For the past two decades, StoreLink has been the link (hence the name) between wholesale team members and retailers, providing them with tools and information they need to successfully run their stores. The extranet site has had numerous iterations over the years and has been through three major updates on SharePoint. SharePoint is a website-based collaboration system that uses workflow applications, “list” databases, and other web parts and security features to empower business teams to work together.
The current version is housed on SharePoint 2013 on-premise and has provided retailers with support for several years. For the past year and a half, a team of dedicated SharePoint experts, consisting of Gale Woodland, programming supervisor; Elizabeth Barnett, communications specialist; Ben Simon, Sr. programmer; and Jenna Boyce, programmer have worked on the latest StoreLink update.
Many of the changes will be very apparent to users – including the modern and user-friendly homepage design – but some of the biggest changes may not be as apparent. The site is now hosted on SharePoint Online, instead of on-premise, making it much easier to manage behind the scenes. Gale shared, “SharePoint Online means the IT team no longer needs to maintain on-premise servers and will worry less about outdated technology. It also means improved software security and allows us to manage access more easily.”
One of the more obvious changes that will likely earn a cheer from every user is the search feature. Not only does it function well, but it has enhanced capabilities to help make the site as user-friendly as possible.
“We knew the search feature not working on the old site was a pain point for every user and made sure the new site had a working search engine and would go above and beyond expectations,” said Ben.
The search engine not only pulls results from text off the site, but it also searches within documents posted on the site and will search for applications as well. The homepage is another obvious change.
“We know our retailers are busy, so we designed the homepage to be as skimmable as possible. With the different sections, retailers will be able to quickly skim to see what stories have been updated. We encourage them to quickly scan each section when they log in.” Elizabeth said.
The homepage consists of four different sections: the alerts and recall section where the food and safety recalls and any other urgent items go, the key AFS initiatives section which houses updates on timely campaigns and events, the news and trends section where stories about retailers and other communication stories reside, and the six-box section which holds stories from specific departments.
The main menu navigation was also updated. Retailers provided their recommendations through surveys and focus groups and the SharePoint team used their feedback to build the new navigation.
“We wanted the navigation to match the six-box section as closely as possible, so if it falls under the Company navigation, like the Boards and Committee pages then any news about those will be under the Company box. We also made it a cascading menu instead of the outdated mega menu,” Jenna said.
Jenna also played a major role in creating the App Portal. The App Portal houses all the applications that drive a large percentage of the traffic to StoreLink. The App Portal has 14 categories and under each category a list of applications. For example, if retailers are looking for the Promo Events application, they would go to the App Portal and then click on Event Books & Promotions.
“We appreciate those who participated in the survey to help us design the App Portal and decide what categories we should use and where the applications should be housed,” said Jenna.
Users are encouraged not to bookmark the app portal and to access it from the main page of StoreLink.
“With the improved search engine, users can search the application and it will pull up for them. We discourage bookmarking because if a link is changed or updated the bookmark becomes outdated” Jenna added.
The department pages have all been refreshed and tailored to the unique needs of each department. News stories also have new features – including the ability to add videos and integrate quick surveys more easily. At the bottom of each story, users can choose to like it, save it for later or share a comment. Users are encouraged to use these new features to share thoughts and ask questions.
The new StoreLink site can currently be accessed from the old StoreLink site. The new site was soft-launched in April and will officially launch in July with continued access to the old site for a couple of weeks.