A recent article on searchautoparts.com details the dramatic increase of eCommerce sites in the automotive aftermarket:
E-commerce growth in the aftermarket is lapping brick-and-mortar growth. According to an April 2014 Hedges & Co. report, online sales of auto parts grew nearly 16 percent between 2012 and 2013, from $3.8 billion to $4.4 billion, and online sales (excluding auctions) are projected to pass the $5 billion mark in 2014. Brick-and-mortar stores actually showed a sales decrease of 1.5 percent in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
The move from brick and mortar to online commerce is one of the most important trends in this sector, changing the way that parts are sold across the complex aftermarket supply chain. Manufacturers and distributors no longer sell to a limited number of channel partners, but rather to a broad array of jobbers, distributors, retailers, vehicle owners, and maintenance personnel through proliferating online connections.
To help meet this demand, Epicor established the Epicor Parts Network, a broad portfolio of Web-based, business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce solutions for automotive parts distributors and vehicle service providers. Epicor Parts Network includes the Epicor Parts Network B2B eStore (formerly Internet AutoParts), Epicor Integrated Service Estimator (ISE) parts and labor estimating solution, and cloud-based Epicor Parts Network (formerly AConneX) parts trading solution. Together, these eCommerce tools connect approximately 26,000 auto parts distributor and jobber locations and more than 170,000 registered aftermarket service providers and dealership users.
“Distributors, jobbers, and service dealers continue to set new records each year for B2B eCommerce volume and value,” notes Scott Thompson, vice president, automotive eCommerce for Epicor. “This growth is playing a vital role in keeping the aftermarket’s traditional channel healthy through increased efficiency, bay productivity, and, ultimately, a superior consumer experience at the repair shop.”
To find out more about Epicor solutions for the automotive aftermarket, go to http://www.epicor.com/Industries/Retail/Pages/automotive-aftermarket-software.aspx.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
In the world of independent retailers, personalized and superior customer service is a major differentiator, and the key to outservicing the competition
. What exactly do I mean by outservicing the competition? By providing customers with the best shopping experience possible. And every retailer knows that in order to get customers coming back they need to have the right prices, products, and experiences available.
The article, ‘Competing with Big Box Stores’
, notes that “superb customer service is the biggest intangible asset to the independent business. People like to shop where they feel comfortable and where they feel the owner truly cares about their wants and needs.”* Successful retailers tend to downplay what they do best, providing personalized knowledgeable service to customers. Here are a few tips to help inspire outservicing through excellent service:
- Technology empowers retailers with tools to promote profitability, accurate inventory control and access required to make the right decisions for their business, lending to unrivaled customer service. Mobile technology is a way to entice the self-starting customer and promotes employee assistance right from the store aisles—providing store employees access to extensive product, pricing and inventory information, and better customer service.
- Customer knowledge enables retailers to serve customer needs before the customer even enters the store. Equipped with better information, employees can approach customers with more understanding of the products they need, available inventory, and the most competitive pricing possible.
- Rewarding with loyalty is the best way to establish repeat customers. Make your loyalty program better than the competition’s and top it off with excellent customer experience.
- Speed matters to the majority of consumers. An easy-to-use point of sale (POS) system, and accessible customer and product information will drive your business. These features help save time and hassle for customers, driving you to outperform competitors in the industry.
Developing creative ways to outservice your competition can be a challenge. However with the right resources, business partners, technology tools, and research of your competitors, you can better connect with customers—creating a more memorable experience which keeps them coming back for years to come.
*Source: About.com Retailing, “Competing with Big Box Stores: Tips for Retail Competition,” by Shari Waters.
Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Retail Distribution Solutions for Epicor
The 9th Annual 2014 Hot Companies and Best Products Awards program honored companies from all over the world in San Francisco on June 23, 2014 during the 9th annual awards dinner and presentations. Network Products Guide
, the industry’s leading technology research and advisory guide selected Epicor as a Silver winner
in the category of Cloud Computing/SaaS.
“We are proud to receive the Network Products Guide award for the fourth consecutive year,” said Mark Fair, vice president, customer services and support, retail distribution solutions for Epicor. “The Epicor Eagle Hosting solution was designed to help small to medium-sized retailers manage their IT infrastructure without the hassle of maintaining a server on premise.”
The annual Hot Companies and Best Products recognition program encompasses the world’s best in organizational performance, products and services, executives and management teams, successful deployments, product management and engineering, support and customer satisfaction, and public relations in every area of information technology.
Epicor Eagle Hosting is a comprehensive solution for new and existing Epicor customers that delivers the robust functionality of Epicor Eagle
software in a hosted environment—supporting the small to midsized retail growth strategy. The solution offers end-to-end architecture, and includes protection from viruses, spyware, and hackers via Epicor Watchdog ISS Internet security service and Kaspersky anti-virus engine with SonicWALL enforced anti-virus and anti-spyware software, support and maintenance, automatic updates and upgrades, as well as all proprietary information.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
No matter how you see your store, ultimately you should view your business from a customer’s perspective. In a recent Inventory Optimization webinar, we discussed the value of refining the management process and best practices for planning for the right inventory balance.
Let’s say your customer races down the aisle, only to find items out-of-stock – this is the ultimate retailer’s fear, not having what your customer needs. Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, your businesses could be facing overstocks with items that are heavily discounted to get them off the shelves.
According to IHL Group*, retailers world-wide are losing $818 billion annually due to inventory distortion ― the combined cost of out-of-stocks, lost sales, and overstocks that retailers must deeply discount to sell. On the other hand, dealing with stockouts and overstocks is another business critical issue that must be remedied. Aberdeen Group** research has revealed that 70% of retailers rate themselves average or below average on their inventory management. So you may now ask, “How do I get a hold of my inventory, I don’t want to be sold out, or overstock.”
Retailers want to have the right balance of inventory. To get to that optimal level of inventory, retailers greatly benefit from working with an inventory management solution provider, like Epicor. There is typically one field of data, which if managed properly, could reveal significant value. That data field is Quantity on Hand (QOH)—getting that one field right allows your business to optimize inventory. QOH can be very elusive because it has various ways it can be impacted:
- POS check out – if barcodes are not set correctly
- Receiving – if controls aren’t in place
- Backroom – while this is helpful to house extra product, it can be a nuisance if that product is not controlled appropriately
- Special orders – if not managed correctly, the business could be holding onto unneeded products
- Shipping, Shrinkage, etc.
How can businesses improve the management of QOH? Little Hardware of North Carolina typically has 65,000-70,000 items in their inventory. They have decreased stock out rates on A and B items by 25%, increased GMROI by 19.1%, and increased turns by 13.1%. How? Through their use of Epicor Eagle Inventory Planner dashboards and real-time, actionable information. “Over the past few years, we recognized that ordering the wrong items in the wrong quantity was money out of pocket. Money we’d rather have kept in the business . . . Our goal was to make better business decisions related to ordering,” said Kyle Little, eCommerce and IT manager at Little Hardware.
Watch this video to hear how Little Hardware has accomplished this business improvement.
If your business is struggling with stockouts, out-of-stocks, and improving cash flow, better managing your inventory and QOH could be key for your business. In regards to inventory optimization, if you want to reach the optimal inventory level that improves turns, a dramatic change to business management policies must be implemented. Ultimately, inventory optimization will improve margins and customer service levels.
To the view the full Inventory Optimization webinar, click here.
*Source: IHL, “Inventory Distortion – Retail’s $800 Billion Problem” by Lee Holman and Greg Buzek, December 5, 2011.
**Source: Aberdeen Group, “Inventory Optimization: Retail Strategies for Eliminating Stock-Outs and Over-Stocks” by Sahir Anand and Chris Cunnane, May 2009.
Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Epicor Retail Distribution
Small businesses are crucial to the development of job creation, entrepreneurial innovations and progressive impact on the economy. Consumers spend about one third of their monthly discretionary income at locally-owned, independent businesses, with just over $100 per month spent at their favorite store*. Epicor is committed to providing a partnership that brings significant opportunities to grow and enhance your small businesses in order to achieve success. In honor of National Small Business Week, running this week May 12-16, 2014, we’d like to recognize and thank all the small businesses running on Epicor solutions.
National Small Business Week, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration since 1963, will host free webinars and live events to help promote business best practices. For more information on these events, please visit www.sba.gov/nsbw.
To hear firsthand how small businesses are using Epicor technology to increase efficiency and improve their bottom-line, view the Epicor Inspired Retail Videos.
*“Shop Small” Resonates with Local Consumers. August 31, 2011. American Express. [www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/shop-small-resonates-with-local-consumers].
Posted by Ron Brown, Vice President of Professional Services, Retail Distribution, Epicor
Last month we held an informative Epicor Eagle Best Practices Webinar
focused on how to run an effective training program. The webinar features Katie Hendricks from Reeves Ace Hardware. Hendricks shares what Reeves Ace Hardware
is doing to run an effective training program and the impact they are seeing in the business.
A common theme that runs through profitable and successful companies is a strong employee training program. Effective employee training can give your business a significant edge on employee retention, customer satisfaction and retention, and bottom line profitability. As an independent retailer, making this happen can be challenging.
“Training is everything to a business. Embracing technology was the key for our business and a simplified Epicor Training on Demand program has empowered our employees to be better at their jobs,” said Katie Hendricks, training manager at Reeves Ace Hardware.
Reeves Ace Hardware operates five locations and has been in business for 85 years with plans to stay in business for another 85 years. Hendricks also talks about how the business is driving an effective training program to ensure employees have the knowledge and skills they need to provide superior customer service and continued business success. She provides great tips to help retailers improve employee skills (ultimately driving morale), which noticeably improves customer service and business performance. The following are a few key points how retailers can achieve success in training:
- Boost employee confidence and customer satisfaction by giving staff the knowledge they need up-front, followed by on-the-job practice
- Enjoy real productivity increases in key retail areas like inventory management, POS, etc.
- Keep the entire team knowledgeable with a central hub for resources, safety, benefits, outside classes, and more
- Create a culture of ongoing learning with incentives at both individual and management levels
- Easily assign training courses and manage the training process
Help staff wary of technology
by letting them learn at their own pace and reward them for completing training. For more information about Epicor Training on Demand, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Jenny Kois, Learning Services Manager, Epicor
Two years after its launch, Epicor Payment Exchange (EPX) has been named one of the fastest-growing payment processors in the United States by ¹The Nilson Report. With a surge of 506 percent year-over-year growth from 2012 to 2013, the solution is meeting the needs of retailers. EPX was developed to provide additional value to Epicor retail customers, and indeed it has already demonstrated significant benefits to its users:
"We save more than $1,000 per month with Epicor Payment Exchange and we gained the ability to process debit cards. It's just a better all-around solution," said Gary Meinke, Owner of Bayside Paint Inc.
“Our accountant says we were one of her only clients that saved money on fees last year—our use of Epicor Payment Exchange greatly influenced that savings. Because of the solution I save at least 30 minutes each week on backend reporting and reconciliation. We are very happy with the solution,” said Kelly Price, Office Manager of South Coast Supply Inc.
Here are some interesting facts and figures about EPX since it was launched: View the full-size version here.
Posted by Matt Mullen, General Manager of Epicor Payment Exchange and Head of Product Management & Marketing for Epicor
¹“Top Merchant Acquirers in the United States.” (March 2014). The Nilson Report. Retrieved from http://www.nilsonreport.com/publication_newsletter_archive_issue.php?issue=1036
I’m excited to share the news that we recently celebrated the 2nd anniversary of the release of Epicor Training on Demand
, an online training tool designed to offer role-based or job-specific training content to users of the Epicor Eagle business management solution. Thanks to the success of our customers, Training on Demand has made an impact in the businesses of over 800 retailers across the United States that have invested in this innovative training tool.
Williams Lumber and Home Centers
, a 68-year-old hardware, lumber and building materials retailer located in New York State, is using Epicor Training on Demand to enhance customer service and promote employee performance. “The Williams Lumber management team has benefitted from Training on Demand
in learning how the retail side of the business affects the backroom—this tool sharpens our associates’ skills,” said Frank Trippi, IT director for Williams Lumber.
In addition to the success of our customers, 2013 also marked our first recognition by Brandon Hall Group
, a well-established research and advisory services organization in the performance improvement industry. Epicor Training on Demand was named a winner in the 2013 Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Awards
. We were proud to accept the Bronze award in the category of Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
. The award entries were evaluated by a panel of independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group senior analysts and executive leadership based upon the criteria of product/program design, functionality, usability, innovation, and overall measurable benefits. A full list of the Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology award winners can be found here
Today, customer service is the foundation of success in the competitive retail market. The key to establishing proficiencies that reduce business mistakes, increase efficiencies, and improve customer service is grounded in an effective training program.
*Companies who train their employees are:
- 58% more likely to be successful at developing the skills needed for meeting future customer demand
- 46% more likely to be strong innovators in their markets
- 33% more likely to report higher customer satisfaction than other organizations
- 39% more likely to report success implementing customer suggestions
- 18% more likely to currently be a market-share leader in one or more of their markets
It’s truly an honor to work with such inspirational retailers that are effectively using Training on Demand to establish and improve these crucial business proficiencies. Here at Epicor we are committed to helping retailers improve customer service and their overall business performance—providing technology and educational programs that help retailers benefit from their investment in technology. I look forward more successful years to come and more innovative ways to improve business performance.
Posted by Jenny Kois, Learning Services Manager, Epicor
*"High-Impact Learning Culture: The 40 Best Practices for Creating an Empowered Enterprise," Bersin & Associates, June 2010.
In the initial blog post
on customer loyalty, we looked at the growth of customer loyalty programs, key factors that influence customer loyalty, and what customers are increasingly searching to improve in the programs in which they participate. This post addresses how retailers are giving customers what they want to secure their loyalty.
In the second part of the series on customer loyalty programs, Retail TouchPoints
(RTP) associate editor Alicia Fiorletta addresses how retailers are integrating customer loyalty programs across every communications and commercial touch point. This omnichannel approach is becoming increasingly dominant in the retail sector. Fiorletta notes:
Omnichannel retailing is evolving at a rapid pace. In order to better connect with savvy consumers, best-in-class retailers are revising their loyalty programs and initiatives to create differentiated and customized experiences. Although deals, coupons and incentives continue to drive loyalty initiatives, retailers must be sure to focus strategies on providing great customer experiences across all channels.
As example of how this is working successfully, she cites Stride Rite’s Rewards Program
, whose membership exceeded a million within six months “due to the ability for participants to receive instant access to rewards, account information and products across all channels.”
While technology is essential in executing omnichannel tactics, the role of in-store associates remains a critical factor. A recent post by Tai Aguirre on the Taico Incentive Services blog notes the central role that employees play in achieving customer loyalty, and in influencing the success of omnichannel tactics:
The influence your employees have on how your company delivers a great brand experience cannot be overemphasized. An engaged workforce creates a performance culture that becomes visible to your customers. When problems arise, as they certainly will, your employees will be up to the task of providing a positive customer experience. Engaged employees are deeply involved in figuring out how to meet your organization's objectives for the good of all.
Esprit Smith, Marketing Consultant for the Retail & Consumer Practice at Lenati reiterates this in the RTP piece: “Retailers should train front-line employees to understand the importance of a loyalty program. Since store associates typically are the first point of contact with the customer, they need to thoroughly understand the benefits for the customer as well as for the brand and organization.”
By connecting with consumers at the point of sale and throughout the shopping experience, associates can share more details on loyalty initiatives, as well as the variety of perks consumers can receive once they register in the program.
notes in a recent article, true customer loyalty is the ultimate goal of these efforts, and “true customer loyalty means making the relationship more important than making the sale.”
summarizes that customer loyalty programs are not a panacea, but work with other customer experience factors (e.g., price, convenience, product availability and customer service) delivered through seamless omnichannel techniques.
How are you pursuing customer loyalty in your business? What kind of programs have you implemented? We’d love to know your thoughts on how to get true customer loyalty?
For a full copy of RTP
study Customer Loyalty in 2013 and Beyond, click here
Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Epicor
Last week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) — Retail’s BIG Show in New York City saw more than 30,000 attendees walk in and out of the Javits Center’s doors, and I feel like I talked to at least half of them. NRF is that one place you meet lots of new people and can reconnect with “old” colleagues and friends in just two short days. And they all want to talk about the same thing—what’s the newest thing out there that will inspire our customers and fuel business growth.
Epicor drew the most conversations from three new solutions we showcased in our booth—Epicor Retail Cross-Commerce, Epicor Retail CRM 7.0, and Epicor Retail Store Windows 8 Tablets Edition. Epicor Retail Cross-Commerce bridges the gap among online, mobile and brick-and-mortar realms for a more satisfying, consistent consumer experience and streamlined retail management by providing a unified transaction engine. Which is exactly what 63% of retailers want, according to the 11th Annual Store Systems Study.
Epicor Retail CRM 7.0 continues to gain adoption as the foundation for winning customer engagement and loyalty strategies for a growing number of leading retailers. It always amazes me how little retailers know about their customers. We had so many great discussions with retailers during NRF on what they could do if they only captured a little more data or tied transactions to the customer. They’d find out who their best customers are, what offers or communication brought them in, what they buy with what, etc. With this knowledge, the possibilities of targeted marketing are endless.
Supporting the next evolution of mobility in the retail enterprise, attendees saw the Epicor Retail Store Windows 8 Tablet Edition first hand during the Epicor and Microsoft NRF Big !deas Session Windows 8 POS Tablet: Why Less Really is More. Mobile Store is not new to Epicor—we have many retailers who have been very successful users, especially this holiday season. However Windows 8 takes Mobile Store to the next level and provides so much more flexibility with information at the staff’s fingertips. I’m not the only one excited about it—I spoke to one retailer who is looking forward to replacing all their registers with tablets.
I can’t talk about NRF without talking about my build-a-bear smallfrys® friends. Once again Epicor partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop® to obtain new friends which we gave away in exchange for $10 donations to benefit the Retail Orphan Initiative (RetailROI). RetailROI is celebrating its 5th year in helping to raise funds and awareness for at risk and orphaned children worldwide by providing real solutions to help improve their lives. Every dollar raised at the our booth is going directly to computer lab upgrades, educational programs, and roof construction at The Master’s Home of Champions Rehab orphanage and school in Liberia. I will have the honor of visiting them in person this fall, as I plan to attend another RetailROI trip.
When all is said and done, there was an abundance of energy during Retail’s BIG Show. Retailers, especially those who visited our booth, appeared enthusiastic about 2014 and the resurgence of the economy. This year is the year to empower the world’s leading retailers with the world’s most advanced solutions – enhancing customer experiences and inspiring growth.
Growth happens in the space between what your customers want and what your competitors provide. How can you own that space? Let’s Talk!
Posted by Diane Cerulli, Director of Retail Marketing, Epicor