Circuit City Tries New Extranet Twist With Online Training

Like most large retailers, the $12 billion electronics chain Circuit City often has trouble motivating its store associates to research its varied product lines, especially because such research must be done by associates on their own time, for free.

Circuit City on Monday (July 28) confirmed that it will go live in mid-August with an experiment that uses convenience—multiple suppliers able to brief from one virtual location—and multimedia entertainment to try and get that associate training to increase.

The program is essentially a Circuit City extranet that has "dozens of manufacturer" suppliers of Circuit City delivering demos and encouraging employees to create their own video demos and to ask questions, take polls and make suggestions, said Jeffrey Maguire, president of Pulse LLC, which is working with Circuit City on the trial.

Maguire said that the fact that most of the Circuit City associates are much younger than 35 forces a different communication strategy, with interactivity and multimedia as critical elements. That demographic, Maguire said, "want to be part of the conversation."

But why encourage associates to create their own videos and post them for the rest of the community? "People between 14 and 21 believe they will be famous," he said.

One Pulse representative said that the company has lined up other retailers to join the program, but wouldn't specify which ones. The lack of specifics also haunted Maguire, who said that he couldn't say who pays for the system or how much they pay, although it's certainly likely that manufacturers are handling the bulk—if not the totality—of the funding.