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Circuit City, Microsoft Detail Tablet Selling Tool

Richmond, Va. — Microsoft and Circuit City have provided additional details on the tablet PCs used by sales associates in the chain’s new format The City stores.

The portable PCs, first described in TWICE last January, run a custom Windows-based application to help staffers offer “a more knowledgeable, consistent experience that builds consumer confidence and loyalty,” the partners said.

Microsoft technologies behind the mobile devices include Windows XP Professional Tablet Edition, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SQL Server Express, Microsoft Visual Studio and the Microsoft .NET Framework.

Dubbed the “enhanced digital guide experience” or EDGE, the tablet PCs can speed the sales process by providing associates with immediate access to product recommendations, demos, usage questions, competitive pricing and inventory status for thousands of items across hundreds of categories. EDGE is helping transform the retailer’s customer-service model in The City by enabling any available associate to sell or discuss any product with any guest using a “boundless selling approach” to consumer electronics, the companies said.

“With EDGE, sales associates can engage the guest, ask questions and input feedback for product recommendations that match the guest’s preferences and budget,” said Circuit City new concepts VP Brian Leach. “Because EDGE puts a wealth of information at our associates’ fingertips, we can hire from a broader talent pool and prepare them for the sales floor more quickly.”

“With consumer electronics products being upgraded as often as every 90 days, retailers are pressured to stay on top of all the latest trends while at the same time ensuring competitive pricing, clean stores and well-stocked shelves,” noted David Gruehn, Microsoft’s U.S. retail industry director. “By using a tablet PC running a Windows-based application such as EDGE to elevate sales associates’ knowledge and effectiveness, Circuit City is differentiating itself from other retailers and tackling a key issue that all retailers face: how to increase customer loyalty and sales with a frequently evolving workforce.”

“What started as a selling tool turned into something that has removed boundaries from our service model and changed the way that we run our business,” Leach added.

Circuit City teamed with Microsoft and its partners to design EDGE to extract product information, inventory data, in-store promotions, 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 a user-friendly interface.

“Working with Microsoft was critical to getting us moving with this concept,” said Dave Romero, Circuit City’s new concepts senior manager. “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.”

After two years of trials in multiple markets, Circuit City has begun to employ the tablet PC in all of its The City stores. Among the results:

  • Sales associates are showing greater confidence, credibility and versatility. Previously, clerks sometimes shrank from guest encounters because they were not always confident of their product knowledge given Circuit City’s vast product line, the retailer said;
  • Customers are getting a more consistent in-store experience, which helps to improve the overall perception that The City is a unique and differentiated place to shop for consumer electronics;
  • The City is expanding its hiring pool by seeking friendly employees with strong team-building and communication skills rather than searching exclusively for highly technical associates.