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Technology For The Little Guys


NACStech Small Operator sessions deliver lessons on PCI, Web marketing and much more

This year marked the first time NACStech put a special emphasis on the convenience industry's small operators, devoting an entire track of educational sessions to their unique technology needs. The five workshops touched upon a broad range of topics, from Web marketing and PCI compliance, to loyalty programs and theft prevention.

Attendees learned from experts how to best utilize social media, e-mail marketing and mobile marketing to build their business during a session entitled "Trumpeting Your Brand Without Blowing Your Budget."

Lorrie Thomas, CEO and marketing therapist at Web Marketing Therapy, said the traditional four "Ps" of marketing — product, place, promotion and price — are a thing of the past. The new social Web marketing mix is now the four "Cs" — customer, convenience, communication and cost (time, money, energy), she said.

Of all Internet marketing mediums, the return-on-investment (ROI) is highest for e-mail marketing, said Amy Tinsley, regional development director for Constant Contact Inc. However, she cautioned that in order to be successful, retailers must provide information in their e-mail messages that the receivers find valuable.

Like e-mail marketing, mobile marketing is also inexpensive, delivers results that can be tracked and creates a database of customers, noted Conrad Carney, CEO of CMS Text. Plus, he said 98 percent of all text messages are read, most within four minutes of receipt.

Along with social media, PCI compliance was a hot topic at this year's NACStech.

The basics were laid out during the session "Simplifying the PCI Compliance Process for Small Operators." Speakers Christopher Lietz, director of corporate programs, and Mark Lucas, vice president of managed services, for Coalfire Systems Inc., said more than 90 percent of compromised merchants are small retailers who fall into the Level 4 category, with less than 1 million credit or debit card transactions per year.

Small operators appear to be taking one of three approaches to PCI:

  1. Wait and see;
  2. Over-react; or,
  3. Take practical steps forward.

The third approach is the right one, and they stressed to the retailers that it's OK to have compliance gaps. "That's part of the process," Lietz said.

On the conference's final day, the focus switched to loss prevention.

Convenience retailers are generally looking in the wrong places for the losses in their stores, as thieves have moved far past voids and no sales, said Bill Ritter, president and CEO of Ritter and Associates LLC, who led the workshop "Shrinking Shrink: Using Your POS to Control Theft."

"Cash is something dear to our hearts. We shouldn't let it go. Yet we allow employees to be short over and over again," Ritter said, noting there are many signs of employee theft that retailers can uncover by looking at their point-of-sale (POS) data.

Among them are: excessive no sales; excessive item correct/voids; excessive number of returns/refunds; excessive coupons; quantity sales discounts; working from an open drawer; cancelled prepays; excessive price overrides; and low customer counts.

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