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Summer is here!

June 21 is officially the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere – but here in Ascend, we’re celebrating a few days early with the release of the June 2018 version on June 19! Normally, we try to keep our summer releases focused on fixing bugs and improving back-end performance (since we know it’s your busy season and you don’t have time to learn a lot of new features). But we had quite a few improvements this time around that we just didn’t want to make you wait for!

Worldwide version naming: Back in January, we welcomed Australia to the worldwide Ascend family. But we quickly realized our seasonal naming convention was going to turn into a bit of a confusing mess. So now we’ve simplified things even more, and all releases will just be named after the month and year in which they’re released.

We release a new version of Ascend every season/quarter:

Keep an eye on the release notes for full details on new releases. We usually release a “sneak preview” of the upcoming version about a month before it goes out to all retailers.

Want to get new features earlier? We’re always looking for additions to our beta testing groups! There are two options – our Early Release group receives the upcoming version of Ascend about a month early, while our full-out Beta group gets updates every two or three weeks. For the last month or so before the general release, we may need to bump both Early Release and Beta groups up to weekly releases in order to ensure that we have bugs thoroughly squashed.

If you’re interested in learning more, hit us up!

Stratus-ication: Multi-store retailers, we’re moving a whole bunch of stuff to our Stratus platform. This will make sharing information between all of your locations (nearly) instantaneous – and, Stratus is a much more stable (and regionalized!) environment, so your changes will be shared reliably. Data Exchanges are a thing of the past, now that the following items are being ported over:

Keep in mind that the Ascend support team will need to do some manual work in our online services to get you moved over to Stratus (but we won’t need you to provide us with access to your computers for this round of updates), so please be patient – it may take us a business day or two to get you migrated once we see that all of your locations (including any Events, Warehouse, or eCommerce locations) are on the latest version. We’ll send an email to each location’s email address (from Database Explorer > Locations) to let you know you’re all set!

Reservations overhaul: We’ve completely revamped our entire Reservations process. You can now fully manage your rental fleet, rates, and reservations in Ascend. Create a transaction directly from a customer’s reservation – rental charges will automatically reflect the reservation’s timeframe. Get started with our knowledge base article.

When you upgrade, you’ll automatically have a new Reservations category and Rental Charges in-store product. Be sure to apply any tax exceptions to these, as required by your local laws. And if you use QuickBooks®, you’ll need to assign accounts to the Reservations category before you’ll be able to export your files for QuickBooks® – including automated exports!

You’ll also be able to mark any category as Rentals, which allows you to exclude items in these categories from transaction-wide discounts.

Manual Discount Reasons: Ever wonder why the heck an employee discounted a customer’s sale/item? In the new and improved Discount Calculator, users are required to select a Discount Reason before applying a price change. We’ve provided you with several common reasons for a start, but you can customize this list to suit your store’s needs in Options > Sales and Returns > Discounts > Reasons. And if you’re a multi-store retailer, these reasons automatically share between all of your locations. Get the details in our knowledge base article.

You can then use the new Discount History Detail and Discount History Summary reports (in the Discounts section – where we’ve also moved the Current Items On Promotion report) to assess the impact of these discounts on your sales.

But if you aren’t concerned about why your employees are discounting items, you can turn this requirement off – just uncheck Options > Sales and Returns > Discounts > Reasons > Require Discount Reason.

Special Order serial number ties: This enhancement seems a little minor – but we know that even small things can have a big impact! When you assign a serial number to a special order item at receiving – whether it’s on a vendor order item or a transfer from another location – that serial number is automatically assigned to the sale item. No need to re-scan or manually pick the serial number when the customer’s ready to take the item home.

Listen360 Customer Engagement Platform: We’ve partnered with Listen360 to provide you with a new tool to automatically send your customers post-purchase surveys. You’ll receive daily summary emails so you can see how your customers are responding, and you can choose to receive immediate notifications about “detractors” (customers who scored their experience between 0-6). This service is estimated to cost individual retailers over $5,000 per year – but with Ascend, it’s fully included in your monthly subscription fees!

To take advantage of this fantastic new opportunity, upgrade all of your locations (including any Events, Warehouse, or eCommerce locations) to the June 2018 version of Ascend, sign up for a Listen360 account, and learn about the details in our knowledge base article.

Simplified updates: You won’t see the benefits of this improvement just yet – but when you update to the September 2018 version of Ascend, all you’ll need to do is click the Update button on the Internet Update screen (and depending on your Windows® security settings, maybe confirm you want to allow Ascend to make changes), and Ascend will take care of the rest. Everything will be installed in the background, and Ascend will automatically start up when it’s done updating. Easy-peasy!

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