Case Study

How Google Is Rethinking Retail Training

Homepage example of the Google Retail Training website on the Intellum Platform

How Google Went from Zero to Global Retail Penetration in Less than Six Months on the Intellum Platform

The consumer electronics industry is evolving rapidly. Manufacturers and brand owners (like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Amazon) are constantly racing to release new products and establish ownership over a specific market segment. On the retail side, Amazon continues to chip away at companies like Best Buy (still the undisputed consumer electronics retail leader); but consumer behavior trends demonstrate that the right big box store model is still feasible - especially as retailers find the store-in-a-store concept, as Zacks Equity Research puts it, “more viable and profitable to reaching their target group.”

Store display of Google Home experiences
Google Home experiences as they will appear in Best Buy stores. (Best Buy Photo)

This model is particularly important to Google. Unlike other companies that sell hardware, Google does not have its own stores and retail presence on which to rely. As new product categories emerge, the competitive lines shift and blur even further. In June of 2017, Best Buy, for example, announced new Amazon Alexa and Google Home in-store experiences that will showcase the possibilities of voice technology and smart homes. The goal is to empower consumers to test drive these products so they can make more informed and personalized decisions about which products, and providers, are right for their homes.

Consumers are increasingly venturing into retail environments to compare consumer electronic products. According to PwC, “there is compelling evidence that people want the physical experience of trying things.” This means companies like Google and Amazon must rely heavily on the influence of their retail partners’ employees to sell product. In fact, in its Total Retail 2017 study, PwC found that 78% of respondents identified “sales associates with a deep knowledge of the product range” as the most important factor in the decision process.

Best Buy’s move to create a more comparative, immersive home automation experience for potential buyers is just one example of the kind of in-store competition consumer electronics brands are addressing. And Google has very quickly, and very quietly, developed a large global network of sales associates. They are employed by Google’s retail partners and are constantly educating on Google Home, Pixel, Daydream, Google Wifi, Chromecast and Chromebook to better assist consumers in their purchasing decisions.<

Scoping Improved Engagement

In August of 2016, the GRT team had only one product, no Learning Management System (LMS), and a long way to go towards global retail penetration. Learning, and the technology that supports learning, is complicated. When done correctly, the experience should seem familiar and effortless to the learner. But to deliver that experience, the technology and the content/admin sides of the solution must be firing on all cylinders. In August of 2016, GRT was experimenting with an internal solution, but was not yet satisfied with the learning experience. Google was, however, successfully leveraging Intellum’s learning solutions in other parts of the organization, and they made the decision to bring Intellum into GRT as well.

GRT believed firmly that a significant improvement in retail employee engagement would ultimately lead to an improvement in sales performance; but connecting with the employees of a wide variety of retailers, spread out over more than 30 countries, presented a serious challenge. What GRT found in Intellum was an experienced, resourceful learning partner who could help them ramp up very quickly.

What GRT found in Intellum was an experienced, resourceful learning partner who could help them ramp up very quickly.

Introducing the Intellum Platform into the program was the first step towards improving engagement. The Intellum Platform provides a modern, intuitive, consumer software-like user experience that mimics the way these target users learn on their own time. The solution is based on seventeen years of learning delivery experience and takes into account the continuous feedback of hundreds of clients and millions of users. The learning environment incorporates a number of positive gamification attributes, like microdegrees and the ability to earn badges and rewards. The solution is also translated into 16 different languages out of the box; and localization can be set by the admin for the user, or the admin can allow users to choose their own language settings. All of this provided an optimized learner journey that was ready for a global audience, which allowed GRT to focus next on content.

Retail Training by Google website displayed inside a laptop
Above: Google Retail Training Homepage in the Intellum Platform

Meaningful Connection & Mobile Devices

Working closely together, GRT and Intellum developed a simple, engaging learning experience that strategically focused the learner's attention on what was most important - the content. Now the team had to get this content in front of the individuals who influence the buying decision.

To do so, GRT leveraged Google’s existing team of field trainers, who were already communicating with on-the-floor employees inside retailer locations. Once the retail ambassadors were trained on the platform, they entered their assigned retail locations and were able to clearly and confidently communicate the benefits of engaging with Google retail training opportunities.

GRT identified retailers across the globe and focussed on signing up as many retail employees as possible. The team discovered that retail employees wanted to learn more about Google products and were more than willing to dedicate three to five minutes, often of their own time, to improve their knowledge of a specific product or offering. The consensus was that the Google Retail Training initiative was helping these retail employees become better sales associates. As sign-ups continued to increase steadily, GRT realized that tracking and measuring completions was an even more telling metric, as completions provide greater insight into engagement and the quality of the connection with the individual retail employee.

The consensus was that the Google Retail Training initiative was helping these retail employees become better sales associates.

By December of 2016, the initial GRT launch was proving extremely successful; but the team had its sights set on the development of a GRT-specific mobile app, which they believed would reach an entirely new subset of third-party retail employees. The unique characteristics of a mobile app, like push notifications, would go a long way toward pulling the target audience back into the learning environment at the most opportune times. GRT also believed that a native mobile app would significantly increase the total number of completions.

Intellum already offered a fully responsive web app for the Intellum Platform, allowing learners to access the mobile version of the learning environment from a browser on their phone or tablet. While this level of mobile access certainly played a role in GRT’s ability to sign up retail employees, they recognized that a native mobile app would allow them to address the engagement hurdles that every external training program faces, like low connectivity and platform awareness.

In Q4 of 2016, Intellum began work on a native mobile learning app; and in May of 2017, Intellum, in conjunction with GRT, launched Google Retail Training, a fully-functional mobile learning application.

Retail Training by Google app displayed inside Android phones
Above: Google Retail Traning native Android app.

GRT saw an immediate impact with the introduction of the Google Retail Training app:

  • Improved Access: Low connectivity scenarios and the sheer lack of free time can keep on-the-floor employees from engaging consistently; but native mobile app technology improves access, especially in inconsistent connectivity scenarios like big box locations
  • Better Mobile Experience: Unlike mobile-enabled content delivered through the web app, the native mobile app content and UX is built “mobile first,” significantly improving the entire experience of interacting with the Google Retail Training brand
  • Multi-platform Standardization: Because the UX & UI are standardized across both the iOS and Android platforms, the team can ensure a consistent experience with Google Retail Training content for every user, regardless of device or operating system
  • Localization: Users can select both their country and language at sign up, allowing for a more localized experience the first time they access the app
  • Direct Connections Through Notifications: Push notifications allow GRT to engage with users in new and compelling ways: Learning boosts and assessments can now be delivered via notifications, allowing GRT to develop a cadence for automatically checking in with associates, reminding and encouraging them to move on to the next activity, and assessing and reinforcing specific learning initiatives

As of June 2017, GRT is recognizing a Daily Active Users (DAU) to Monthly Active Users (MAU) Ratio of almost 10% on mobile, quite a feat for a newly introduced tool. Venture Capital firm Sequoia defines standard DAU/MAU for established consumer apps as 10%–20%.

At the end of the day, Google has leveraged its relationship with Intellum to establish a competitive advantage. When a retail ambassador walks into a store and attempts to engage an on-the-floor employee with a training initiative, the reality is that every other brand in that store is doing the same thing. Busy retail employees are unlikely to remember how to access every product learning opportunity, nor are they highly motivated to do so. The ability to show them an app that can be downloaded simply by searching for “Retail Training,” however, has helped GRT overcome these challenges and has significantly impacted the team’s ability to sign up and engage retail employees.

What's Next?

It can be tempting to try to fill the learning environment with as much content as possible before a launch. The fear is that unless there is a significant number of activities within the solution at go-live, learners will not engage. The mistake that many companies make when launching an external facing initiative is to fill the environment with “low quality” content like presentations, product sheets, and amateurish voice-over videos to beef up the volume and impress the learner with the scope of the learning environment. Seventeen years of learning delivery experience has taught us that engagement and content volume do not go hand-in-hand. Intellum and GRT took a different approach to the retail training initiative. By focusing on several core product or concept “experiences”, the team developed a small number of stellar, engaging and interactive learning activities for the launch. This allowed GRT to control what the retail employees were consuming and ensure that all the critical training initiatives were completed.

While there is no correlation between volume of content and engagement, there is a direct correlation between consistently adding content and improving learner engagement. As clients add new learning assets, engagement will hockey stick and remain high. The GRT team is also experimenting with Intellum’s Tribe Social, a secure, private activity stream that is tied into the Intellum Platform and allows learners to share ideas, files, links, photos and video without the distractions associated with other enterprise collaboration tools. A number of Intellum clients successfully use Tribe to further boost engagement and reinforce learning initiatives with extended and external audiences.

We are now looking deeply into how these tools work together to motivate and engage people, meshing brand and product excitement with an ultra-modern learning experience. Ultimately, GRT and Intellum are working closely together to develop the kind of learning environment people return to because they want to, not because they have to.

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