August 13, 2003, 12:00 AM

How Giant Retail Stores uses the web to manage electronic phone cards

With customer demand rising for a growing number of stored-value phone cards, convenience-store chain Giant Retail Stores Group uses the web to monitor sales of electronic versions of the cards. It also saves prime display space for other products.

With customer demand rising for a growing number of stored-value phone cards, convenience-store chain Giant Retail Stores Group uses the web to monitor sales of electronic versions of the cards. It also saves prime display space for other products. "By switching from live inventory cards to electronic distribution, we are free from the burden of managing and safeguarding live prepaid inventory," said director of marketing Mike Polo.

 

The number and types of stored-value cards sold in retail stores for using telephone services, both wireless and land lines, has grown sharply in the past year, forcing merchants to dedicate more shelf space to them as well as outlay more funds. And the individual value placed in cards is also rising, from $10 or $20 in the recent past to $100 or more today. Merchants are required to cover the value of the cards until they’re sold to consumers – an increasingly risky operation since the cards are susceptible to theft.

 

But Giant and other retailers are beginning to move the physical cards off their shelves in favor of electronic versions. Through a Qxpress 200 limited-use point-of-sale terminal provided by Q Comm International Inc., Giant electronically receives card values that it then prints out onto physical cards as customers order them. Q Comm channels value transmissions for cards from numerous providers, including Verizon Communications, AT&T; Wireless Services, Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile U.S.A. Inc. and Sprint Communications Co.

 

Q Comm provides web access to view sales activity in each Giant store, Polo says. "I can access near real-time reports through the web to view sales running through Qxpress terminals by individual store and product," he says.

 

The transmission of card values to Qxpress terminals is now done over dial-up telephone lines, and retailers order and pay for the electronically received and stored values ahead of time just as with physical cards, then print out cards as customers purchase them. But the system will gradually move toward web transmissions to support high volume of transmissions at faster speed and lower cost, a spokesman for Q Comm says. The speed of web-based terminal transmissions will enable retailers to order more cards at the time customers want to purchase them, decreasing the amount of money they have to pay ahead of sales, Q Comm says.

 

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