GERS Retail Systems and its users gathered at the Westin Hotel here late last month to discuss the company’s new products aimed at saving retailers everything from time and money to inventory space.
About 200 people attended the annual conference, coined Retail World 2002, with 170 of those being current customers of GERS systems and 30 to 40 being vendor partners.
Gaining most of the attendees’ attention was, according to GERS executive VP/marketing Don VanderBeke, the new Customer 1 system, which is best described by its promotional slogan, “Real-time retailing anywhere, anytime, any place, on any device.” The service, which is tailored to each subscribing retailer’s needs, became available nationally in mid-August, though only one store — San Diego-based home furnishings retailer Z Gallerie — had it fully installed and implemented at the time of the conference.
VanderBeke said a couple of other companies were installing Customer 1 in the next year, including Seattle-based mobile audio dealer Car Toys, which should have it up and running by the first quarter of 2003.
“Customer 1 is going to open us up to tier-one retailers,” VanderBeke said, meaning retailers with $1 billion or more in sales. “It is the most widely questioned product we have today. Retailers are asking, ‘When can I have it? How much is it going to cost me? How can I alter the functionality?’ All legitimate questions for somebody who’s saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got to have that.’ “
So, what is Customer 1 exactly? It is a stand-alone, front-end, point-of-service retail management solution that enables real-time sales and order management transactions. It connects customers, orders and inventory via multiple devices and interfaces (including traditional cash registers, kiosks, call centers, browsers and PDAs) over multiple communication channels (including LAN, WAN and the Internet). Here are some of the benefits, according to GERS:
- Multiple sales channels are integrated — such as traditional cash registers, Internet, customer kiosks, call centers, PDAs, cellphones — to deliver a consistent, seamless customer experience. Customers can shop when they want and how they want.
- Real-time transaction processing and updating makes sales, returns inventory transactions and availability, delivery schedules, customer account transactions, etc., accessible in real time, enabling retailers to make more accurate, timely decisions.
- Improved operational efficiencies reduce expenses.
- Most importantly, improved customer service leads to greater customer loyalty.
All in all, the program is supposed to make a retailer’s decision process faster and easier. “You plan, you execute, you analyze and you adjust,” said GERS president/CEO Jim Henderson, summarizing the basic steps for all retailers. “Customer 1 helps speed up this cycle.”
The following are other new or updated products that were highlighted at Retail World:
- FurnishNet, a wholly owned subsidiary of GERS, provides “any-to-any connectivity.” It allows retailers to connect with manufacturers via the Internet using any system or technology platform. As of now, more than 200 vendors and about 40 retailers belong to the FurnishNet system. According to the company, this program saves retailers time by allowing electronic transmission of purchase orders, acknowledgements, advance shipping notices and invoices. In short, FurnishNet makes fax machines a thing of the past.
- PLANalyst Version 8.7 helps retailers forecast, create, analyze and manage merchandise plans and assortments; links this information to selling space; and incorporates other business-critical data in order to increase margins, decrease costs and foster good customer relations. This newest version has been updated with Smart Forecaster, which helps improve the accuracy of the planning process by analyzing a company’s historical information.
PLANalyst also contains an Assortment Planner, which realizes the optimal merchandise mix and profitability by strategically micro-assorting inventory proportions across stores. It creates customer-centric assortments that take into account store type, floor space, and “seasonality” to deliver the right mix of products and value for a retailer’s targeted customers.
- RetailAnalyst is a suite of “business intelligence” applications that provide retailers with immediate access to the information they need to make informed business decisions. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used to assess performance from the perspectives of revenue and profitability. Analyzing KPIs in terms of product sales, store performance, and seasonal trends provides the retailer with the insight to avoid unnecessary discounting, minimize out-of-stocks, maximize floor space, and identify and exploit buying pattern successful trends. According to GERS, this program increased decision-making time by decreasing time spent computing sales numbers, and maximizes sales opportunities while minimizing stock liabilities.