Customer Story

HK01: Connecting teams and data insights on Google Cloud to build a top lifestyle platform

With Google Workspace, HK01 fosters creativity across teams to deliver new lifestyle services for Hong Kong people while Google Data Studio helps team leaders adjust quickly to trends for business growth.

Google Cloud results

750+ staff gain insights easily with Google Data Studio

• Improves productivity for employees working from home during COVID-19 pandemic
• Empowers staff with information by enabling the creation of an internal knowledge base of user manuals in just 10 minutes
• Makes raw data usable, enabling team leaders to quickly make informed decisions when opportunities or challenges arise

“Authentication used to be a problem on the legacy email system. Previously, we had to set up a VPN server to facilitate employees working from home. Everything is now on the cloud so employees can easily work remotely using Google Workspace.” —Angus Tse, Director of Engineering, HK01

According to Reuters Institute Digital News Report, 84% of the Hong Kong population turn to online sources, including social media, for news. Recognizing the change in how people consume media, HK01 transformed itself from a traditional media company to a successful internet lifestyle platform. Instead of a paid subscription model, HK01 attracts loyal readers to its platform with real-time news and generates revenue from its digital services such as ecommerce and event ticketing.

Since ramping up its online and offline promotions to reach a wider audience, the company has experienced exponential growth. In fact, in the second quarter of 2019, HK01 had twice the number of monthly active users than its yearly active users in 2018.

As the company moved into expansion mode, HK01 increased its headcount from 100—mainly editorial staff—in 2017 to 750 in 2018 to deliver new services to customers across multiple dimensions. HK01 needed a collaboration tool to keep its now much bigger workforce productive from any location, whether it’s a salesperson presenting to a new client at their office or a beat reporter following up with the editor on a news story.

In 2018, HK01 replaced its previous email client with Gmail and improved collaboration with Google Workspace apps such as Docs, Sites, and Google Chat.

“When we looked at alternatives for our desktop productivity tools in 2017, Google Workspace was more mature than its competitors by far and continues to lead the pack,” says Angus Tse, Director of Engineering at HK01. “A key selling point for us is how well Google Workspace supports open standards so we can easily integrate external SaaS and cloud applications, without developing from scratch.”

Communicating change for a smooth migration to Google Workspace

"After selecting Google Workspace, we communicated the migration road map to employees to help them mentally prepare for change,” says Angus, adding that most employees were already familiar with Gmail outside of work, so that transition was relatively seamless. But there was less understanding around Sheets and Docs; some staff weren’t sure how these solutions were better than the software they were used to. “We knew that all we had to do was show them the value of real-time collaboration and sharing functions on Google Workspace,” shares Angus. “Once they saw how useful it is to be able to work on the same documents at the same time, and share one true version across the team, they were totally on board.”

The company smoothly migrated 150 user mailboxes from its legacy email system to Gmail using the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP). At the same time, it ran training sessions to make sure that all employees, regardless of their familiarity with Google Workspace, were able to make the most of their new productivity solution.

“At HK01, our employees stay connected with colleagues and clients from anywhere, especially since many of them began working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They can schedule and hold meetings easily with Calendar and Google Meet,” says Angus. “Employees can work side by side on sales presentations and spreadsheets using Slides and Sheets, and create data analytics visualizations with Google Data Studio.”

“Authentication used to be a problem on the legacy email system,” Angus adds. “We used to have to set up a VPN so employees could access the company server and work from home. Everything is now on the cloud so employees can easily work remotely using Google Workspace.”

Improving location insights for food takeaway and pet care

HK01 uses Google Maps Platform to help customers search for restaurants within its food takeaway app, Eatojoy. According to a Nielsen research study, 46% of consumers in Hong Kong say they will order food takeaway more often as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Developers use the Places API to pinpoint the location of more than 1,800 restaurants that offer takeaway through the app.

Customers need to allow the app to use their phone’s location in order to find restaurants nearby. The Geocoding API converts the latitude and longitude coordinates to display the user’s current location with accuracy in the app. Eatojoy provides reliable directions to the restaurant with the help of the Distance Matrix API so the customer can pick up their food quickly and return to their home to enjoy their meal.

Apart from incorporating Google Maps Platform in the Eatojoy app, HK01 also uses Maps data to customers on its platform.

“Our news team includes the Maps Embed API in relevant stories so readers can visualize a hiking route or find the exact location of a weekend market,” says Angus. “We also help pet owners get medical attention for their sick or injured animals by locating nearby vets on Google Maps in our PetCare directory.”

Improving workflow efficiency with cross-team collaboration on Google Workspace

The HK01 advertising team frequently uses Slides and Docs to develop sales decks for meetings with prospective clients such as brands who want to promote their products to HK01 fans through joint marketing campaigns. The files are shared securely with clients on Drive and protected by setting access permission so they can viewed, edited, or printed.

“It used to be a challenge to collaborate with external parties such as advertising agencies on pitch documents and presentations. By using Slides, we can scale up for urgent presentations very easily,” says Angus. “Instead of waiting for each other to review and approve content, we can save time by editing documents and presentations in real time to meet tight deadlines.”

“Meet is an excellent tool to set up and join meetings with teammates, especially for those working from home, or in another location,” says Angus. “Our engineering team uses Meet for daily scrum meetings to discuss progress on new features and improvements. We use Jamboard as a whiteboard through Meet to sketch application system designs and communicate user interface ideas.”

Google Sites helps to foster a culture of open communication

“Data Studio is very easy to use compared to our previous solution where we had to do our own coding. We can drag and drop charts and components to create interactive dashboards with minimal effort.” —Angus Tse, Director of Engineering, HK01

The HK01 engineering team uses Sites to share internal user manuals and guidelines, instead of email blasts to the organization to communicate changes. Team members can search the internal site to find answers on standard operating procedures, without having to wait for a response from the product team.

“With the help of built-in templates on Sites, we created our intranet in minutes. We populated the internal knowledge base by simply dragging and dropping files from Google Drive,” says Angus. “We can easily build team sites and configure user and group access on Google Sites, without programming or buying an additional server.”

“Previously, we had a hard time prioritizing and keeping track of email requests. In contrast, Google Workspace integrates seamlessly with engineering tools such as Jira helpdesk software, as well as our Slack messaging system,” says Angus. “When an internal employee sends a service request through Forms, the tech lead is automatically alerted with a Slack notification to resolve the ticket on Jira.”

Uncovering data insights on Google Data Studio to aid decision-making

“More than 41,000 runners downloaded our HK01 app within a week to find their marathon photos on the platform. The service, powered by Cloud Vision AI, increased the stickiness of our platform and encouraged these runners to further explore our content.” —Angus Tse, Director of Engineering, HK01

The data team at HK01 uses Data Studio to visualize datasets, user engagement statistics, and insight discovery across business units including editorial, advertising, ecommerce, event management, ticketing service, membership, operations, and more. Different teams are interested in different business metrics. For example, the Eatojoy food takeaway app team looks at transaction trends, by restaurant, by district, coupon usage, to improve promotions. The ecommerce team can help merchants optimize online revenue by using log records to better understand customers’ browsing behavior and shopping habits.

Google Data Studio can blend multiple data sources, such as Google Ads, BigQuery, YouTube Analytics, and common SQL databases into a single report. Data Studio offers a diverse set of chart types from basic bar charts to advanced scatter charts to bring data to life. “Data Studio is very easy to use compared to our previous solution where we had to do our own coding,” says Angus. “We can drag and drop charts and components to create interactive dashboards with minimal effort.”

“Furthermore, Google Connectors connect Google Workspace apps such as Sheets directly into Data Studio so we don’t need to set up a data pipeline,” says Angus. “Compared to our previous solution, setting up file sharing and access rights is as simple and intuitive as other Google Workspace files.”

The integration between Data Studio and Sheets is a useful feature to help business teams use data for better decision-making. Business teams don’t need to rely on data scientists to “massage” data, or clean it up to make it useful for them. Instead, team members can perform simple data wrangling using built-in spreadsheet formulas or write JavaScript codes for complex calculations.

Building brand loyalty with artificial intelligence

The Hong Kong Marathon attracts more than 70,000 runners each year, many of whom enjoy sharing photos from the race with their family and friends on social media. In 2017, HK01 launched a service for runners to search their own photos on the HK01 platform by using Cloud Vision to recognize the runner’s unique bib number. This race photo service attracted 1.07 million views in the first week of launch and won HK01 the 2017 WAN-IFRA Asian Digital Media Awards in the “Best Fashion, Sports, Entertainment Mobile Service” category.

Thanks to its success, HK01 today offers this photo service for all marathons. How does it work? First, HK01 photographers take photos of the runners at the event and upload the images on Google Cloud for processing. Then Cloud Vision AI detects and identifies text in the images and filters out the bib numbers.

“Developing our own OCR solution would have been costly and time-consuming. Cloud Vision AI helped us reduce development efforts and deliver the service in days,” says Angus. “More than 41,000 runners downloaded our HK01 app within a week to find their marathon photos on the platform. The service, powered by Cloud Vision AI, increased the stickiness of our platform and encouraged these runners to further explore our content.”

“Moving forward, we’re exploring opportunities to enhance our data infrastructure and advertising business with the help of Google Cloud,” says Angus. “By using big data and machine learning on Google Cloud, we hope to learn more about what our users want and improve their user experience with new features and services.”

"We have big plans for the future, whether it's making our site the most visited lifestyle platform in Hong Kong, or using data to innovate our services,” Angus adds. “Working with Google Cloud, we know that we have the right partner to make our ambitions a reality.”

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.