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    NACStech Continues to Educate

    The second day of the conference offered sessions for chains big and small ¿ with topics ranging from PCI and POS to loyalty and industry standards.

    NEW ORLEANS – Retailers and suppliers gathered here during the second day of NACStech to attend educational workshops and hit the trade show floor to see the latest in c-store technology – including new products, upgraded versions of existing offerings, and even a few first-time vendors to the show.

    But before the show floor opened in the afternoon, attendees chose from the five tracks of educational workshops – including Business Essentials, Marketing, Operations, Small Operator and Standards. The following is a round-up from each track:
    Metaphorically Speaking, Movies Can Change Your Business

    Using lessons showed on the big screen can help retailers communicate more effectively to stakeholders and customers.

    NEW ORLEANS – The value of movies is not just in entertainment. In fact, many of them can help change how retailers do business, providing great metaphors that help retailers tell their own stories to stakeholders and customers — and ultimately create buy-in for companywide goals.

    But don't take our word for it...

    "The ability to tell a story, to create a narrative, essentially is the ability to communicate a vision in a clear and compelling fashion. For a business to be exceptional it is critically important to be able to fashion a narrative that has resonance for employees, customers, business partners and any other links in your supply chain," said Kevin Coupe in the March issue of NACS Magazine about his book, "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies."

    Coupe shared insights from his book, co-written with Michael Sansolo, at the Early Riser General Session Wednesday morning at NACStech. Using examples from movies such as Babe, Hoosiers, A League of Their Own and Jaws, he showed how the big screen can translate into how retailers can become better leaders, anticipate change, innovate, compete with other retail channels and build brand equity.

    Babe, the story of a lovable pig that took on the task of becoming a sheep-herding dog, stole the hearts of audiences with its message of overcoming adversity. In business, the story also teaches us about expecting the unexpected and communicating with others constructively to produce maximum results -- i.c., not "barking" at employees what you want them to do, but taking the time to explain the tasks clearly and, well, nicely.

    Hoosiers, the Cinderella story of a small town Indiana high school basketball team, shows us that in business, "words matter." It's the end of the game, the best player fouls out, and in comes the shortest "benchwarmer" who needs to make two foul shots. He's nervous, the crowd is anxious, and the coach advises the team of what needs to happen when he makes the shots -- not if. By choosing his words carefully, the coach ultimately instills confidence in his team to deliver results and get the job done.

    When the going gets touch, it's easy to thrown in the towel and quit. But, as Tom Hanks' character advices Geena Davis' character in A League of Their Own, "If it wasn't hard, then everyone would be doing it!" The lesson here: It's the hard that makes it worth doing.

    Take, for example, Amazon.com. In Seattle, the online retailer is testing Amazon Fresh. Customers who order their groceries online by 11:00 pm will have their orders delivered the next morning to their doorstep by 6:00 am. Pretty convenient. And so far, it's working -- and it's hard to do. The system is far from perfect, but if Amazon can stick it out and make it work, you'll know it when Amazon Fresh expands into other markets.

    And then there is Jaws. Although the shark itself can metaphorically take on a host of meanings throughout any business, from a Xerox machine to a tough as nails CEO, the real lesson is facing the reality of a situation. Everybody living on Amity Island is in denial that something in the water is killing its residents. But then three men trying to find the killer finally see the shark. It's undeniably huge, and it has a lot of teeth. Then comes a great one-liner, but never something you want to be caught saying in the boardroom: "I think we're going to need a bigger boat." The lesson is to always analyze the reality of the situation, particularly when the competition is chomping at your door.

    For more on Kevin Coupe, check out MorningNewsBeat.com, a daily online information service that offers "news in context and analysis with attitude."

    Beyond POS
    NACStech session provides look at three retailers using POS to do more than just ring up sales.

    NEW ORLEANS – Three retailers discussed how a cross-functional POS system can enhance product marketing, facilitate business intelligence, build add-on sales, and reduce shrink during the NACStech session entitled, "Checking Out POS Capabilities," held here on Wednesday.

    Donna Perkins, POS/Pricebook manager for E-Z Stop Food Marts, a 22 unit c-store chain based in eastern Tennessee, proved that even a small retailer can install and manage its own Wide Area Network (WAN) and create a system that reduces theft and allows the chain to be competitive on fuel without a loyalty discount program. One key was integrating video surveillance with the POS system.

    "The use of text inserters on our Passports linked to our DVRs allows managers, supervisors and home office to search video based on key words, like beer, cigarettes, refunds, etc.," said Perkins. With Passport, E-Z Stop can also be competitive with other companies that have full loyalty programs that provide discounts on fuel. "We are able to discount our branded Exxon cards and Speedpass 3 cents per gallon and we can discount any car wash purchase at the pump by 10 cents per gallon," she noted.
    Rutter's Farm Stores, the 54-store chain based in York, Penn., uses its Radiant POS system with touch screen ordering to not only speed throughput at its stores' deli prep area but to also build larger tickets with automated upselling. Bob Sleeper, software application support manager for CHR Corp./Rutter's, vividly described how the ordering kiosks up-sells customers as they create their own sandwiches. "A human may forget to do an upsell; the computer never forgets," said Sleeper. Up-sells include extra bacon, extra cheese, fries, dessert or "make it a combo."

    The keys to the success for the program, according to Sleeper, are:
    • keeping the product offering consistent from store to store; and,
    • forcing all orders through the kiosks, even if the customer has to be assisted by an employee.

    "We had an overnight 30 percent increase in sales after installing kiosks," said Sleeper.

    Dale Williams, director-quality assurance, for Flash Foods, the c-store chain with 173 stores in Georgia and northeast Florida, explained the benefits of Flash Foods' Rewards in a Flash program. "We wanted to build customer loyalty and brand awareness," said Williams. The solution was to implement Pinnacle's Loyalink solution. "Now, we have 45,000 hits per day on our loyalty server," she said. Among other benefits:
    • The program distinguished Flash Foods from its competitors;
    • Sales increased in all product categories;
    • Loyalty card customers spend $1 to $1.50 more than nonloyalty customers in the store.

    In an effort to obtain real time store level POS data, Flash Foods implemented Pinnacle's Enterprise Management solution. In addition to providing the tools to do market basket analysis, it also helped reduce theft at the store level. She showed a sample dashboard that illustrated the ease in which a store manager could identify employees with shrinkage issues.

    Like E-Z Stop, Flash also integrated digital surveillance with its POS to reduce employee theft.

    The State of Standards
    PCATS committees share the present and future of standards work – from lottery and loyalty to the point-of-sale.

    NEW ORLEANS -- On the second day of educational workshops during this year's NACStech, the Standards track continued educating attendees on the work being done with PCATS (The Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards). Yesterday PCATS announced it will become integrated as independent standards organization that is part of NACS.

    In the session, "Looking Into the Technology Crystal Ball: What is PCATS Doing Next?" various committee leaders reported on their goals for 2010, as well as the current status of each working group. Donna Perkins, POS and pricebook for E-Z Stop Food Marts Inc. explained the lottery working group under the EB2B committee is currently building a matrix of lottery data by state, including what files are available, the delivery format of the files, and what retailers need to do to get them.
    The goal is to have "one place for lottery data so back office, lottery providers and retailers can go to one place for the information," said Perkins. The group is also looking to test the lottery XML invoice standard, and although they have had two successful pilots, they are still seeking retailers to implement.

    For 2010, the new goal is to improve instant tickets, which are a "huge risk to us as retailers," said Perkins. "We need to involve the lottery boards and providers to find a solution. If we as retailers don't push for it, it's not going to happen."

    Additionally, the Loyalty Standards Committee completed its standard and is currently in implementation mode, and the POS/Back Office Committee released minor enhancements to Version 3.4.3 and is working to create Version 4, which will improve interoperability.

    Practical PCI Advice for Small Operators
    NACStech connects retailers with major oil company representatives.

    NEW ORLEANS -- PCI compliance can be overwhelming for small operators, and even more complex for branded stores that don't know whether they or their brands are responsible for attaining compliance. In a session yesterday entitled, "Table Talk: Branded Stores and PCI compliance," NACStech connected retailers with representatives from the major oil companies so they could get answers to all their pressing PCI questions.
    To determine who is responsible for compliance when "a gray area" emerges, Payment Architect Jim Huguelet, of W. Capra Consulting Group, said operators should ask:
    -- Does the site own it, lease it or get it?
    -- Does the site maintain or update it?
    -- Does the site directly contract for it?
    -- Does the site directly pay for it?
    -- Does the site have the choice to use it?

    If the answer to these questions is yes, then the responsibility lies with the site operator. In fact, Huguelet said, "If you're the site owner or operator, you should act as if you are fully accountable for PCI compliance until you can contractually determine otherwise."

    He also suggested small operators avoid gray area by setting up a face-to-face meeting with all involved parties, and ensuring that all future contracts include language on PCI compliance and clearly state who is responsible for implementing PCI standards.

    Loyalty: Not Just for the Big Guys
    Small operators can benefit from loyalty programs too.

    NEW ORLEANS -- Loyalty programs are not just for large chains. Convenience operators of all sizes -- even those with just a single store -- can execute a loyalty program to grow their business, according to yesterday's session, "An Ounce of Loyalty Is Worth a Pound of Cleverness: Options for Small Operators," which featured presentations by loyalty program providers, National Payment Card and Outsite Networks Inc., and retailers using the programs.

    The average c-store shopper makes six visits per month – four that include fuel – and spreads those visits over three stores. However, when a retailer has a loyalty program, that shopper will consolidate their visits to just that one store, and spend more in every visit, said Bo Sasnett, vice president of sales and marketing for Outsite Networks.

    "Heavy c-store customers are on the decline. [With a loyalty program], now you know who they are and you can keep them," he said, noting 10,000 U.S. c-stores currently have a loyalty program, and another 16,000 will have one by the end of this year.

    Bob O' Connor, president of O'Connor Petroleum, operator of three Jetz Convenience Centers in Wisconsin, said his company tries to stay ahead of the competition and its Jetz Rewards loyalty program, through Outsite Networks, makes that possible.

    "We're an independent. We're Jetz Convenience Centers. And we're building our brand through this tag," O'Connor said, holding up his own Jetz Rewards tag.

    The program, which has more than 1,300 active members per site shopping each month, doesn't discount fuel, but rather focuses its rewards on driving sales of high-margin items in the stores. Jetz Rewards also cross-markets through unique partnerships with local restaurants such as Dairy Queen and Subway, golf courses, banks and realtors.

    "I'm spending money to target your business. There are an awful lot of people that have made you a bulls-eye," O'Connor said, noting loyalty is a top priority for him, with 15 to 20 percent of his time spent cultivating the Jetz Rewards program.

    "If you're not committed, don't even start," he stressed.

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