From The Editor | September 6, 2012

Retail IT Channel Leaders Talk Total Solutions

The concept of resellers providing a total solution to a vertical market – not just a portion of their customers’ technology needs – continues to gain acceptance. The need for VARs to transition to being total solution providers was one of the topics discussed during the Industry Vision Panel discussion at RetailNOW 2012.

Jim Roddy, BSM: Almost everyone in this industry I've talked with has seen a trend towards selling beyond point of sale and providing a total solution for the customer. I just heard in the RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) board meeting Saturday that this organization is focused mostly on about 20 feet away from the entry door to a retail customer, and we need to expand beyond that.

Two technologies beyond POS are security, such as video surveillance, and also digital signage. What one piece of advice or what one pitfall to avoid would you give to the resellers in the audience in regards to these technologies?

Justin Scopaz, Ingram Micro: One of the things that keep me up at night is the fact that we have so many resources that are focused on these technologies, and we have people that are paid exclusively on going out and generating demand, working with partners on cross-selling. And I'm sure everyone here – I’m speaking more on behalf of distribution, not just Ingram Micro – but we have a lot of resources dedicated to these adjacent technologies. The first advice would be to leverage distribution and all that distribution has to offer. We’ll help you find the right hardware partners and content partners for digital signage, and connect you with the right ISVs as well.

A pitfall I would say is you need to understand what the objectives are when engaging a client. Clear objectives are important. We need to understand what they are, and then we will deliver against those objectives. And then second would probably be keeping it simple. Sometimes we try to overcomplicate things which would slow down a sale.

Paul Constantine, ScanSource: I would just add on to what Justin said, speaking for distribution. It amazes me the amount of resources that we all have in place to help you guys learn new technologies, to learn new solutions. And then we all sure feel those resources are underutilized.

Applying that to physical security, if you are in the audience today and are interested in adding video surveillance or physical security to become more of a retail IT consultant, lean on your distributors. Distributors have a lot of resources.

The vendors in that space also have a lot of resources. Some of the best industry training and education I've seen in my history of distribution is with some of the physical security video surveillance manufacturers. They’ve got some great programs. There are definitely resources out there to help you learn the technology, help you figure out exactly how to start selling it and what to sell.

Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: These guys are right on the spot because this actually happened to me. I have a friend who owns a restaurant, and he called me up and said, "You're in the industry, what do I do?" I said, “About what?” He says, "I got a guy trying to steal my compressor and get all the copper out of the air conditioning system at my restaurant." And I said, "Did you ever hear of a security camera?"

These products are so good with IP protocol today that you can actually have a software to determine whether it's bothering the owner or not or whoever the manager is. This is a great opportunity if you think about the revenue stream. You get the installation of the security package, interior and exterior, and it doesn't just stop with that part because you got to have a default system which is usually broadband because these guys are smart enough to cut power lines so the phone lines don’t work.

Now, you get to install a default backup system that's internet protocol that will go right to your smartphone. For a lot of owners, it's cheap insurance. And while you're at it, you can sell him a cell phone and you can give him a warranty package. You get the activation fee and you can get a $5 insurance package and sell it with a $300 phone.

Ted Clark, IBM (Toshiba): We have a lot of experience in implementing loss prevention solutions. A decent sized grocer did not have Kleenex in their SKU. The cashier would scan it and nothing happened. The cashier said, "Well, a box of Kleenex is like this little bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer” which is right by the cash register. So she scanned that. And then they just kept on doing it. All of a sudden, tons and tons of hand sanitizer were showing up and no Kleenex was showing up.

They used video surveillance and caught what the cashier was doing. There’s lots of opportunity there. If you don't have that capability, you can partner with us or with other companies that are in this business, and you can either buy video equipment or subcontract to get into video surveillance.

Constantine: The software has really progressed in the video surveillance industry. The amount of analytics that can be done now with the VMS – video management software package – is phenomenal. The basic stuff like people counting and dwell time, that’s real hard data to help some business manager or store manager operate their business more efficiently. And that's all now available in every integrated video surveillance and video analytics package.

There's a lot of opportunity out there. It takes some investment of time to learn that stuff, but you got to lean on your partners to help you find where that education is and give you that education. The way to expand is through adjacent technology. It will give you a lot more revenue opportunity and position you as more of a retail IT consultant.

Ray Carlin, HP: I’d like to switch back to digital signage for a minute. I think what's really emerging is a closed adjacency to those that are more POS-centric. I think there are lots of opportunities as we've seen a blurring of digital signage and self-service together, particularly interactive.

I think a couple of years ago, the first time I sat in the panel, we were advocating taking a look at digital signage. I think we've seen pretty big growth to that business. Customers are looking for this more seamless customer experience, and digital signage, particularly interactive, will be a big part of that.

This year the RetailNOW Industry Vision Panel was divided into two segments, a hardware-focused group and a software focused group. The hardware-focused panelists included:

  • Steve Cuntz, Chairman/CEO, BlueStar
  • Ted Clark, Global Business Partner Channel Leader, IBM Retail Store Solutions division (now part of Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions)
  • Paul Constantine, President, ScanSource POS/Barcoding
  • Ray Carlin, VP and General Manager, HP Retail Store Solutions Global Business Unit
  • Justin Scopaz, General Manager and VP, Ingram Micro Data Capture/POS division
  • Moderator: Jim Roddy, President, Jameson Publishing and Business Solutions magazine

RetailNOW was held July 29-Aug. 1 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For more information on RetailNOW 2012, including more excerpts from the Industry Vision Panel, go to www.BSMinfo.com/InsideRetailNOW.

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