Retail’s BIG Show 2012, the annual industry event organized by the National Retail Federation (NRF), was recently held in New York City. Epicor, while showcasing the full suite of Epicor Retail software solutions, highlighted mobility features across its product suite in the following manner:
- Personalized service with Epicor Retail Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Clienteling
- Fast and accurate decision making with Business Intelligence (BI) Information Center
- Real-time inventory (merchandising) with Epicor Retail WebIM Merchandising
- Anywhere checkout (point of sale [POS]) with Epicor Retail Mobile Store
Another Epicor focus is supporting multichannel/cross-channel/omni-channel retailing (i.e., selling anything from anywhere)—namely with Epicor Retail Enterprise Selling (which provides one-view inventory and orders) and Multi-Channel Transaction Adapter (which allows POS functions and logic to be shared across channels).
CRM should be big for Epicor at the 2013 event. The vendor has a new release coming out this year, and we should see more on the evolution of mobility solutions with additional functionality in applications like CRM Clienteling.
Epicor Solutions to Current Retail Trends
The espoused product mission for Epicor Retail software solutions is to enable its retail clients to inspire their customers. The paradigm is shifting from the traditional connected retailer and consumer (via foundational transactions), beyond the engaged consumer (via comprehensive transactions), to the inspired customer. Truly inspired customers make more purchases and are more profitable, more loyal, and more influential and vocal in consumer forums and social networks.
To inspire consumers, retailers must be able to respond to the following retailing trends (in addition to offering mobility and multichannel trade traits):
- Customer engagement
- Leverage of the so-called retail “science”
- Cloud computing
What follows is how Epicor Retail software solutions respond to some of these trends.
Mobility across Users
Epicor has always had a Mobile Store module that allows store associates to complete inventory functions, check pricing and available inventory on a product, reorder a product that is out of stock, expedite cashier lines with line busting, or complete a transaction with full POS. The difference recently is the adoption by retailers of—and the need to support the Epicor product and functions on—new devices such as Apple iPad and iPhone and Microsoft Windows mobile devices. Instead of creating a mobile application, Epicor created a new POS client using the same functionality, features, and business logic as its best-of-breed POS solution. Epicor Retail Mobile Store on these new devices has been available since November 2011.
Epicor also has Web-based inventory management (IM) functions that allow stores to enter inventory transactions by accessing Merchandising in real time. These real-time updates help retailers to better monitor trends and relationships among product sales and store locations, resulting in better optimized and more timely inventory management. WebIM is also now supported on iPad devices. Epicor Retail WebIM on mobile devices is in beta phase and is planned to be generally available in mid-2012.
Epicor is in beta with a new Clienteling module designed for tablet devices and optimized for the Apple iPad that delivers critical customer insight from the retailer’s CRM database (e.g., customer preferences) directly into the hands of sales associates, allowing them to better engage with customers and up-sell based on available data. The product is planned to be released in mid-2012.
Finally, Epicor is in beta with BI Information Center for mobile devices, allowing field and corporate users a view into real-time information via alerts, notifications, and personalized dashboards to better guide and make faster decisions, enabling them to manage their business from anywhere. This product should be available by the end of the calendar year.
Enhancing Customer Engagement
Retailers are continuing to invest in technologies to better know their customers, to segment and market to them, and ultimately to connect, engage, and inspire them better than their competitors. The Epicor Retail CRM solution is a unified solution that provides integrated capabilities for customer analysis, customer segmentation, campaign management, and loyalty program management with real-time targeted communications to POS or other sales channels. It is designed to support multiple sales channels, thereby providing one complete and consolidated view of the customer. Customers shop brands, not channels, so having one repository for all customer data is key for a retailer to be able to successfully engage and market to its customers.
Retailers have also started to communicate and market to their customers differently. Epicor has a partnership with Impact Mobile for text messaging promotions and coupons that are tracked in Epicor Retail CRM. Epicor Retail Clienteling, the mobile application described above, is part of the trend to personalize the shopping experience.
Epicor has been providing cross-channel retailing solutions to leading retailers for some time. Retailers have been realizing that, in order to sustain or gain market share of the consumer’s wallet, they need to be able to provide them with what they want, when and where they want it. Retailers are now structuring their organizations to remove the conflicting channel silos of the past; when the channels use a unified management system, the company operates more efficiently by sharing inventory and presenting a single brand to customers.
The Epicor Retail Enterprise Selling solution not only helps retailers sell inventory no matter where it is in the chain, but it also optimizes the fulfillment location and the flow of an order to any channel’s system—a POS system or warehouse system.
Retailers want consistency across multiple channels—such as promotions, pricing, tax, feeds into corporate systems, etc. In response, Epicor created the aforementioned Epicor Retail Multi-Channel Transaction Adapter (MCTA), which allows retailers to share Epicor POS functions and logic with other channels and devices.
Interview with an Epicor Retail Product Marketer
I had the opportunity to ask a number of in-depth questions of Epicor at a one-on-one meeting at NRF 2012. What follows are the responses provided by Diane Cerulli, director of product marketing, retail software for Epicor. Cerulli joined Epicor in 2002, bringing with her about 30 years of experience in retail operations. In her current role, she is responsible for supporting the product marketing, and sales tools behind the Epicor RetailSuite. She is involved in the retail product and market strategy, product collateral, and promotion of the products through various vehicles to the client, employee and industry analysts population.
Cerulli worked with CRS before it was acquired by Epicor. In her 10 years with the company, Cerulli has acted as project manager on customer projects and rollouts, taking on acquisition integration responsibilities when former CRS acquired Apropos, then moved into product marketing and delivery. Previously she had worked at Gap Inc. for 17 years, first as a store manager, then regional training manager, before moving to the corporate office where she managed store operations and store systems in both the Gap and Old Navy divisions.
The Epicor Retail Difference
TEC: What differentiates the Epicor Retail offering in the market, given fierce competition and end-to-end offerings from SAP, Oracle, JDA Software, Jesta IS, RedPrairie, SAS, Island Pacific, etc.?
DC: One of the biggest differentiators for Epicor is the fact that the end-to-end Epicor Retail Suite is fully integrated and is managed to an integrated roadmap. Epicor retail software solutions provide one version of the truth, as all data flows through Sales Audit; one view of the customer, as CRM is designed specifically for multichannel retailers to capture customer data no matter where the customer shops; and one view of inventory, with Enterprise Selling giving retailers the ability to sell a product no matter where it is in their enterprise.
Epicor retail software solutions use Microsoft .NET Framework, which allows retailers to make any necessary customizations without modifying the “core” software, thus allowing them to more easily take full advantage of upgrades as they are released. The Appbuilder module within Epicor Retail Store allows retailers to fully configure the POS user experience, workflow, and business processes to fit their corporate culture and best practices. All of this can be done without programming changes and can be managed by retailers, giving them faster deployments and a strategic advantage over their competitors. In addition, Epicor Retail Store was named the number one POS solution among the top 250 largest soft and hard goods retailers six consecutive years in a row by independent analyst firm IHL Group.
Epicor uses a proprietary Secure Data Management (SDM) solution across its product suite (Store, CRM, Sales Audit), which consolidates payment data and manages it in a secure manner. By using tokens as a reference for interfaced applications, SDM allows compliance to be driven through a single product—substantially reducing the time, effort, and expense associated with maintaining compliance on multiple solutions.
Epicor solutions are mobile across the product set—not just a POS solution on a tablet or the latest mobile device. We take into consideration what the customer’s, and store associate’s, needs and expectations are and provide real-time data and tools on mobile devices to better connect, engage, and inspire the shopper, to improve both the shopper’s experience and the retailer’s profitability. In addition, it goes past the Store and into the hands of field and corporate management and executives who, in many cases, are managing their business on the road. Providing access to real-time data personalized to them on a mobile device allows them to take actions and make decisions with immediate impact.
Epicor Retail Audit and Operations Management solutions include our best-of-breed Sales Audit module, which includes a guided, exception-based audit where retailers see only items they need to deal with on a daily basis. Also included is our Loss Prevention (LP) solution, with flexible, exception-based reporting features that contribute to a quick ROI and improve productivity of LP investigators by allowing them to focus on the worst cases and identify more cases of internal theft.
Unfortunately, we do occasionally lose to the competitions, and one reason is that decision makers often have previous experience with and preference for other vendors. As you know, in retail, executives seem to move around fairly often and sometimes favor what they know based on previous successes that they’ve had. Similarly, we have also lost to decisions makers wanting only Java-based products, whereas the majority of ours are Microsoft .NET. Typically we are in the middle when it comes to pricing—occasionally retailers will sacrifice the best solution for price and go with the lowest vendor. Very rarely do we lose on product, but in those cases, it’s because a particular product is not offered as part of the suite when the customer is looking for an all-in-one solution.
The Current State of Affairs
TEC: Which products, regions, and retail segments have been most active of late? What do you foresee in the next12–18 months?
DC: The most active products in the last 12–18 months have been Store, CRM, Enterprise Selling, and Sales Audit. In addition, approximately half of our new deals were full end-to-end solutions that added Merchandising, Planning, and BI to the active products above. Several retail segments have been active the last 12–18 months—apparel, footwear, home goods, hardware, healthcare stores, sporting goods, and department stores—and North America has been the most active region for retail. We foresee more of the same in the next 12–18 months based on what we have in the pipeline. In addition to North America, we are also seeing more traction in Australia this year.
TEC: How similar is the Epicor Retail Suite’s service-oriented architecture (SOA) and mobility framework to the Epicor 9 ICE 2.0 architecture and Epicor Everywhere framework?
DC: Both are similar in their objectives but different in their implementation and the techniques used. The retail SOA architecture is based on modularization of the system with transactional high-volume data exchange interfaces to accommodate the size of the retailers served. It provides a combination of Web services, XML messaging, event publication, and middle-tier interfacing, as well as file-based, large-volume data processing. The Retail Mobility model is based on a combination of native apps and Web-based mobile-aware apps that complement the PC-based systems and cover specific modules and functionalities that best benefit from the mobility aspect: Retail Store, CRM Clienteling, WebIM Merchandising, and Business Intelligence.
TEC: What about meeting the needs of both retailers and their suppliers (e.g., consumer packaged goods [CPG] manufacturers) with your offering—i.e., is there any cross-selling action with your manufacturing and distribution counterparts at Epicor?
DC: Epicor currently caters to the needs of both retailers and their suppliers. Within the Epicor Retail Suite we offer Sourcing and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), a softlines-focused set of solutions from a long-standing partner, Momentis, which benefits wholesalers, manufacturers, and self-sourcing retailers. We do have some joint customers with other Epicor divisions, but there is no established joint go-to-market action plan at this stage.
TEC: What specific retail store and back-office capabilities have been provided by Epicor Retail versus partner add-on solutions?
DC: This Epicor Retail Product wheel showcases all Epicor retail solutions, with the exception of Sourcing and PLM. Within these solutions, we have partner add-on solutions as outlined below.
Retail Store partner solutions:
- Chase Paymentech—payment provider solution
- allEtronic—e-mail receipt provider
- Experian QAS—address validation (also used in Retail CRM)
- Impact Mobile—Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging (also used in Retail CRM)
- Pitney Bowes—Envinsa software for Enterprise Selling’s geo-coding
Back-office and enterprise solutions:
- Momentis—sourcing and PLM
- TIE Kinetix—electronic data interchange (EDI)
TEC: What are the evident remaining retail white spaces in your retail portfolio and how do you plan to fill them? For example, what about planograms or space planning, workforce scheduling and task management, price, assortment and size optimization, e-commerce/multichannel order management (call centers, chat, etc.), etc.?
DC: Epicor recognizes additional product opportunities in its retail portfolio and on an ongoing basis evaluates the opportunities and ROI, as well as the best solution—whether to partner with, acquire, or build in-house. Some currently on our list with activity are eCommerce, full call center order management, e-mail provider integration, and learning management.
TEC: What are you offering with regard to social sensing, semantic, and high-volume (in-memory) analytics for retailers?
DC: At this time, we are working with retailers, CRM advisory board members, and some e-commerce providers to determine what e-commerce sensing and social data to bring into our Retail CRM and BI modules that will be useful and manageable in customer analysis, customer segmentation, and campaign management.
BACKGROUNDER: Epicor Software Corporation
Epicor Software Corporation is a global business software solutions provider to the manufacturing, distribution, retail, and services industries. With nearly 40 years of experience serving midmarket organizations and divisions of Global 1000 companies, Epicor has more than 3,800 employees, 20,000 customers, and 400 partners in over 150 countries. Via its enterprise resource planning (ERP), point of sale (POS), supply chain management (SCM), and human capital management (HCM) solutions, Epicor can provide the one-stop shop that many local, regional, and global businesses demand. Most Epicor solutions are built on a Microsoft .NET architecture that is service-oriented architecture (SOA) compliant.
In 2011, Epicor was merged with Activant Solutions Inc., which resulted in the combined privately-held company posting over US$845 million in revenues for its fiscal year 2011. Reportedly, the vendor attracts 600–800 new customers annually, and had 22 percent software license growth and 6 percent annual revenue growth in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011. The company’s headquarters are located in California, United States (US), with offices and affiliates worldwide. For more information on Epicor, see TEC’s recent article.
Epicor Retail Genesis
CRS Retail Systems and NSB Group were two of the leading broad solution suite providers for retailers in the tier one to tier four market across several verticals but both with a high number of retailers in the apparel and footwear (or “softlines”) space. In 2005, CRS Retail Systems was acquired by Epicor, who did not have a competing retail division at the time. In 2008, Epicor also acquired NSB Group, doubling the market share of the Epicor Retail group, and becoming the POS market share leader.
In 2011, Apax Partners, a global private equity and venture capital firm, acquired both Epicor and Activant. Activant also had a retail group, but specializing in providing solutions to small to midsize hard goods retailers. The two companies were merged and now operate under the Epicor name. Today over 500 retail brands use Epicor Retail solutions and another 8,000 hard goods businesses use the heritage Activant solutions. Today, the company’s retail customers are in both softlines and hard goods and represent verticals such as apparel, footwear, sporting goods, jewelry, newsstands, books/music, camera, luggage, hardware, pool equipment, pharmacies, department stores, discount department stores, variety stores, casinos and hotels, sports clubs, amusements, nursery/garden, lumber, farming, and automotive.
Heritage Epicor retail software solutions target larger (tier one to tier four) retailers in the following verticals: specialty retail; general merchandising; apparel and footwear; sporting goods; gifts and novelty; souvenirs and news; hobby, toy, and games; luggage and leather; office supplies; pet supplies; cosmetics and beauty supplies; jewelry; department stores; discount department stores; books/music; newsstands; sports clubs; casinos; amusements; variety stores; and pharmacies. The heritage Activant retail customers are smaller and more regional (tier three to tier five) in the following industries: farm-home/agricultural, lumber and building materials, automotive aftermarket, large lumber operations, large auto operations, pharmacies, hardware stores, lawn and garden, and sporting goods.
The sweet spot for the comprehensive Epicor Retail Suite has historically been apparel, footwear, jewelry, and sporting goods. However, Epicor has some best-of-breed products (i.e., Store and Sales Audit) for tier one and tier two retailers across both soft and hard goods verticals, such as department stores, discount stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, etc. The sweet spot for Epicor Eagle (which originates from Activant) is primarily in hard goods—hardware and automotive, lumber, and garden.
Needless to say, the last several years have seen immense product development activity at Epicor in the Retail group (and Epicor at large). Logically, some acquired products have been integrated with others, such as the following:
- Epicor Retail Merchandising and Epicor Financials
- Epicor Retail Enterprise Selling and Epicor Retail Store, Epicor Retail Merchandising, Epicor Retail Warehouse Management System (WMS), and Epicor Retail Sales Audit
- Epicor Retail CRM and former CRS RetailStore
In addition, several features and technologies have converged, such as the following:
- Epicor Secure Data Management is used by Epicor Retail products, heritage CRS RetailStore, and Epicor ERP products
- Some features of heritage CRS RetailStore are now features of Epicor Retail Store
- Heritage CRS MobileStore has leveraged the use of Epicor Retail Store Appbuilder module
- Some features of heritage CRS CRM are now features of the next release of Epicor Retail CRM
Finally, there has been a host of brand new research and development (R&D) deliveries, such as the following:
- Development and general availability (GA) of Epicor Retail Multi-Channel Transaction Adapter, which allows retailers to share POS functions and logic with other channels and devices.
- Development and GA of Enterprise Store Central—a centrally based Epicor Retail Store module that offers a collection of capabilities for assisting in the management of the store estate. The product provides a central resource for a number of features that require a consolidated view and is integrated to the IBM Systems Director management product.
- Development and GA of Epicor Retail Assortment Planning.
- Addition of a Google Adapter and reporting to Epicor Retail Enterprise Selling.
- Development of Epicor Retail Store for mobile devices.
- Development to support WebIM Merchandising and business intelligence (BI) on mobile devices.
- Development of Epicor Retail CRM 7.0, including a technology renewal to .NET and various new and updated features such as a more robust loyalty module, new query tool, and migration of reports to Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).
- Creation of a Clienteling module within Epicor Retail CRM.
- Integration of biometrics with Epicor Retail Store.
- Additional international language support (now including Mandarin, German, Korean, Taiwanese, French, and Spanish) within Epicor Retail Store.
- Integration of Experian QAS for address verification and Impact Mobile for short message service (SMS) messaging into Epicor Retail CRM and Epicor Retail Store.
- Availability of Epicor Eagle Release 21 business management system for small to medium businesses announced at NRF 2012—empowers businesses with smart, fast and mobile business management functionality with intuitive customer-centric point-of-sale capabilities.
There has also been a technology refresh to .NET in the Epicor Retail Store, CRM, and Merchandising products. Moreover, Unicode support was introduced across multiple solutions.
Some Epicor Retail Jewels
Some Epicor products are distinct in nature, and these are often the order winners in new deals and expansion deals. Epicor Retail Enterprise Selling (ES) supports retailers in their quest to sell merchandise and satisfy customer demand from anywhere in their enterprise. The product does this by knowing the near real-time inventory across a retailer’s enterprise and provides access to that inventory from any channel. It receives its inventory from the Merchandising system of record each day, and then throughout the day receives feeds from all channels on any inventory movement—sales, inventory receipts, transfers, etc. Any channel can make a product locator call to ES, or place an order for a product to be picked up in a store or delivered to a home. If delivering goods straight to customer’s home, ES has algorithms to determine the best fulfillment location based on the retailer’s configured preferences, such as shipping from a warehouse before a store, stock-keeping unit (SKU) velocity, quantity on hand, order queue of a fulfillment location, distance to shipping location, etc. Orders are then routed to the fulfillment location with order status updates coming back to ES. If items in an order can not be fulfilled the item can be set to “no stock” and ES will then route that item to next best fulfilling location.
ES’ Customer Service Application (CSA) assists customer service representatives (CSRs) or administrators in answering questions about orders—it has all the information regarding orders, fulfillment locations, status of each item being fulfilled, etc. ES also has reporting capabilities to help retailers better understand their cross-channel business to make decisions, facilitate compliance, and enhance profitability. Reports provide a view into items queried versus fulfilled to assist with supply and demand; a summary of orders giving retailers a snapshot of orders taken, open, and fulfilled; key performance indicators (KPIs) by location; and fulfillment rates and stock positions to support fulfillment compliance and inventory accuracy. ES is integrated with the Epicor Retail Suite in the following ways:
- It gets its inventory from the Merchandising module and sends orders back to Merchandising to reserve products (helping allocators with the available-to-promise [ATP] feature)
- It allows the Retail Store module to create and fulfill orders within the same transaction of other products being purchased (for a seamless transaction from the customer’s perspective)
- It sends orders to the Warehouse Management system for fulfillment
- It keeps the Sales Audit module up to date with new orders, fulfilled orders, and cancellations
For its part, the aforementioned Epicor Retail CRM Clienteling module is designed for tablet devices and delivers critical insight on customer purchase history, product preferences, and personal attributes from the Epicor Retail CRM database, directly into the hands of sales associates throughout the store. Understanding an individual’s specific style, sizes, and preferences enables associates to cross-sell, up-sell, and foster a richer, more personal engagement that inspires loyal customers to return. Clienteling offers an intuitive, associate friendly interface that provides data in a series of tabs for contact information, customer profile, transaction history, wardrobe information, etc. A view into the customer’s virtual closet shows what the customer has purchased from the brand, regardless of channel, in the past, including an image of the product. Associates can then make specific and highly relevant product recommendations that extend, enhance, and accessorize the customer’s previous purchases.
In addition, Clienteling helps capture customer data, friends, and family information and gift lists more accurately as clients can enter data on the device themselves or easily validate information before exiting the store. A translation feature also enables retailers to eliminate language barriers by adjusting data views to the shopper’s native language. Clienteling allows the associates to easily communicate with their customers on a personal level through templated e-mail and SMS texts that are linked to the customer’s contact codes, or to schedule an appointment with the customer in the VIP booking room. The module also provides dashboards for associates and managers on a customer’s profitability, recency, and cross-selling KPIs, as well as on an associate’s productivity, task management, and return on investment (ROI) of customer-focused efforts.
The Epicor Retail Sales Audit module consolidates, validates, and secures data from all sales channels into one location and to one standard, then maps it consistently to a retailer’s enterprise applications such as merchandising, general ledger (GL), loss prevention, and flash sales. Sales Audit supports global retailers and those operating under multiple banners with a single transaction database, which allows retailers to consolidate customer liability areas while providing separate audit and reporting functions. The module has distinct audit-by-exception features that guide auditors step by step to analyze daily sales information efficiently by filtering and presenting problematic transactions onscreen and make corrections as required. This simplifies and accelerates the normal work required to find and rectify problems with store-level transactions.
Additional analysis capabilities—such as integrated media reconciliation, over-short trending, sales tax analysis and reporting, and subledger reporting—simplify daily and monthly accounting tasks. Sales Audit provides many predefined, commonly used reports, such as store balance, transaction list, and subledger. It uses Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) for flexible exports, useful searches, and extensive distribution capabilities—including the ability to view reports via the Web. Sales Audit also provides transaction-reporting tools to investigate potential fraudulent activity, addressing key areas of concern such as cash and credit-related transactions, over- and short-trending, and employee purchases. The centralized control that Sales Audit provides has been shown repeatedly to streamline operations and reduce costs associated with the auditing of data.
Last but not least, the Epicor Retail Loss Prevention (LP) module addresses one of the most troublesome issues in retailing today—how to identify and deter employee theft and pilferage while keeping the store an employee-friendly workplace. To that end, LP analyzes a central database of transactions and automatically detects patterns of fraud and procedural violations according to the retailer’s business rules, and flags suspicious transaction activity for personnel to respond to. The module has more than 60 system-defined exceptions, which are applied to different types of transactions, including returns, voids, no sales, discounts, employee transactions, credit cards, and petty cash, and are applicable at the employee, store, register, and credit card levels for single transactions, store groups, or the entire chain. Investigators can view exceptions that are automatically collected and organized hierarchically according to three levels of severity, enabling them to focus on the worst offenders quickly with the ability to select and investigate data by employee, credit card, or location with full drill-down capabilities.
LP has centralized case management tools to build cases of internal theft or shoplifting and maintain all case information, such as transaction details, employee names, contacts, and related documents in one location. It also gives investigators the ability to link cases together making it easier for them to identify and manage cases involving collusion. To make it easier for the investigator, there are multiple types of tools to best identify and illustrate patterns of fraudulent activity—graphs, scoring schemas, a transaction locator, reports, or ad hoc queries as well as the ability to set up an automatic e-mail notification when a specific event occurs. LP also provides a wizard-based restitution schedule tool, which manages repayments agreed to by the offender—whether employee or shoplifter. Since investigators are on the road often, many of these functions are accessible through a Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) browser.
References and Recommended Reading
Epicor. Epicor shines at NRF. January 27, 2012.
TEC. What’s Microsoft’s retail play? February 20, 2012.
TEC. SAP as a retail market force: more fact than fiction. January 5, 2012.
TEC. What have Epicor and Activant been up to (post-merger)? November 18, 2011.
Major NRF 2012 Announcements by Epicor Retail (PDF format)
Love Culture selects Epicor Retail SaaS solution. January 17, 2012.
Retailers look to Epicor Mobility to transform the enterprise, inspire customers. January 17, 2012.
Epicor empowers SMB retailers with Epicor Eagle Release 21. January 16, 2012.
Epicor showcases new clienteling app to enhance retailer-customer interaction and cross selling at NRF 2012. January 16, 2012.
Epicor showcases innovative mobility and multi-channel retail wares at NRF 2012. January 12, 2012.