SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Following its introduction in a East Longmeadow, Mass., store last month, Big Y Foods here will roll out a new interactive, point-of-sale system that integrates store operations, a customer loyalty program, Internet capabilities and corporate systems, said John Sarno, vice president of information systems.
It will take more than a year to extend the system to all 45 stores, Sarno estimated. The most distinctive characteristic of the system is its dual touch screens, one for the cashier and one for the customer, capable of displaying not only the items and prices as they are scanned, but recipes, frequent shopper savings and real-time customer surveys, with results reported immediately to headquarters. It can also display product information, advertising and allow the customers to specify how they want the information on their receipts sorted.
"We try to be progressive and we think of this is as a customer transaction station, not just as a cash-out area," Sarno said in an interview on the exhibit floor during the Food Marketing Institute's MarkeTechnics show last month in San Francisco. "Big Y is trying to build a two-way experience with the customer. We are a very highly service-oriented company, and it's not just talk on our part. We don't always just talk about prices, we talk about service, service, service, the customer, the customer, the customer," he said.
Big Y decided to roll out the system only days after the first store opened with it after seeing how pleased customers were, Sarno said. "We took our first pulse of whether we were successful with it on opening morning. We saw those customers go through and they were smiling. That's what we wanted to achieve. The benefit is delighted customers and the growth of our business," he said.
"We are at a critical stage in our evolution. We think we exploited our last POS system for every possible technology twist that it had and basically it just ran out of gas for what we wanted to do. Our implementation plan was to go through a pilot period, which was really not defined, and just see whether it worked. But after two days, we knew it was going to work, so we are aggressively looking to roll this out across the whole chain right now," Sarno said.
The system, from ICL's Retail Systems Division, La Jolla, Calif., is based on Microsoft Windows NT, and includes a Fujitsu TeamPoS 5000 POS terminal running Microsoft Windows 98, Fujitsu touch screens and keyboard, ICL software from POS Ltd., a receipt printer from Axiohm, a Hewlett Packard DeskJet printer, and a Verifone payment terminal with keyboard and card swipe. Big Y uses Microsoft SQL Servers as its primary databases.
"This integrated solution positions Big Y as one of the first supermarket chains -- national or otherwise -- to fully integrate in-store systems with sophisticated functionality that boosts their community presence, position and profitability," said a source close to the project. "It leverages in-store technologies for increased in-store efficiencies and interaction, as well as advanced customer relationship management."
"For the last 10 years, our shopping experience was built around a loyalty program, but it was a one-way communication. The customers would come in, present their cards, we would have already started trying to delight them with what we thought they would want," Sarno said.
"But our service model has changed, as has the whole industry's. We have to start asking customers what they want, and run an analysis on what they want and hope to delight them, and that's what this accomplishes," he said.