The MBS Systems Advanced Retail Center, Arc, provides a single sign-on portal to a suite of cloud-based applications. The technology’s functionality drew praise at CAMEX and sparked intense interest among college store managers and directors. Here, we talk to MBS Systems Sales Consultant Victor Hoffman about how Arc can increase productivity and elevate the bottom line.
What makes Arc special?
It’s really a change of platform that allows us to interact with data differently and present it in a much more cohesive way to the store. So, for instance, it ties together information on a screen and presents you with a small infographic that gives you an overview.
Why does Arc include personalization features?
How you need to see data is unique, not just to stores but to the person doing the task. Often, a store director may need data presented to them differently or may need different elements of this information than someone who’s more interested in the more finite details of the data.
How does the fast availability of data help college stores?
More is expected out of stores than just the routine kind of interaction. From an efficiency standpoint, there is need to have quick access to data that gives you the ability to quickly react to prices, to different ways that course materials are being used these days.
You need to have quick access to information and you need to have quick access to it presented in a way that you understand.
For instance, when I pop into Arc Adoptions, there in the upper right corner of the screen it tells me how the adoptions are coming along. In the past, I'd have to run a report or go into a special area of the screen and calculate to see how many of the adoptions I have received.
I click on that and go, ‘Hey, adoptions are due tomorrow and I’m only sitting at 50%. Is it realistic to believe the other 50% are coming in 24 hours? Maybe I need to send an email out to the professor.’
It’s really key to have that kind of information, to be able to see those charts and bar graphs — and pictures
How does Arc increase store efficiency?
Store managers and store directors don’t have to reinvent the wheel to access the information the department manager has already done or the department buyer has already done. When a department buyer has to extract information and make it into a completely different report for their manager, that’s not super-efficient. Being able to click a button and have it extract into an Excel document that can be sent — that’s much more efficient. Arc lets you get information to those that need it quickly and distribute it more easily.
How does Arc affect the bottom line?
It’s getting trickier and trickier these days to look at what’s selling, what’s not selling, to know answers to critical questions. Do I have a good picture of my customers? Do I have a good picture of my customers’ needs? Am I stocking items that are necessary or even desired by a college student? Arc presents the data to you in a way that allows you to make decisions on the fly.
For instance, the buyers trend report in the merchandise area gives you a great overview of a product. You can get an overview of how a product is doing and how it has done. Therefore you will be able to set up replenishment models that help you make sure the items that are selling stay in stock, and the items that aren’t selling stay out of stock.
How is this different from what MBS Systems has offered in the past?
We’ve always had product information in the past, but I think Arc gives us better access to that information and allows us to view it the way we want. When you’re looking at an on-screen presentation, you can, as an individual buyer, eliminate the columns of a report that are unnecessary to you, and make sure that the things that are necessary to you are highlighted or in a prominent spot on the screen. It’s definitely going to impact your bottom line because any time we have a clearer picture of what’s going on, we make better decisions.
How have customers responded to Arc?
They’ve heard the buzz. At CAMEX, it was a very fun thing to present, because there were audible ooos and ahhs. There are a lot of folks that want this. I think the industry as a whole has been really asking for better and better tools for their stores and this is a product from MBS that answers that.
What makes the college store business more challenging now than it was in the past?
I think the fact that even your customers have so much access to information makes it challenging. You may have a customer who’s standing in your store, and they’re looking at something and placing an order elsewhere. On the other hand, they may be in another store looking at your store and placing an order. We need to think in those terms, that the person you’re marketing to, or selling to or providing a service to has a lot of information at their fingertips as well.
It’s getting trickier because the guy you’re competing with isn’t always in a building across the street. I think we’re starting to become used to that. We’re kind of at a stage now where we’re trying to figure out exactly what to do about it. How do I rethink what I’m selling in my store or what services I’m providing to my customers?
How does Arc manage security?
We have taken care to provide very specific protocols and ways to make sure your data is protected. One of the benefits of our solution is that we take care of that for you. You’re not going to inadvertently click somewhere that’s going to introduce a virus to the system. That’s something you can do on your own personal computer, but that’s not something you’re going to do with the MBS hosted solution and with the cloud-based solutions.
Is it difficult to transition to Arc?
If you’re an existing customer, it’s very simple because we provide you a new URL to access your store and data and new sign-ons. There’s no conversion or migration process. And it will be a familiar enough change that you don’t really need to invest in retraining.
How does Arc let college retailers build on past expertise?
We sometimes get caught up in the fact that this industry is changing — and it is, it’s changing dramatically — but there are still things that we’ve always done that we need to continue to do. When you move forward, you can’t forget about what you rode in on.
Those tools were responsible for at least 70% to 80% of what that store does. When you move forward with great ideas, you can’t forget about the other ideas that are still in place.
That’s the beauty of Arc. All of those things you’ve done over the years that you still know you have to do — electronic ordering of textbooks, etc. — you need to be able to do them even more efficiently than you have in the past. So those tools are still there in Arc, and they work and they’ve been improved and they work well. But it also moves you forward. It gives you the ability to tie together and look at your data onscreen and interact with it in a new way that moves you forward as course materials change and as college store retail changes.