Retail Cloud is a web-based retail management system that delivers on-demand enterprise tools for micro to mid-size retailers. The cloud technology platform provides real-time control over all aspects of running a retail operation. Using a cell phone or network device, merchants can track transaction activities, bestsellers, inventory levels, reorder alerts, labor management and a variety of other time critical data necessary to maximize profitability.
Retail Cloud founder and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Colaco started the company in 2006 to serve short-term merchants, such as those selling wares at special events or seasonal venues. Initially named InvenTrak, one of the company's first objectives was to develop a wireless POS network application that would support retail merchandise sales at high-profile sports events.
Building such a system required the capacity to transact a large volume of sales in compressed time windows without any downtime.
"The Super Bowl is one of our customers," Colaco said. "They do one year of sales in one day. So, if the system malfunctions for an hour, that's comparable to a regular merchant malfunctioning for an entire month. Reliability is key."
By 2007, Colaco identified a paradigm shift in the small and medium business (SMB) segment. Merchants who had focused primarily on cost-cutting measures were beginning to embrace new technologies to amplify business and harness greater profits. During this transition, his company committed nearly two years to the redesign of its product, developing tools and adding features that were geared specifically toward SMBs For ISOs, merchant retention increasingly revolved around creating a more holistic merchant experience. "We knew that the typical ISO [serving] small merchants had to have something that was simple to use, sell and manage," Colaco said. "Everything had to be very straightforward about the rollout. Then it had to be able to give merchants practical solutions without committing a large amount of financial and technology resources."
In April of 2010, InvenTrak changed its name to Retail Cloud to better reflect the company's broader scope of computing technology, including on-demand information and the tools to facilitate business growth within the retail cloud. Features that were once only available to large retailers could now be accessed and utilized by small businesses to build a customer-centric sales operation.
Colaco has found that today more than ever retailers are turning to technology to solve their problems, and that having optimum inventory levels and the right mix of offerings can make or break the sale.
He feels that success will ultimately depend on how well merchants use technology budgets to deliver value to customers and optimize return on investments to ensure faster and more relational interaction with customers, partners and suppliers.According to an ABI Research study titled "Next Generation Point of Sale Systems and Retail Technology," retail technology spending is expected to reach nearly $21 billion in 2014. Retail Industry News reported that 27 percent of retailers plan to deploy cloud-computing solutions this year. So strong demand for technology in the retail sector will continue to drive growth.
For SMB merchants who already rely on cloud-based applications for email, scheduling and marketing, Colaco believes conversion of these retail enterprises to hosted solutions represents a natural progression in the technology cycle. The convenience of opening a web browser to view sales and customer data and to perform supply chain functions is an attractive feature for merchants seeking to save time and increase overall efficiency.
With cloud computing, merchants can integrate resources into a single platform without abandoning business processes and applications they've already established. Centralized storage of retail data and having the built-in flexibility to scale resources up or down in response to seasonal or economic fluctuations add value to the package, the company stated in its web content.
Another advantage Retail Cloud cited is that shared resources, software and infrastructure are provided on-demand. Operating on a "pay-as-you-go" basis, merchants realize substantial savings by running business applications over the Internet from a centralized server, rather than internally, which requires on-site technical support, the company explained. It also noted that its fixed monthly rate includes all upgrades, as well as ongoing technical support and training for its merchant users.
"We have found that merchants doing as little as $5,000 a month in credit card volume have been able to cost justify the application," Colaco said. "It's not about savings, it's about providing the solutions they need, such as disaster recovery - most small businesses don't have access to that.
We took intuitive solutions and made them available to the merchant in a very seamless manner. Our company offers the tools to grow their business."
As to what types of business fit into the Retail Cloud, Colaco said, "We have defined ourselves to be in the packaged goods space. Our ideal customer and typical merchant uses item numbers, UPC numbers that are scanned and tracked at the item level. We don't handle food service or restaurant businesses. There are several applications that exist in those areas. Our goal is to fill a well defined void, rather than create another product that already exists in the market."
"When a merchant asks what a POS system can deliver, what they're really asking is how they can put more stuff in the bag," said Retail Cloud Sales Manager Tom Hennigan. "They want more features to automate processes, so they can focus on the core tasks involved with selling. Our POS software application and retail management modules can literally change the product life cycle for merchants."
To simplify selling for ISOs, Retail Cloud offers the entire suite for one basic price, charging a fixed monthly license fee based on the number of points of purchase at each location. Included are the front-end POS application; Customer Experience Optimization (CEO) application; TimeTrak time and attendance tracker, which integrates into third-party payroll systems; purchase order system, which sends orders directly to vendors; and automatic reordering module, which suggests items to reorder.
Its Central Administration System (CAS) is a platform-independent module that allows authorized users to monitor and control all retail and POS activities simultaneously, according to Hennigan. It automatically generates email alert notifications whenever inventories are low and tracks inventory in-transit and real-time sales data with payment type. The InvenTrak inventory management system is scalable for single and multiple-location stores and warehouses.
The CEO module gathers transactional information at the POS and returns customized promotions and recommendations through the PosiTrak POS system prior to processing. Additionally, the CEO is able to send a digital receipt to the customer, while also creating a customer profile, Hennigan explained. The module enhances the customer shopping experience and improves spending by matching buying patterns with available inventory.
Originally designed to quickly train hundreds of temporary employees to sell merchandise at sports venues, Positrak's simple, navigable menus require minimal training, Hennigan noted. Just in case, units come equipped with on-demand chat support. An online wizard helps merchants with the initial setup of hierarchy. Each transaction processed on PosiTrak updates to the CAS automatically. Hennigan added that the TimeTrak labor management system also helps merchants make efficient use of the workforce. Employee productivity reports show the transaction history of each employee, and statistical data can be compiled from the module to manage current and projected labor costs.
Retail Cloud has built extra layers of security into its system. Processing and storage of POS information is performed over a redundancy and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliant system, according to the company. Each merchant has an individually designated database, so there's no chance of one merchant seeing another merchant's data. All card payments are processed directly through card processors. No card data is stored on the system.
Though Retail Cloud continues to serve major sports events, it has found its niche in hardware, furniture, sporting goods, boutiques, wineries, seasonal and kiosk retailers, franchise and multiple-location stores, and a number of other retail enterprises.
One of the early adopters of Retail Cloud's technology is AFA Protective Systems Inc., which deploys the system for its turnkey retail infrastructure that operates short-term "pop-up" stores. AFA co-owner Jeff Furst stated, "It's a simple, yet sophisticated low-cost solution. The front-end POS is very clean and easy to operate. We're able to manage inventory and analyze sales data efficiently. We always have a backup system and the network is reliable."
Martin Marin, General Manager of Retail Operations for Team L.A. at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles reported, "We installed the Retail Cloud system two years ago in all five of our stadium locations. We've had other systems in the past, but this one is live. It provides second-by-second processing, whereas other systems had a 24-hour wait cycle. We're able to see what is selling and place [the] next day's orders. If we're out of an item on Saturday, we have it the next day."
Hennigan pointed out that Retail Cloud offers "a value-added solution for merchants ready to take the next step in technology." He added that ISOs receive 30 percent monthly commission per POS under the company's generic plan; with the white-label program, rates are set by the partner, which can also control merchant access through its own web portal. Driven by partner interest, the company plans to launch Retail Cloud University later in 2010. The training program will cover all facets of the system in brief sessions designed to help partners establish relationships with retailers and successfully integrate the Retail Cloud suite.
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