Leveraging Technology to Improve Business

Duncan Taylor, director of product management, customer transaction solutions, Epicor Software, Dublin, Calif., dtaylor@epicor.com.

Wading through retail technological innovations and deciding what options and applications should be top priority can be daunting at best. But the opportunities clearly outweigh the challenges, said Epicor Solutions’ Douglas Taylor in an interview with Chain Store Age.

What are the biggest operational challenges facing retailers today?

Today’s operational challenges are equally social, economic and technological. On the social side, technology innovation and accessibility to information have put consumers in the driver’s seat, allowing them to dictate how they want to interact with retailers and giving them the freedom to share their experiences widely online. From an economic standpoint, retailers continue to feel the squeeze — sales volume remains flat or is down, pricing pressures are tremendous, and supply chain costs are skyrocketing. With respect to technology, retailers have to step up their games to meet high consumer expectations, but some are challenged with legacy, disconnected systems and/or tight budgets — which prevent them from getting there as fast as they want and need to.

What about opportunities?

Key opportunities are to improve or change the way retailers interact and service consumers, leveraging technology and information. Providing rich customer engagement means leveraging mobility and CRM to offer a more personalized shopping experience. Tablet devices support a new style of selling, in which sales associates become “personal shoppers,” providing an engaging purchasing experience.

Also, channel unification and system integration create operational efficiencies and reduce complexity and redundancy of data, processes and business rules, allowing consumers to make purchases through a variety of channels while enjoying a rewarding and uniform brand experience.

What are some general trends you are seeing in POS software and solutions?

Today’s retail POS systems are the workhorse of the retail store, and trends are shifting POS functions to mobile and consumer devices, to additional channels and toward a more enterprise POS deployment. Aside from this, what started with the CRM database and ordering facilities is now expanding to cash and employee management, with the goal of treating “400 stores as one giant store.” These trends allow retailers to mobilize their retail enterprises, enabling store personnel to have access to information and be more available to engage with customers on the sales floor while never having to go to a cashwrap station.

There is also the explosive trend of electronic wallet payments, which are being driven by the consumer who wants to make everything as quick and easy as possible, and I’m all for it.

Do both small and large chains experience the same challenges and opportunities in terms of retail systems?

Yes, the customer experience has taken on new importance as it has become the “new marketing.” Due to the growth in use of social media channels from anywhere, it has become very easy for customers to share — with thousands of potential customers — their good or bad experiences with retail brands, and the size of the retailer doesn’t matter. 

How do your solutions most impact the way a retailer does business?

Epicor has been at the forefront of expanding its POS and customer engagement capabilities to support mobility and multichannel. For examples, earlier this year we introduced the Epicor Retail Clienteling application, designed for tablet devices and optimized for the Apple iPad. The app delivers critical customer insight from the retailer’s CRM database directly into the hands of sales associates engaging with customers on the floor.

The Epicor Retail Mobile Store solution, optimized for Apple iPad/iPod, is now being deployed by a number of retail clients who want to manage all aspects of a sales transaction from any location and allow customers to shop easily on their own time and terms. And for operations, the Epicor Retail WebIM and Business Intelligence solutions update merchandising in real time and use KPI data and dashboards with alerts and notifications.