Connect With Customers: Selling Networking Solutions
VARs can boost point of sale (POS) revenue by selling retailers on the value of information for managing stores.
Where is networking headed? "We see a trend in networking for retail automation," says Bruce DeVries, business development manager for retail automation at Comtrol (Minneapolis). "Retailers are networking to connect legacy systems in order to make point of sale (POS) information available throughout the corporation." Comtrol is a privately held company with 100 employees. The company manufactures data communications products, including multiport serial cards, thin server hardware, and software. DeVries specializes in chain store markets, including grocery, convenience store/gas, and foodservice.
DeVries admits that selling networking can be an uphill battle for VARs. "Networking POS systems is a new technology for many retailers; the owner can't be in all the locations all the time," says DeVries. He admits that selling networking is a two-edged sword for VARs. "Networking point of sale (POS) systems is a new technology VARs can sell to existing customers," says DeVries. "But, retailers are cautious when it comes to spending money on technology. VARs have to prove that the information gathered through networked systems is valuable. If a VAR can't demonstrate the value gained for even an additional $50 expense, the VAR can't expect to sell networking. But prove to the retailer the technology will improve margins even a fraction of a point, and the retailer will be interested."
Hotel Market A Growing Industry For Networking
"Hotels/motels are a growing market for networking," says DeVries. "Hotels and motels typically have many dissimilar guest service and property management systems. Connecting those systems - enabling them to communicate with each other - provides real revenue to the hotel. For example, many hotels have problems with phone charges and movies billed to rooms improperly or not at all. Networking can help hotel and motel owners solve this problem by enabling the guest service and property management systems to share data and automate the billing process."
"Successful VARs must think beyond LANs (local area networks) and consider how their products will fit in with customers' existing and planned enterprise information systems," says Leon (Lee) Morsillo, VP, engineering and technology, for DataCap Systems Inc. (Chalfont, PA). "That means provide solutions based on open networking standards with hardware and application architectures that are scalable over time." DataCap Systems manufactures payment interface products for integration with POS and other systems requiring payment processing.
Morsillo says the Internet is an "undeniable force" in shaping the future of networking. "For many retailers, the Internet will be the vehicle for interacting with customers, business partners, and internal corporate departments," says Morsillo. "Support for Internet protocols is a key consideration when designing systems and selecting hardware and software." Morsillo also says "internetworking" – connecting LANs – has extended the utility of LANs. "VARs need to have an enterprise viewpoint on internetworking to find market opportunities outside the normal store or distribution system."
So what should VARs consider in networking solutions? Morsillo recommends VARs look for:
- compatibility with open standards
- multiprotocol support for legacy systems
DeVries advises VARs to partner with their vendor to offer solutions as well. "VARs that are most successful add value, such as reporting and managing capabilities, along with networking."
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