Last week I blogged about a new improvement we were making to Ascend Analytics. We have now released this update, and the Category Health Summary Report is displayed on the new “Reports” tab within the main pages of Ascend Analytics. Please login to check it out when you get a chance and let us know what you think.
In addition to this new feature, we also rolled out some fixes to the program. Please review our Release Notes for a full description of what was included.
Have a great Easter weekend!
Our work to bring you the next generation version of Ascend continues. It’s a huge undertaking and it’s taking longer than we expected. In the meantime, we want to keep delivering valuable improvements to help you with your business.
One of the most valuable tools we offer is Ascend Analytics. We continue to invest in it to make it even better for you. In the near future we’ll be moving the Category Health Summary Report to the front pages of Analytics. Today you have to dig too deep to find it. For multi-location dealers, you’ll also be able drill into the report for your individual locations. This report is a powerful way to see how well your different product categories are performing across your business.
As always, if you have any questions about Analytics, please don’t hesitate to contact our Ascend Support Team. Feel free to share your ideas to improve Analytics on our UserVoice Forum.
If you’re not using Analytics, please contact us for instructions on getting started.
Mark Hoggatt, Ascend General Manager
Greetings and a much belated Happy New Year to all of you. As I reported in my last blog post, the Ascend Team met a challenge I issued to them last year. With your cooperation they got over 90% of our locations to upgrade to version 2.5. It was no small feat. To date over 875 locations have updated. If you’re among the few locations that haven’t, please give our team a call and they’ll be happy to take care of you.
On January 3rd I delivered on my promise and got my blue crew cut and mustache. As you can see, it was not a pretty sight. But I was happy to recognize all of the hard work that everyone put in to make this happen.
The budget feature in Ascend Analytics is an outstanding way to set targets for your staff and to keep you on pace to reach your goals. It’s very simple to use as well. Already 40% of your have entered your 2013 budgets. That is fantastic! But that means 60% of you haven’t. So while you have time, go to our Analytics Help Page for step-by-step instructions on creating a new financial budget. If you need more help, feel free to contact the Ascend Support Team.
On behalf of the entire Ascend Team I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for a wonderful 2012. Together we’ve accomplished some great things. We’re looking forward to an exciting 2013.
I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Because of You
Back in September we released Version 2.5. Since this was the last release before Version 3, we wanted to get everyone on it. I challenged the team to get 90% of our locations on 2.5 by December 31st. If they did, they could give me a crew cut and color it blue. Then along came Movember and I threw in my mustache for good measure.
I am happy (?) to report that last Friday (12/14) the goal was reached! Thank you to everyone for joining us. If you’re part of the 9% that isn’t on 2.5, give the Support Team a call and we’ll be happy to help you get there.
So with a bet being a bet, I arranged for my personal stylist to come to the office yesterday for the ceremonial cut and color. Unfortunately a blizzard hit and foiled our plans. So I’m blue that I have to wear this mustache for another two weeks. My blue hair will have to wait until January.
Onward to 2013 and Version 3!
Our progress continues on Ascend Version 3. As with most major projects we’ve had some surprises and things are taking longer than expected. We’re focussing all of our energy on providing a fast and reliable system to carry us all into the future. We’re targeting the 2nd half of 2013 for release. Sometime after the 1st of the year our Ascend Sales Team will begin using V3 to run our own day-to-day software business. I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens.
In the meantime there are plenty of things you can do to get ready for V3. This is a first in series of blogs detailing steps you can take now to be ready to upgrade.
- Upgrade to Version 2.5: Before you can upgrade to V3 you need to be on Version 2.5. Many of you already are. Some of you aren’t. Our goal is to have 90% on Version 2.5 by the end of December. It’s a tall task but we’re getting close. If we hit the goal, I’ve agreed to get an Ascend Blue crew cut. And, as an added bonus, I will also dye my Movember Mustache blue. Currently you have to stand a foot away from me to see it. But trust me, by the end of December, it will be awesome! Don’t worry. There will be pictures.
- Replace your old hardware: If you have any of this hardware it’s time to think about replacing it:
- Windows XP PC’s
- Epson III Receipt Printers
- Cognitive Del Sol Label Printers
- Verfione 1000SE Serial Port PIN Pads
If you need help with either of these steps feel free to call us, email us or visit us at www.ascendrms.com.
Windows 8 was released on October 26th. Here’s what you need to know about Ascend and Windows 8.
Ascend and all of our certified peripherals work fine on Windows 8 Pro Edition. For the latest installers, go to the Downloads page on our website at www.ascendrms.com. We now have a client installer that works on PC’s running Windows XP Pro, 7 Pro or 8 Pro.
After my last blog on Windows 8, we received several questions about Microsoft’s Surface tablets. Ascend will run on the Windows 8 Pro model. It will not run on the Windows RT model. We have not done any testing with the Windows 8 Pro model. We can’t guarantee that all of our certified peripherals will work with them.
If you want to run Ascend Analytics or Online Reports on Windows 8 we recommend the Google Chrome browser. If you’re going to use Internet Explorer 10, you must set it to “Compatibility View”. To change that setting, go to the Tools menu (Alt+T), select “Compatibility View Settings”, click the Add button and then click Close to exit that window. Complete this process for both sites. This is a one time change. You won’t have to do this again for either site.
As a side note, Microsoft is ending Windows XP support on April 8th, 2014. Ascend will also not support XP after that date. We recommend you set your budgets to replace any XP PC’s you have by the end of 2013.
As always, please feel free to contact our Ascend Support Team or visit our website at www.ascendrms.com if you need further assistance.
By our estimates bike retailers have email addresses, on average, for about 20% of their customers. Many have more than that. Some retailers have over 90%. Here are 4 simple things they do to collect more addresses.
- Ask: As my mom always told me, you don’t get something unless you ask for it. Ask your customers when they’re checking out if you can add them to your email list. Make sure you have a prominent link on your website to subscribe to your mailing list. People are protective of their addresses. So if simply asking doesn’t work, give them a reason to want to give it to you. The next 3 ways will give them a reason.
- “Your bike is ready to pick up”: When people drop off their bike for service, ask them if you can email them when it’s ready. Incidentally, with our new SMS integration, this has also been a very popular way to get customers’ mobile numbers.
- “Your order is in”: When people place an order for a special item, ask them if you can email them when it arrives.
- “Can we email you a copy of your receipt?”: The Apple Stores have been doing this for quite a while. Many other stores are doing the same . You can too. Every time the Change Due window appears, your employees should ask the customer if they can email the receipt to them.
We wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful to have you as our customers.
Some of you have already finished your year-end inventory. Most of you will do it sometime after the new year. We’ve led and assisted with countless inventories. From our experience, here are 5 steps to take now to be ready then.
- Pick a date and publicize it. Let your customers and employees know your plans. Mark the date on your team calendar. Post the date on your website. Get the word out to your email list, Facebook friends and Twitter followers. And please, close for the day. Having accurate inventory is of great value. It’s worth the money you won’t take in the day you’re closed. Doing it after hours or while you’re open will lead to mistakes. You want your team fresh and paying attention to details.
- Pick and prep your team. Speaking of your team, make sure you select the right people for the job. Some are cut out for it and some aren’t. You want detailed oriented people who won’t overlook mistakes. Once you’ve picked your team, have them read our “Complete Guide to Inventory Counts“. Better yet, send them to Inventory Fantasy Camp. We have spots open at our Trek Stores of Madison camps on January 8-9 and 10-11.
- Prepare your MC1000 scanners. If you use your MC1000′s throughout the year, they should be ready. If you haven’t used them for a while, plug them in and make sure they’re ready to go. If you need more scanners for your inventory day, contact our Ascend Support Team. We have rental units available.
- Clear out your old stuff. If you have old products in your store that you scanned last year, clear it out so you don’t have to count it again. Use Ascend’s Aged Inventory Report to tell you what you need to get rid of.
- Make sure everything scans. Hand out your MC1000′s and have your employees scan your bar code labels. Replace any that don’t scan with new labels.
We also have checklists for one week, two days and one day before your inventory day. Check them out on our Inventory Prep page.
Good luck and let us know if we can do anything to help!
To our customers living in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: We hope you’re safe and sound and your lives are returning to normal. If there’s any way we can help, please let us know.
Earlier this year my neighbor’s house was gutted by fire. Fortunately they were well insured and most everything has been replaced. At the time of the fire, he was most upset about losing his computer. It had many valuable files and photos on it that weren’t backed up anywhere else. Once the fire was under control, he asked the fire fighters if they could retrieve the computer. By some miracle the computer was spared and he was able to get the files off of it. He was lucky.
Think about the days, weeks, months and years of data you’ve created in Ascend. How valuable is that information to you? Think about how quickly it could disappear if your computer hard drive fails or, worse yet, some other disaster strikes.
I’m asking you this week to verify your Ascend back-up plan. Make sure you’re backing up your database at the end of each business day. Make sure you have a copy stored offsite. If the worst happens and you have a back-up file, our Ascend Support Team can get you up and running quickly.
One of the benefits to look forward to with Version 3 is automatic back-ups. Since we’re hosting the databases for you, we’ll make sure they’re backed up every night. Until then, please make sure your back-up plan is being followed.
As we approach November, it’s time to dust off your end of year to-do lists. Here are 4 things to add.
- Prepare for your holiday sale: Make sure to use the On Sale function in Ascend to set your sale prices. Also check to see that you have enough gift cards on hand and that your staff knows how to use them.
- Get ready to count everything: Counting everything in your store is an expensive exercise. When you get to counting day, you want to make sure it’s a productive exercise too. Start planning and training now at our Inventory Training page. If you want hands on training, sign-up for Inventory Fantasy Camp.
- Set your 2013 budget: The budget feature in Ascend Analytics is an outstanding way to set targets for your staff and to keep you on pace to reach your goals. It’s very simple to use as well. Go to our Analytics Help Page for step-by-step instructions on creating a new financial budget.
- Inspect your hardware: Take a look at all of your PC’s, bar code scanners, receipt printers and label printers. Decide which ones are good for another year and which need to be replaced. If you’re not sure they’re up to spec, check out our approved hardware page.
And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@AscendUSA) as well!