If you’re a member of the CATAPULT® community, you’re already “in-the-know.” You already know CATAPULT supercharges store operations, and we have every intention of making sure the Ignite conference does the same for your store’s personnel. To simply call Ignite a “CATAPULT User Conference” would fall short of properly describing the Ignite experience.
Here’s a quick look back at how this year’s event played out and what you may have missed.
“Learn, Network, Lead”
This year’s conference focused on three ways that the CATAPULT community would benefit from attending. The goal was to make sure attendees had opportunities to “LEARN, NETWORK, and LEAD”.
More than 150 retail professionals joined us from all over the U.S. and Canada in Asheville, NC for an event where we were laser-focused on retail success. While we certainly highlighted some of the features, benefits, and advantages of being a CATAPULT user, our gathering had a broader focus. Ignite 2018 was a way for us to put our mission into practice.
Distilled down, our mission for retailers is simple: we want you to achieve success, and we want to help you maximize and sustain that success.
The CATAPULT suite plays a large role in that mission, but many of our biggest fans will tell you technology is only part of the formula. What inspires our retailers to keep coming back, what inspires them to stay with us and trust in our vision? People.
The culture and the collaborative community that our retailers are helping us construct is something they can’t get anywhere else.
From sunrise to sunset, Ignite 2018’s attendees learned and sharpened their leadership skills in a collaborative environment. During the day, there were workshops, keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions. Each evening provided a chance for attendees to unwind in social settings. We kicked off with an opening cocktail social on Monday, shared laughs at a murder mystery dinner theater on Tuesday, and took a trip to Sierra Nevada’s pristine brewing campus on Wednesday. These evening activities were all great opportunities to make friends and network with colleagues.
Ramping Up the Local and Regional Retail Revolution
In the age of Amazon, we believe that local and regional retailers can leverage their agility, authenticity, and community to gain an upper hand against the big box behemoths.
We’re determined to not just be a source for technology solutions, but to become a teaching organization. We want to share best practices and encourage collaboration between members of our user community. That’s really what Ignite is all about.
ECRS Founder and CEO, Pete Catoe, opened with his “Mission Command: Slay the Giants” keynote that lays out a plan of attack for CATAPULT retailers to follow: “Innovate at the competition’s weak points, band together in a sharing community, and sustain the effort over the long term.”
Innovation to Hit Giants at Their Weak Points
Arguably, the most glaring weak point for the aforementioned giants is their continued reliance on siloed transactional systems. In line with this, Pete’s keynote touched on ways that CATAPULT’s Unified Transaction Logic™ is a technology silo destroyer providing retailers with a massive competitive edge. Since CATAPULT uses a single transactional logic across the entire system, no one has to rely on batch files, third party integrations, or middleware to process a transaction. CATAPULT transactions can happen in real time anywhere in an enterprise, at any time, by any method; no matter if it’s a traditional checkout lane, self-checkout, Click & Collect, or the consumer’s smartphone. We’ve built a and when properly executed, CATAPULT-powered stores will run circles around any competitor that is stuck in a siloed transactional state.
Not only does this mean that we’ve found a way to eliminate technical debt and potential points of failure for our retailers — it means our retailers can harness the power of the platform’s plug-and-play responsiveness allowing them to move faster with dramatically less friction.
We went into detail on this point. We discussed how new innovations like the AutoScale™ 100 extend the point of sale into delis, cafes, and unattended self-service. It’s the industry’s first and only native scale to be powered exclusively by CATAPULT’s Unified Transaction Logic.
“Made-to-Order” menus were featured next. This introduces custom item modifiers to CATAPULT simplifying the process of building meal orders in delis, cafes, or even online with an easy-to-use interface.
Powering Up Consumer Smartphones
The presentation also highlighted the features of BasketHub, which provides a complete mobile shopping experience to consumers extending CATAPULT’s powerful transaction logic to smartphones. BasketHub is a free Smartphone app available for deployment by any CATAPULT retailer that lets shoppers create shopping lists from home, scan items as they walk the store, and even check themselves out via their phone, completely bypassing checkout lines.
At any time during the conference, attendees could pop over to the ECRS Product Lab and Exhibit Hall to experience fully-operational innovations up close and speak with our product experts.
Making the CATAPULT Community Collaborative
The entire premise of Ignite is based around collaboration. Speaking to this second step in his plan, we highlighted our efforts to build a Universal Product Database (UPD) with the help of our retailers. The UPD provides a cloud-based information bank that retailers can pull from (and contribute to), which lists nearly 700,000 popular grocery products at present. The UPD offers CATAPULT retailers free access to pictures, ingredients, nutrition facts, and health attributes—information that they can list to help empower and educate their shoppers.
We also discussed our growing electronic data interchange (EDI) buying community, Gateway. Gateway represents over 800 store locations and over seventy suppliers, and it’s still growing!
Lastly, we introduced the EcoPortal, our new, free vendor portal designed to give CATAPULT retailers a competitive edge when buying from their local farmers and producers.
The Long Game
We never forget this is a marathon, not a sprint, that requires us to be creative, bold, and fully committed to our community of customers.
ECRS began 29 years ago, as a family-founded company and, over time, that family has grown to just over 150 dedicated employees. To remain a steadfast technology partner far into the future, we’ll be emphasizing efforts to build on our educational initiatives, like classroom and online training for retailers, a point Pete really emphasized in his keynote.
At the end of his keynote, Pete announced that ECRS will be expanding company ownership by providing an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). The main goal is to build a lasting technology company and assure our community we are here for the long-haul, focused on our mission of helping local and regional retailers win within their markets. Converting ECRS to an employee-owned organization will allow us to recruit and retain the very best talent. At the same time, we can dispel any notion that ECRS will be “just another tech company” that will be acquired at the first opportune time. This is a problem that has plagued retail technology for the last twenty years, and it’s yet another we’re working to solve.
Strategy and Tactics
Legendary Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu, wrote in The Art of War, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” The Retail Revolution will (hopefully) remain a far less bloody battle than those of previous centuries, but the wisdom still applies.
We made sure Ignite 2018 had both strategy and tactics lessons. Monday offered an advanced user workshop before the official start of the conference, while Tuesday and Wednesday’s keynotes gave insights on business leadership and store strategy from business and retail leaders like Haydn Shaw and Harold Lloyd.
Additionally, there were 19 unique breakout sessions led by accomplished retail industry experts, thought leaders, and technology gurus; these opportunities varied in topic, scope, and focus. Some sessions examined industry trends like Millennial behavior and store challenges like loss prevention or data cleanup, while other sessions took deep dives into CATAPULT-specific innovations like WebCart™ and General Ledger.
No matter where someone was on the retail totem pole or how long an attendee has associated with ECRS, we wanted to ensure that we offered practical, applicable content in each session that attendees could put to use.
Awards and Recognition
At the close of Ignite, we took some time to recognize some of our outstanding retailers from within the CATAPULT user community.
The Ignite Award was given to MOM’s Organic Market, a growing natural and organic grocery chain of 19 locations based on the East Coast. They were recognized for their growth and collaborative efforts with ECRS on the EcoPortal project.
Our VP of Marketing and Customer Care, Caroline Catoe, expounded on this: “MOM’s demonstrated a commitment of giving back to the CATAPULT community and worked hand-in-hand with ECRS to develop new tools and functionalities in the CATAPULT suite.”
We recognized Marczyk Fine Foods out of Denver, Colorado for their work toward mastery of perpetual inventory processes—it’s been great to watch them really take it to the next level! Astrup Drug was awarded with the Milestone Award to celebrate our decade of partnership. We also recognized Grassroots Natural Market out of Jacksonville, Florida and Vitamins Plus out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi for their great work navigating toward new heights of success and overcoming obstacles!
Some people talk about a “retail apocalypse.” We reject that negativity because we know that for retailers who are ready and willing to innovate… this is a moment for transformative success. For our CATAPULT community, we believe the best is yet to come.
“It was clear to me that everyone was just as committed growing their business as I was. As a newcomer to Ignite, I felt included from the moment I stepped foot into the Renaissance Hotel. The ECRS team brought out the best in everyone attending, and they’ve instilled a confidence in me that I’ll take back to my corporation.”
– Mike Rath
IT Manager for Lewis Drug
Our goal is to inspire the same level of enthusiasm Mike has expressed in all of our retail partners. As long as we can continue to grow this community and focus on banding together, we can all win. Ignite will continue on for many years to come helping grocers and other retailers learn and network as they lead the way into a new era of retail success.