THE MUSIC THE MUSIC - RIS News

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THE MUSIC THE MUSIC - RIS News

COVER STORY: TRANS WORLD ENTERTAINMENTFACINGTHE MUSICCourt Newton, director of storesystems, and John Hinkle, CIOTrans World Entertainment tunes up its IT foundationto prepare for a rapidly evolving new-media futureBY DORI SALTZMANThe last fifteen years have seen rapid introductionsof new products to the entertainmentmedia industry. Some havecome and gone (laser discs, mini discs).Others have had much more staying power (CDs,DVDs). And entertainment media retailers havehad to be ready for each new product. Quick adoptionand adaptability has been necessary to keepup with the times and the media retailer Joneses.As the CDs and DVDs, the very bread and butterof entertainment media, are being forced to sharetheir space with downloadable media and portableplayers, it is even more important for media retailersto be ready for whatever is around the corner.Trans World Entertainment, operator of nearly1,000 retail stores primarily under the f.y.e. andSuncoast brands, realized the importance of creatinga solid, but flexible IT foundation more thantwo years ago and has been working tirelessly eversince to position itself in order to accommodatewhatever the industry throws its way. The entertainmentmedia environment “is dynamic,” saysJohn Hinkle, CIO. “It is changing at a fast pace,especially with the rise of portable media players.It is driving investment in change much quickerthan ever before.”In an effort to differentiate itself from itscompetitors Trans World embarked, in 2005, ona two-fold journey. First, create an enjoyable instoreexperience that the customer wants to comeback to again and again. Second, create a solid,expandable technology foundation to supportboth front-end and back-end operations. SeveralIT projects later and Trans World is successfullypositioned to accommodate almost any newmedia adaptations that might come its way.TRANS WORLD ENTERTAINMENTBY THE NUMBERS$1.471 Billion 2006 Revenue1.5 Billion Store/SKUcombinations62 IT Staff978 StoresWWW.RISNEWS.COM MAY 2007 15


COVER STORY: TRANS WORLD ENTERTAINMENTLISTEN AND VIEWKeeping the goal of creating an enjoyable instoreexperience at the heart of most IT initiatives,2005 and 2006 saw Trans World begin andcomplete several related projects. First andforemost, next-generation Listening/ViewingStations (LVS) were deployed to most stores. Theoriginal LVS were introduced in 2001 and werepassive devices that allowed customers to scanspecific items to get either a music sample or amovie trailer. The next-generation LVS are “allabout interaction” says Hinkle. “The overall goalof a listening/viewing station is that it has customerfacing capability to help the customer findmore products and enjoy their experience in thestore,” he adds.The next-generation LVS are proprietaryWindows CE devices engineered by Trans World;they run on an embedded Internet Explorerbrowser and are connected to an in-store servervia an Ethernet connection. They feature a 10.4-inch touch-screen that “allows you to samplemusic and browse or search throughout the entirecatalog of information, and look up inventory,”says Hinkle. The information catalog issupplied by All Media Guide (AMG), a vendor ofmetadata specifically about the entertainmentindustry. Everything from Bob Dylan’s birthdayto a filmography of Julia Roberts movies is available,including images and music samples.In addition to the entertainment database,the LVS also are capable of looking up inventoryavailability. Customers can find out if selecteditems are in the store or at the five nearest stores.Tied to POS data, the inventory look-up is in realtime.“The LVS is a selling tool in the store,” saysHinkle. It is “a win for the company” whenever it“can provide more information to the customerto help them better select a product,” he adds.Because all IT projects are ultimately for thebenefit of the customer, and in order to bringsuch benefits to the customer faster, “the timelinefor the design and creation of the next-generationLVS was aggressive,” says Court Newton,director of store systems at Trans World.A fast timeline also was put in place whenTrans World Entertainment acquired a controllinginterest in a company called Mix and Burn.Mix and Burn technology allows users to mixtheir own custom albums and then burn themonto CD. In addition to allowing users to createtheir own CDs, customers also have the optionto download their selected songs onto a portablemusic device. The interactive software was incorporatedinto the LVS architecture in approximately90 days. However, Mix and Burn LVSkiosks have not yet been deployed chain wide.According to Hinkle, Trans World is currently inthe midst of a 25-store pilot test. “We selectedstores to give us a good variety for analysis,” saysHinkle, speaking of the current pilot whichbegan in March 2007. “We chose stores of varyingsizes, demographics and layouts to get a flavorfor the variables that work best,” he adds.BROADBAND SUPPORTIn order to support the greater bandwidth needsof the LVS and a new POS platform, also deployedin 2005, Trans World Entertainment migratedfrom a private frame network to an AT&Tbroadband service that delivers a significant increasein bandwidth. The main motivation forthe migration, says Hinkle, is “all the new technology,especially the listening/viewing stations,drove more and more demand for bandwidthand capacity into the store.” While searching inventoryor entertainment information on theLVS, customers are actually traveling over thenetwork to a central database which delivers theresults of the search.However, expanding the capabilities of thenew Epicor | CRS POS system also was a motivatorfor upgrading to a broadband network.According to Hinkle in addition to putting morecontent into the store, Trans World “is leveragingsome of the capabilities at the POS to bringan Intranet directly into the store.” Many of theIntranet capabilities being leveraged relate tostore performance analysis and task simplification.“Another thing the network gave us as asecondary benefit is that we have a dial-up backupsolution in virtually every store now, whichhas given us highly increased network stability,”Newton adds.Trans World also discovered a secondary benefitto all the upgrades, overhauls and deploymentsit’s completed over the last two and a halfyears — streamlined processes that can be reusedon a continuing basis. Though many of thespecifics change from project to project, the conceptsstay the same. One example of how thesestreamlined processes benefited the companydates back just a few months to the integrationof 335 stores added to the Trans World familyas part of its acquisition of the Musicland retailchain. All 335 stores were brought up-to-datewith Trans World software, hardware and networksin less than 90 days. “We had very good,repeatable processes in all areas including training.We had a process to rollout networks withbroadband very quickly; we had a process tobuild the register systems quickly; we had aprocess to rewire stores,” Hinkle says.PARTNERS IN SUCCESSSuch streamlined processes and implementationsrequire teamwork at every level to succeed.“Trans World holds a very strong belief that drivinga great customer experience in the store iskey to our success,” Hinkle says. And Trans“TRANS WORLD HOLDS A VERY STRONG BELIEFTHAT DRIVING A GREAT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCEIN THE STORE IS KEY TO OUR SUCCESS.”World employees at all levels have taken this beliefto heart. From senior management to IT techniciansto store managers, all work together toensure that the focus is always on the customer.Everything IT does is ultimately a combinationof efforts by all levels, always with the customerin mind. “The LVS and other technology at TransWorld are a combination of IT, corporate businessand store personnel who take them (IT initiatives)under their wing and operate themeffectively to increase the business. Everybodytakes a part in the success,” Hinkle adds.During the early development stages of theLVS the IT department assembled a large crossfunctionalteam for three days to discuss theproject and define key objectives. Team membersTRANS WORLD ENTERTAINMENTTECH TOOL BOX• Network Infrastructure: AT&T• POS Hardware: NCR RealPOS 80• Kiosks: IBM / Custom• Printers: Brother• ERP: Island Pacific• Human Resources/Payroll: Infinium• CRM, Loyalty: VRMS, Epicor | CRS• POS Software: Epicor | CRSincluded representatives from IT, upper management,merchandising and marketing. “We jointlycame up with the best solutions for the business,”Hinkle says of the team members.District and store managers are an importantpart of the Trans World partnership. When the335 new stores were brought up-to-date withTrans World’s level of technology, it was the districtmanagers who led the way. Initially trainedat regional sessions, the rest was “done in thefield with one of our people on the phone if needed.They are great partners in our success,”Hinkle says.PREPARED FOR THE FUTUREWith the completion of the POS overhaul, upgradeto a broadband network and deploymentof its next-generation listening/viewing stationscombined with the willingness of all Trans Worldemployees at every level to go the extra mile, TransWorld has laid a foundation for the future. “Weare where we need to be,” says Hinkle. “We havebeen laying the foundation for years so we are wellpositioned to move quickly.”Future plans are heavily focused on expandingand integrating all customer-facing capabilitiesacross all channels. “If we look at many of the projectson our plates their goal is to continue to bringall of these things closer together, to make it moreof a seamless experience for the customer,” Hinkleexplains — what the customer can do on-line, thecustomer can do in the store, and vice-versa.In addition, finding ways to incorporatedigitally downloaded media to the sales mix issomething the company is exploring. “I think itis essential that retailers look at offering that(downloadable music) to customers,” Hinklesays. Though CDs and DVDs continue to comprisethe majority of the company’s business,adding the Mix and Burn capability to the LVShas enabled the company to take the first stepstowards a new-media future. RIS16 MAY 2007 WWW.RISNEWS.COM

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