Magazine Article | April 15, 2015

Give Small Retailers A Cloud-Based Competitive Advantage

By The Business Solutions Network

This ISV’s market expertise led to a new cloud-based system that incorporates CRM, marketing, and POS (point of sale) functionality that drives up its customers’ revenue while driving down PCI (payment card industry)-related compliance costs.

While some retail VARs try to win business in any market segment that uses a cash register or POS system, Brunswick Bowling Products, a division of Brunswick Corporation, takes a different approach. As its name suggests, Brunswick Bowling Products focuses exclusively on the bowling industry. For more than a century, this company has provided capital equipment to retail bowling centers, ranging from lanes, pinsetters, and furniture to automatic scoring systems and POS solutions.

Like the best IT solutions providers (ITSPs) of the channel, this company addresses the business and IT challenges its customers face through the implementation of bundled IT solutions and services.

The Common Plight Of Bowling Center Proprietors
If you think about your last experience at a bowling alley, you can probably vouch for many of the struggles bowling centers face. For starters, a bowling center has a limited window when its sales spike (e.g. evenings and weekends) followed by significant lulls (e.g. weekdays before 5 p.m.). The decline of leagues has put bowling centers in direct competition with other forms of entertainment such as movies, dining out, and other forms of recreation. Brunswick Bowling Products’ industry research has shown that while most people enjoy bowling, it’s just not top of mind when they’re making their weekend entertainment plans, and the industry suffers from a very low level of repeat business.

Compounding the problem further, many bowling centers are small businesses that don’t have the luxury of a full-time marketing person. Without marketing budgets and a strategy to become top of mind, most bowling centers have to hope new customers replace the ones that walk out their doors each night.

Finally, PCI compliance is another challenge for small bowling centers, which simply don’t have the IT staff or finances in place to support complex PCI compliance activities.

As Brandon Meigs, director of products at Brunswick Bowling, knows full well, even a small bowling center can have 40 “computers” (e.g. scoring computers, related peripherals, POS terminals, and back office systems) attached to a network. And it is imperative that Brunswick develops an automatic scoring and POS solution that keeps centers’ PCI compliance costs to an absolute minimum.

Solve Your Bowling Customers’ IT And Business Challenges With A Bundled, Cloud-Based Offering
A Seattle-based bowling center is an example of a customer that’s faced the business challenges outlined above and benefitted from Brunswick Bowling Products’ industry knowledge and technology expertise. Previously, walk-in customers (as opposed to those in leagues) would have to put their name on lists and often would have to wait an hour or more for a lane to open up.Subscribe to Business Solutions magazine

“We developed a cloud-based CRM system called Sync, which interfaces with the bowling center’s scoring system, POS system, and web/social media platforms,” says Meigs. “In order to keep centers’ PCI compliance costs to a minimum, we bundle this solution with Datacap Systems IPTran LT devices.” Datacap Systems’ devices enable Brunswick to provide an integrated payment card solution, while also keeping Brunswick’s systems “out of scope” from PA-DSS requirements. Additionally, the Datacap Systems device works with all major credit processors and keeps credit card data from being stored on Brunswick systems. “Since the IPTran LT handles all sensitive card data and sends it directly to the Internet, it completely removes Brunswick POS and scoring system networks from PCI compliance activities and vastly lowers a center’s IT complexity and cost,” says Meigs.

Within months of switching to the new system, Brunswick Bowling Products’ bowling center customer was able to convert 95 percent of the bowling center’s customer visits to making reservations online. “This helps free employees up to focus on providing good customer service, as well as capturing customer data to help further marketing efforts,” says Meigs.

Merely having the ability to allow customers to place orders online isn’t enough to get them to change their buying behavior, however, says Meigs. Bowling center patrons need incentives to try something new, and centers need ways to easily engage with their customer base. Brunswick Bowling Products has found that small rewards go a long way. “During a customer’s visit, we’ll incorporate marketing messages designed to create awareness and get them to take action,” he says. “For example, in addition to letting patrons know they can reserve lanes online, we’ll include $1.00 off of their shoe rental for each person in their party or a free game of bowling the first time they sign up for the bowling center’s loyalty program. Essentially, the bowling center is able to quickly build up a viable marketing list and then communicate with that list with very little effort.”

Take Customer Engagements To New Heights With Tablet and CRM Solutions
Earlier this year, Brunswick Bowling Products added tablet functionality to its Sync solution, a move that it believes will help its bowling center customers drive stronger customer engagements and increase profitability. “We’ve been running pilot tests with our Seattle bowling center customer and a few other customers and incorporating laneside tablets as another touch point with centers’ patrons,” says Meigs. “The update enables bowlers to view and place food, beverage, and merchandise orders on the tablets. By reducing the time customers spend standing in line at the bowling center, it is one more way to improve the customer experience.”

Even more important, these tablets are also fully integrated with Brunswick’s cloud-based CRM solution to automate marketing activities. For example, using the tablet, bowlers can now enter their email addresses to receive promotional offers as well as get their score sheets emailed to them. The system automates data capture and subsequent marketing communication to drive repeat bowler visits, too. “With this solution, bowling center proprietors no longer have to worry about being marketing experts — we can solve that issue for them through our industry knowledge and CRM marketing solutions.”