Nashville, Tenn. — Bill Harrison of McGuckin Hardware was one of thousands of technology-focused professionals who spent several days under the science fiction-like glass dome of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel here during the Epicor Global User Conference last month.
One of McGuckin's new efficiency boosters is a solution called Training on Demand, a Web-based video training program, of which McGuckin is a beta tester. "Videos are short and to the point — 10 to 15 minutes on POS, purchasing, inventory management," said Harrison, IT manager for the True Value member that's also an Orgill customer. "A dashboard keeps track of who does what, and it gives you more control of the training."
But for Harrison, there's a bigger IT mission behind his attendance. "We're looking to adopt any applications to help," he said. "And maybe see if there is something we can do differently."
One of the themes of the Epicor "Insights" event, which drew some 3,000 customers from multiple industries, was the challenge and promise of managing the 24/7 connected consumer. During the show, attendees learned that tablets are going to surpass desktop PCs this year, and surpass portable PCs in 2014. And by the end of 2013, there will be more Internet-connected mobile devices than people.
According to Epicor's Steve Bieszczat, senior VP marketing, taking advantage of progress requires from an independent retailer a strong foundation in the basics of IT. That means that items are loaded, prices are accurate, and a scanned item responds with "a happy beep," he said.
"When these new technologies come along — websites, loyalty programs, tablet point of sale — they magnify the need for best practices," Bieszczat said. "It's the owner's leadership within the business establishing best practices that makes a retailer great — not the technology."
For McGuckin, a recently reworked website represents one of the fruits of a busy IT program. (Check out the site's Flatirons webcam at McGuckin.com.) But there is tough competition for today's independent, both on the Web and in the form of the billion-dollar mega chains. Can the independent compete? The answer is a bit complicated.
"We're ahead in that we can be more reactive to changes," said Harrison. "We're behind them in terms of the money they can throw into something."