Interview • 03.06.2019

Internal communication via app at Modehaus Ramelow

Mobile chat works as a bulletin board

What's new at Modehaus Ramelow? The fashion retailer’s employees can check PIA - and share information to their heart’s content. PIA is an app for "private information exchange".

More and more internal communication platforms separate private from office chats. Clara Becker, Head of Marketing & Digital Operations at Gustav Ramelow KG, reveals the app’s added benefits for all employees.

Clara Becker ist Head of Marketing & Digital Operations bei der Gustav Ramelow...
Clara Becker
Source: Modehaus Ramelow

Ms. Becker, how does the employee app work?

Clara Becker: Every Ramelow employee with a personnel number automatically gets a platform profile. The employee registers, downloads the app and communicates using the platform: Associates can upload videos, like messages and comment. Everyone can communicate with everyone. All departments talk to each other via chat groups. Examples include the cross-departmental "Ladies Group" or the "Deco Group".

Do you manage the content?

We have a core team that handles content management and makes sure that shared content is really relevant and not just arbitrary. We initially had an editorial calendar to get things started and encouraged employees to share content. By now, everyone shares without being asked.

It probably wasn’t all that difficult to teach employees how the app works.

That’s true but we often had to explain why we do this and that we wanted to give our associates a professional job-related communication channel that is separate from their private mode of communication.

How did staff members respond?

We mostly had a positive response. Our employees want to join the conversation. If the boss shares a video, the associates in accounting would also like to see it at some point. People talk about it in the cafeteria and this prompts dynamic changes.

Initially, there were a few skeptics, but at this point, 95 percent of Ramelow employees use PIA on their smartphone.

Employees use their own smartphones to access PIA?

That’s right. We follow a "bring your own device" strategy. Employees who don’t want to use their own device can use our in-store tablets.

Things simply go faster with the smartphone versus the tablet, which associates would first have to get during a customer consultation. Customer expectations are changing rapidly. Customers want fast information. 

Screenshot App
Screenshot of the app PIA with internal information about a marketing campaign for Valentine's Day.
Source: Ramelow

What types of information is being shared on your channels?

We upload short videos to our "Online Learning Channel" to share industry information such as fashion collection info, product information or sustainability-related issues.

Only senior management can share content via our "Bulletin Board" (German: Schwarzes Brett). This might pertain to staff changes or important cash register instructions that require quick notifications every associate must see without having to scroll past information about an upcoming Christmas party for example.

Information has rarely traveled faster and reached more people. 

Everyone in this company is encouraged to get information via this platform. Bulletin boards on office walls are gradually taken down.

Verküferinnen mit Smartphone
Who needs a bulletin board? It's much faster via chat.
Source: Modehaus Ramelow

What else can PIA do?

There is a background dashboard that displays different analyses of specific activities, measures performance and allows us to conduct surveys. We can also integrate other solutions like the SEAK mobile workforce management solution for example. Using one app instead of many is a wonderful thing!

How long did the implementation take?

The employee onboarding implementation took eight weeks. It took a few months to fully establish PIA and for it to become adopted by the employees.

What is your take on the cost-benefit ratio?

The cost-benefit ratio is positive. This is a licensing business model - one license per employee.

How was the upper level management implementation?

The Beekeeper platform hosted a workshop to introduce us to the approach and strategy. We assigned an in-store project manager who oversaw all aspects of this project for some time. We have at least one and sometimes two digital ambassadors at each location who support employees if they forget their password for example. You need to have a responsible leader who keeps the project moving forward.

Would you generally recommend this approach for digitization projects of brick-and-mortar stores?

I do. In addition to management, I believe that you also need business drivers who develop and implement new projects. It’s important to have people with many interfaces, who are in the thick of it and right out there on the floor and team up with employees to move the issue forward.

What has been your landmark moment in this project?

I'm always excited when I hear colleagues who were initially very skeptical ask, “Have you seen the latest post?" Using PIA has become a matter of course for our employees. It’s the first channel they turn to if they want to share information. 

Interview: Natascha Mörs; iXtenso - Magazine for Retailers

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