1. Why should garden centers consider cloud offerings?

The cloud adds a lot of flexibility because the business is not tied to a piece of hardware that needs to be maintained. I still have technology, but it costs a lot less. All I need is a web browser. With cloud deployments, your system is managed by teams of professionals whose primary goal is your system uptime. For the supportability of the customer, it’s easier for the point of sale company to troubleshoot or roll out a fix. With the cloud, it’s also easier to roll out apps (most apps are cloud based) and it reduces costs. Cloud solutions allow you to access your system from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.

2. What are the best applications for mobile technology at garden centers?

Our mobile point of sale can go anywhere that you have connectivity and conduct point of sale transactions. We always think of mobile in terms of lines at physical checkouts, but what about the service counter? This is a customer engagement tool. I have all the information that I usually have at my information desk or point-of-sale area in a mobile device so that I can walk with the customer and service them, sell them and upsell them, and easily get more line items in the basket. I can take the device to the consumer show and have a fully-functioning terminal.

3. Another component of customer engagement is loyalty programs, but do they work?

Loyalty programs can absolutely work if the retailer takes time to define up front what their primary goal is for the program. Is your goal to retain customers, attract new customers, drive more visits per year, or increase brand recognition? Whatever you determine your goal to be, then build the functionality and features of your loyalty program with that in mind. When defining the program and rewards, think beyond simply offering discounts. Consider what would be most compelling from your customers’ perspectives. Today’s customers are looking for a personalized experience and to feel a connection to your business. For example, maybe host a special event with VIP access to your top 100 customers. You could also offer rewards for certain behaviors, such as writing store or product reviews or following your social channels.

4. How can garden centers use technology to keep more accurate inventories?

Inventory is the lifeblood of the business, and there are many solutions to help retailers achieve an accurate inventory. If I have an accurate inventory, I can control margin better. I can control discounting. Historical data can provide expected sales toward the end of the season. I don’t want to be overstocked at the end of the year, and without physical inventory, I have no clue. One of our newest apps helps businesses manage physical inventory on a cell phone. It allows you to update inventory, add UPC codes, and print new labels to maintain your shelves from virtually any device or location. Older devices were pricey and rugged; now I can get 10 cell phones working for the price of one older device. We also have business management apps so business owners can know anything in the business by looking at their cell phone. Anything that they want to see, they have access to.

5. How does Epicor help their customers utilize the power of their technology?

We have a learning management system called Training On Demand, which has educational videos for everyone in the company, from clerks to receiving to owners, which strategically gives them information on how to better use the Eagle system. Training is a challenge for garden centers, especially seasonal employees. After going through this program, within two hours, they should be able to go up to a register and be 80 percent effective. We have people who use it in the hiring process because we can add tests and monitor how many videos people watched. Training On Demand is a cloud based application so it can be used anywhere, any time.

For more information: www.epicor.com