Looking to improve the shopping experience and stand apart from its competitors, Circuit City is betting a lot of its future on its new ‘the city’ format. And one of the key differentiators for the new format will be the Enhanced Digital Guide Experience (EDGE), a handheld selling tool designed by the retailer and Microsoft. Delivered on Tablet PCs running a custom Windows-based application designed to help inform and engage customers.
While the EDGE initiative clearly comes to life on the sales floor, Dave Romero, senior manager of new concepts for Circuit City, points out that the strategy is anchored in a multi-channel approach. “[EDGE] allows full access to all the reviews on our Web site,” says Romero. “It’s a terrific multi-channel tool that combines all the great power and information on our Web site and all of the great information around products and details. And it combines the guest reviews on our site, and puts it all in the hands of [associates].”
After two years of testing, learning and iterating in multiple markets, Circuit City began using Table PCs running the EDGE application in all of its new-format ‘city’ stores and is already enjoying positive results. Sales associates are more confident in approaching customers with the knowledge to sell or discuss any product in the store. The mobile tool is integrated with online content for a seamless multichannel experience.
EDGE is designed to extract product information, inventory data, in-store promotion, third-party reviews, and other information over the Internet and from multiple back-end business systems. Once the information is extracted, EDGE is then optimized with decision-support intelligence and friendly user interface.
“We knew we had to create a more consistent approach to how we engaged guests in our stores, and Microsoft had the insight to show us where the industry was heading and provided knowledge and resources to move us in that direction,” says Romero, senior manager of new concepts for Circuit City. “We hadn’t seen anyone before bring together guided selling components (questions and answers) in addition to learning content.”
The EDGE technology is designed to speed the sales process by providing associates with immediate access to product recommendations, demos, usage questions, competitive pricing and other information for thousands of items across hundreds of categories.
The EDGE offers a series of guided selling questions and answers that are based on popular features of products. For example, if a shopper is in the market for a new TV, the EDGE will give the store associate a series of five-six questions to refine search. By providing answers, the EDGE offers a manageable list for shoppers to compare features and prices.
Once a shopper comes to a decision on the product they want to purchase, the EDGE prints out necessary information on the product, which can then be scanned in at the POS. Though the EDGE is not completely integrated with tendering system, it is a program Circuit City is currently working on as part of a new POS rollout, according to Romero.
“We try to avoid that ‘not-my-department’ scenario that can happen with other retailers,” says Romero. “Within retail things change very quickly, especially in our space, so we wanted to have the [city] store be something we could grow and flex with over time.”
In addition to remedying the reluctance store associates had to approach customers, Romero says the “Google it” mentality has a strong tie to the EDGE concept. “You’ve got to be able to look at the generation of the folks out there who have been raised on Google and appreciate that, and say, hey, ‘it’s okay to look up products and information over the Internet and share that with your guests and make sure they get you the right one and use the guided selling solution to get there.”
With a wealth of information now at store associates’ fingertips, Circuit City can hire from a broader talent pool and prepare them for the sales floor more quickly, according to Brian Leach, vice president of new concepts for Circuit City. The new hiring strategy has enabled the company to expand its hiring pool seeking friendly associates with strong team-building and communication skills, rather than searching exclusively for highly technical associates.
“We’ve done a lot of guest research with their perception of the device and how it’s changed their shopping patterns and habits… [Response] has been overwhelmingly positive,” Romero says. “Our guests really appreciate having access to the information.”