are many ways to educate associates about private brands. The report relays strategies for store operations that range from offering education as part of onboarding to providing digital and mobile tools.

It’s important to consider what store associates need to know about private brands. The report relays ten key concepts that are excerpted and adapted from a piece prepared by Wisner Marketing and FMI, called: Private Brand Management: A Shopper Centric Approach. These concepts include how private brands save customers money, how these brands lead to bigger retail profits, and why private brand shoppers are highly loyal. I’d recommend sharing these points with associates.

Gaining Insights from Industry Executives

I especially like the insights from industry executives interviewed for the report. Here’s how one member of the industry explained why this topic is more important than ever in the wake of the pandemic.

“Private brands are more front and center for store associates than ever before. We’re seeing that store associates want to learn more about private brand, because customers are asking about it. Managers need to relay to associates the stories behind each private brand, and details about the ingredients.”

Next Steps to Make Progress

There’s even more to the FMI report, including information on how private brands are adapting in the pandemic era and key questions for store operations to consider.

These insights will be especially useful for store managers — who are responsible for helping to engage and educate store associates. In addition, this will be of interest to senior executives, so they can understand how to help create ambassadors in the front ranks.

I hope the industry recognizes the importance of exploring this topic and acting on the opportunities.  There’s never been a better time to get store associates engaged with private brands.