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Gus roll-out highlights GPRS potential

Great Universal Stores' home shopping division is planning to use GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) technology throughout its...

Great Universal Stores' home shopping division is planning to use GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) technology throughout its 450-strong field-based sales team, after an initial implementation of GPRS-enabled mobile devices led to a cost saving of £200,000 .

The move could boost the uptake of GPRS, a wireless communication technology which gives mobile devices always-on, high-speed access to the Internet.

GPRS products were made available to businesses earlier this year but have not aroused much interest to date.

Richard Clifford, managing analyst at research firm Datamonitor, said, "GPRS use is not widespread at all but if Great Universal can prove the value of using it, it could be a catalyst for the market.

"The whole reason for using GPRS is for time-sensitive and location-sensitive situations, so if a company has a field sales team with a large customer base it is perfect."

Great Universal Stores Home Shopping, the catalogue and online retail company which includes brands such as Argos Additions, Kays and Universal, will use GPRS to increase the efficiency of its catalogue sales process.

The technology will mean that new customers receive catalogues within 24 hours of signing up, rather than the week it used to take to process their registration.

Sales representatives will, for example, be able to carry out immediate credit rating checks on customers and potential customers by accessing information from Experian, the company's credit referencing arm.

Great Universal initially rolled out the Windows CE-based Casio handheld devices, running mobile management software from supplier XcelleNet, late last year to replace a laboriouspaper-based system.

The devices have allowed the sales team to automate much of the catalogue sales process, reducing administration costs by £200,000 and eliminating an estimated 98,000 tonnes of paperwork, while also increasing productivity.

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