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ECRS Helping Retailers Be Creative, Bold With CATAPULT


Western North Carolina-based ECRS is going into 2023 with a challenge for retailers: “Be Creative. Be Bold.”

Much of the last two years have been a constant state of waiting, said Caroline Catoe, ECRS president. 

Caroline Catoe

“Waiting for storms to pass or for the next storm to show. Waiting with uncertainty of what the future would hold. Waiting as lines got longer and expectations got lower. Waiting, and all the while doing nothing,” she said. 

In 2023, ECRS wants to empower its retailers to stop waiting. The company wants them to be bold and creative in the way they live, the way they work, the experience they offer and the energy they bring.

This includes continuing to develop CATAPULT to give retailers the ability to get creative with their offerings and to attract, delight and convert customers from one-off shoppers to loyal patrons.

CATAPULT’s Unified Transaction Logic sets ECRS apart from its competitors. “It is our differentiator,” Catoe said.

Using Unified Transaction Logic, CATAPULT leverages a single database to update every transactional touch point across an enterprise. “So that’s traditional point of sale, self-checkout, WebCart,  AutoScale – all of that information updates in real time and uses the same data,” she said.

Unified Transaction Logic also allows retailers with multiple stores access to their entire enterprise from a single headquarters location. They can push down price changes to specific stores or to all stores, depending on their pricing strategy. This means a retailer’s online store can have the same (or different) pricing information as what is in the store.

“There will never be discrepancies in their inventory counts because all that information is the same. Retailers aren’t required to batch update data or use integrations to sync that information. It’s all pulling from the same database through Unified Transaction Logic,” she said. 

Using CATAPULT and investing in the tools that are already available can allow retailers to get creative with their consumer experience.

Offsetting labor with automation and self-checkout

CATAPULT’s Native SCO solutions offer retailers a way to use automation to offset labor.

McCaffrey’s Food Markets, with locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, has found success with ECRS and CATAPULT’s self-checkout feature.

“McCaffrey’s had to evolve,” said Rob Lepre, director of retail technology. “Our big pitch is ‘options.’ If you’re a customer that wants traditional McCaffrey’s service, we have that. And if you want to come in quickly, get your loaf of bread and checkout quickly by yourself, we have that, too.”

He said McCaffrey’s is replacing lane infrastructure physically, but there are plenty of open lanes in the stores and self-checkout.

“We want to emphasize it’s an option, not a reduction…we don’t have the staffing, so it was an opportunity to automate it as much as possible and not have to ruin customer experience with typical things that go wrong…and it is going well with all stores using SCO right now.” 

CATAPULT self-checkout software is equipped with features that discourage theft, increase checkout speed and keep retailers informed when customers need assistance. These include Unified Transaction Logic, walk-away detection, AmbDex item scanning, Speed Tender no-touch tendering, Secure Store & Forward, Weight Security to reduce shrink, ScaleAware for item lookup, prompt customer assistance and a virtual e-receipt opt-in.

Made to Order + WebCart are winning combination

Another CATAPULT feature is the Made-to-Order (MTO) module which lends itself to a positive customer experience, because it gives the consumer more power and more autonomy within their shopping experience.

Because of Unified Transaction Logic, retailers can offer the same customization experience at a variety of transactional touchpoints. For example, a customer can use a Made-to-Order kiosk to customize a sandwich in-store, or they can order a custom T-shirt online via WebCart, ECRS’ e-Commerce module.

WebCart is a click-and-collect and e-commerce solution that allows brick-and-mortar stores to get creative.

Tyler Atwood, purchasing manager at Marczyk Fine Foods in Denver, Colorado, said CATAPULT’s Unified Transaction Logic was key to making WebCart “a really sensible proposition for us.”

“We’re always trying to figure out new ways that we can use the software to leverage new sales opportunities, and they are often ways that no one expects in terms of the traditional use case. I love creative CATAPULT. What else can we do? How can we test the limits?”

He said they wanted to figure out how to sell T-shirts to Marczyk’s customers and actually look like a T-shirt retailer.

“CATAPULT’s item modifiers and item records within the Made-to-Order module allowed us to do that,” Atwood said.

Data-driven personalization for loyalty and e-commerce

From one platform, a retailer can increase the size and lifetime value of its customer base, calibrate marketing campaigns, manage self-hosted gift card programs and access membership data. In terms of improved personalization and data usage, CATAPULT’s loyalty module – LoyaltyBot – requires no additional third parties to offer a full-spectrum solution.

Asheville, North Carolina-based EarthFare recently implemented LoyaltyBot and is using it to emphasize its Healthy Rewards program for customers and employees.

Bret Wheatley, director of IT and data governance, said he was “very excited” to launch the program. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed configuring, testing and working with the team here at EarthFare to make this happen,” he noted in a LinkedIn post. “I appreciate the team at ECRS for making this an available program for our customers using their LoyaltyBot module.”

ECRS has a new product coming up for its WebCart e-Commerce module – item recommendations. Driven by machine learning, WebCart’s Recommendation System analyzes the shopper’s buying history and recommends items for them during their shopping experience.

“Just having a native loyalty system really lends itself well to understanding the buyers’ journey and being able to customize their experience with the products the system thinks they should be buying, based on what they’ve bought in the past,” Catoe said.

ECRS offers extensive training opportunities on the loyalty system, which allows the retailer to have as much or as little control as they want.

“At Ignite, our annual user conference, we typically have three or four sessions about how to build campaigns, how to build emails, creative ideas for what you can do with this system. We offer a lot of education around it because there’s so much you can do with it,” she said.

Self-hosted gift cards to offset transaction fees

As inflation continues to affect the bottom line, many retailers are looking for ways to offset expenses. CATAPULT also offers a self-hosted, easy-to-use gift card system, which can be a creative way to eliminate third-party fees associated with in-store and virtual gift cards.

ECRS gift cards are based on barcode numbering sequences and can be ordered from ECRS, purchased from a third-party printing service or printed in-house. Cards are reusable, with gift amounts added at the POS by authorized personnel.

Peter Catoe

The cards are redeemable as a tender option at the POS or self-checkout terminal. Retailers also can elect to process refunds on a gift card instead of cash returns. The cards may be used across multiple locations in an enterprise.

Pete Catoe, ECRS founder and CEO, said CATAPULT offers a secure, dynamic, self-hosting capability for in-store and virtual gift cards. 

For retailers thinking about making this switch, he shared some features essential to differentiate and save money: no transaction fee; non-sequential PIN-based physical cards; automated physical PIN card reorders; avoid processor lock-in, online or in-store; support e-mail e-gift cards at the POS or service desk; item level purchase control for college students and for charitable giving.

“There are many ways to fight back against transaction fees,” Pete Catoe said. Retailers can make 2023 the year to “start down a new path of lowering your costs while also improving your offering.”

Inspiring innovation at ECRS’ Annual Ignite Conference

The upcoming Ignite Retail Success Conference allows retailers and partners to “get the full experience of what ECRS offers,” according to Caroline Catoe. As the company has retailers across the nation, she said Ignite is an opportunity for them to tackle common issues in a collaborative and value-focused setting.

“When our retailers get together every year, it’s almost magical because they’re all on the same journey in different areas of the country. They all experience similar challenges. When they come to Ignite, they discuss these industry-wide issues and even solve them together. Ignite is about educating our retailers on how they can improve the customer experience using the CATAPULT system and fostering a strong community spirit, which is something we’re really proud of.” 

Ignite 2023 will be held Aug. 7-9 in Charlotte, North Carolina, for ECRS customers, partners and suppliers. For more information, visit ignite.ecrs.com.

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