2016 was a year for the ages for our industry. Wow, a lot went on that directly impacted so many brokers, however, as the industry has done for years, everyone made due and pressed forward. Data Age continues to grow and lead the way as the number one software vendor with more than 3,000 customers. Data Age also led the way in helping many brokers overcome several challenges presented to them in 2016. Changes imposed by federal and local agencies, which placed the broker in some uncharted waters. Data Age, in early January delivered the California Department of Justice package to keep customers in California compliant, in concert with text message notifications. These builds immediately quelled the concerns of the California brokers and in the process drove a lot of new business to PawnMaster. The product and the support in tandem made these brokers feel at ease and allowed them to focus on the basics of their business again. The Military Lending Act was another new regulation so many people were and are still concerned about. PawnMaster swiftly addressed this need in their software and again helped alleviate concerns relating to this Act.Data Age launched the very popular User Group Symposium starting at our Clearwater, Florida global headquarters. This event saw brokers coming in from every corner of the country to attend. It gave our brokers a chance to meet our entire team, see our offices (and the additional spaces we are building) as well as get some great education on the product and the industry. Guest speakers chiming in on how they operate their businesses, product demonstrations and input from the NPA on what was coming down the pike regarding the Military Lending Act. Also, one of the most liked thing about this event was the opportunity for pawnbrokers to network with other pawnbrokers, sharing ideas on business, marketing and how they use their software. This event has spun off others and we look forward to many more events like it.
The industry was also rocked by sad news regarding some vendors who have passed away. This news impacted a lot of the customers being supported by these vendors and found them waking up and having to find new software to help them operate their business. The worries sparked questions such as, who is supporting and updating the software, now that the firms were in flux. Data Age again stepped up and assisted so many brokers in bringing PawnMaster into their shops. These new clients appreciated the stability and support Data Age/PawnMaster has to offer as they went through this transition very smoothly.
As we headed into the summer and the National Pawn Expo event, Data Age launched our new, and the only true cloud product -- PawnMaster Ignite to the market. This cutting-edge product could not have been as successful without the help of the many brokers providing their feedback, collaboration and input before, during and even still -- after launch. As the product was being built, Data Age was heavily courted by all the top vendors to host Ignite. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services led the way and in the end Data Age selected the number one provider in this space… Amazon Web Services. The best was partnering with the best and the security, comfort level and performance this partnership has delivered has people feeling excited and ready to advance their businesses forward knowing a true cloud product is at their disposal. Data Age has the only dual platform product set to be able to satisfy any customer be them small or large. Ignite's platform is the newest state-of-the art technology and the business intelligence built into Ignite is being highly touted. Many of our customers are already using the data to advance their businesses. Actually, the B.I. aspect of the product is a direct effort of working with our customers. Data Age projects about 70% of new incoming business will be purchasing Ignite while the other 30% will stay with our Classic product based on the client’s needs. With more than 3,000 clients, we believe a good portion will move to Ignite but the key is flexibility. We will never force clients into a narrow channel when it comes to their business.
Through consultation with several of our text messaging customers, we found that there was a need for a service offering that helps pawn shops develop, manage and facilitate their marketing programs. Through this need, we launched Text Valet. Almost immediately 10% of text messaging customers adopted the service, and the number is rapidly growing.
PawnMaster also launched its newest module that integrates with AcuSport, the leading firearms distributer. Once again, the best partnering with the best. PawnMaster is the exclusive pawn shop vendor to participate in the program. Retailers will experience improved product flow, priority ordering status through API orders over standard AcuSport orders, discounts and free shipping. Customers will also save time and minimize the risk of running out of stock with automated purchase orders (POs) based on customized inventory levels set in the system by PawnMaster customers. Purchase orders that are fulfilled though the system are automatically entered into PawnMaster’s already robust reporting capabilities. AcuSport retailers will have priority access to in-demand products and visibility to industry trends to help them generate a larger return.
In early summer the market was shaken again by an acqusition forcing pawn shops to, once again, take their focus away from their businesses and put it on their software vendor as they had to take a very close look at existing contracts with their current software and figure out what was what. During this period of time, Data Age has helped so many brokers settle down, evaluate and make sense of their situation, and finally assisted them in converting over to PawnMaster. These brokers needed the stability of a company who is committed to helping the pawn broker out over the long haul and who also puts their business first. We have stood by our beliefs for many years that, as the leader of the industry, it is our responsibility to help out whenever we can. So many of our new customers who found themselves in crisis have been stepping up and thanking us for consulting with them in a real crisis moment.
December 12th was yet another turbulent day when "true cloud" was truly defined for a lot of brokers. When a software goes down for an entire business day and little to no communication takes place, it forces business owners to ask the question, "How does this happen?". This event would never take place with a true cloud solution such as PawnMaster Ignite because there is no single point of failure. In a co-location setting, if your one server (or any dependent piece of hardware) goes down and that's the only server housing the data for all of your customers, those customers are out of business until you can get your server back up and running, or replaced.
On a more postivie note, Tom Streng assumed a Chairman of the Board role as he focused his efforts more on new products and other growth opportunities. Several key members of the highly experienced Data Age management team took on new titles allowing them the ability to make even greater impacts on our business with great velocity.