Retail chain sees value in Google Plus

Retail chain Dick Smith will use Google Hangouts to share best practices among its stores and bring employees closer together, according to the retailer’s IT director, Linda Venables.

The retailer plans to phase in Hangouts and other Google Apps starting with select staff next week, and will migrate the rest over the following several weeks, Venables said. The platform replaces a Microsoft environment.

Google Plus' Hangouts feature will let staff share what they've done in their store with staff in another retail location, Venables told Computerworld Australia. It also "makes people more likely to approach each other because they can actually see each other, even from remote locations,” she said.

Dick Smith has 4500 staff in 323 stores across Australia and New Zealand. Dick Smith’s move to Google Apps comes amid a Google push to sell business flavours of Hangouts and other originally consumer-focused apps.

Dick Smith began to assess new platforms at the end of last year and decided on Google Apps in January, Venables said.

“While we’ve had mail for head office and store managers, we wanted to reach out to our wider workforce in the stores and give them each an identity,” Venables said. “A large component of workforce is casual, so it made sense for us to think about how to engage with them.”

Venables and her team realised that much of the staff was already using Google in their personal lives, she said. “It made a lot of sense for us to move to a tool that was equally deployable for our casual workforce and good for collaboration across the business.”

Dick Smith employees will access Google Apps through their own personal devices, she said. The retailer plans to make extensive use of Google Groups, Talk, Drive and Docs, she said.

“We envisage we will be able to share best practices much more easily using Google Talk and Groups, and that collaboration will be faster.”

One benefit of Google Apps is that it allows Dick Smith to more easily send messages to staff and collect their feedback, Venables said.

For example, using forms in Google Drive and Docs, Dick Smith will be able to survey staff to find out how well a particular promotion is doing, she said.

“In the past we would have had to email all 323 stores and the store manager would have had to have been in the store, and it would require them to respond to us.”

After the responses came back, someone at the head office would have had to collate all of them and and put them into a spread sheet, she said.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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