Sell The Value, Not The Printer
VARs have touted the marketing capabilities of receipt printers for years. Two receipt printer executives contend this sales angle is effective as ever.
Early adopters of "new" receipt printing capabilities can't deny the marketing punch a coupon and a splash of color have given them. So, whether you're selling thermal, ink jet, impact, or hybrid printers, the hook has never been stronger than that of the marketing angle. And while receipt printer manufacturers might not agree on the best technology, they certainly agree that the market is not tapped out.
"We all know that retailers want to do more with their receipt printers than just print receipts," said Patty McCarthy, marketing communications manager at Star Micronics (Edison, NJ). McCarthy and her team at Star are champions of the speed and two-color capabilities of thermal printers. "Retailers want to print logos, coupons, rebates, and specials, while processing their customers quickly. Tier-one retailers are already doing this and tier-two retailers realize that to be competitive they need to do the same."
What VARs need to keep in mind is that the same value-add to the retailer's customer is cost justification to the retailer's marketing department. "Marketing people have a vested interest in generating revenue from receipts rather than looking at them solely as the cost of equipment and paper," said Barbara Clise, marketing manager at TransAct (Wallingford, CT). "Because of this, we don't direct our marketing campaign to only technical users and IT people, we look at marketing people and CEOs as well." TransAct sells ink jet, thermal, and impact printers, but Clise lauds the familiarity and multi-color capability of its ink jet line. While Star peddles thermal and dot matrix only, McCarthy concurs with the theory of the sell. "We have educated our VARs to sell our printers not just as a receipt printer, but to sell the value-add the printer offers."
Beware The Misconceptions
Just because you've been getting colorful, promotion-laden receipts for quite some time from the big department and grocery stores doesn't mean that there's nowhere for VARs to grow sales, say Clise and McCarthy. Most small- to medium-sized retailers have yet to upgrade to two-color receipt printers, let alone integrated software programs that will help them create targeted promotions. But many of these retailers aren't pursuing solutions due to the misconception that they can't afford the technology. "A retailer who wants to compete with the big players at the point of sale might turn to his software people and ask them for a solution, then shy away from the idea when they see the price tag," said Star Sales Executive Mike Hansen. "What VARs need to do is step in and sell today's smart printer technologies - printers that can interpret data and print coupons and logos based on the information that is stored in the printer - without any software changes needed."
As Clise suggests, these smaller players will often have more flexibility to implement new technologies because they don't have to deal with the infrastructure and networking complexities of the mega chain. She also says that while it may look like Wal-Mart and Kmart caliber franchises are already beyond the curve, don't count them out for new business, regardless of your technology. "There's no reason why they can't use both ink jet and thermal technologies in their store," said Clise. "They can use ink jet in their cafeterias, photo departments, pharmacies, and other places where speed is not as critical as it is in the checkout line."
Competition Works For The VAR
VARs must consider the impact competing technologies can have on the market. With more than one game in town, resellers can help their customer customize a solution according to specific criteria. "The technology options mean more variables as far as speed, print quality, color, acoustics, and costs are concerned," said Clise. VARs can gain sales by helping their customers analyze the costs and benefits of these variables. Clise concludes that regardless of technology, nothing beats good old-fashioned service. "VARs need to offer full service. That means up-front knowledge of the equipment, followed by the ability to customize a solution, backed by technical hardware and software support after the installation is complete."