There are always a handful of surprises that come out of RetailNOW and this year was no different.
RetailNOW: The Intersection Of Retail IT & Payment Processing
You couldn’t walk the show floor or the hallways without seeing or hearing about payment processing. Mercury still dominated the show in buzz by hosting its annual “everyone’s there” party on Monday night, supporting the RSPA through a Platinum sponsorship, and by bringing 30+ employees and nearly 200 new attendees from the company’s partner program. Oh, I forgot winning the Gold Vendor of Excellence award in the payment processing category and the Gold Medallion award (most overall votes) for the fourth or fifth straight year (I lost count). With so much investment in the show, it’s no wonder RetailNOW feels like home court advantage for Mercury.
All that said, I don’t want to diminish the contributions of companies like Merchant Warehouse, who also steps up in a big way to support the event with a Platinum sponsorship, hosts a party of its own (invite only, and the unofficial late night after-party), and participates wherever the RSPA needs it.
It’s great to see that, for the most part, when payments companies join the RSPA, they’re at least giving back in some way and not just taking. Here’s the complete list of payments-related sponsors of RetailNOW — Mercury, Merchant Warehouse, Datacap Systems, Discover, ISIS, Vantiv, Moneris, Sterling Payment Technologies.
This year, the number of processing-related companies at the event surpassed previous years by leaps. During the new member reception, which is a warm up gathering held just prior to the opening reception for… you guessed it… new members, I was introduced to a representative of JetPay, Shauna Meyer-Reimers, VP of VAR Partnerships.
According to Meyer-Reimers and an RSPA new member spotlight on her company, JetPay is a top-10 payment processing company touting “simple integration without the need of a 3rd party gateway which removes an extra layer of expense and potential point of failure.”
If you’re a software developer, you’ve heard such claims before. However, based on conversations I had with ISVs at the event who spoke with Meyer-Reimers, it seems like JetPay might just have a legitimate value proposition. Whether the company takes a serious step into the POS channel like other processing-related companies and follows through on its claims will have to wait. It’s usually a good sign when a vendor like JetPay places executives in positions specifically responsible for the VAR channel. Other companies that didn’t make such hires typically had less-than-desirable results.
Looking For Additional Sources Of Recurring Revenue?
Additionally, there was some buzz on the floor about GoBig, a new company featured in the MobileROW section of RetailNOW. I spoke with Derek Cahill, president of GoBig, and learned that the company’s core offering is a hardware and software bundle that gives restaurant and retail guests free WiFi capabilities while in store. However, the solution doesn’t stop there. GoBig relies on the guest using any number of social media outlets or their phone number to log in. Once that information is logged, demographic information can be captured and is able to be used to push targeted electronic marketing (e.g. coupons, newsletters, etc.) and generate leads. One thing that immediately came to mind regarding guest WiFi is PCI compliance. According to Cahill, the solution meets PCI and HIPAA compliance. If you’re a VAR looking for additional recurring revenue sources, solutions like GoBig’s are a great easy addition to your portfolio.
As A Service Talk Abounds
I didn’t hear a lot about the “as a service” model just because I moderated a panel on the topic on day one of RetailNOW (recap here). From conversations I had with dealers walking the floor, it’s clear that many are interested in the model. It’s also clear that a lot of educating still needs to take place. Luckily, it appears as if some of the vendors in this space have finally come up with their strategies/programs to help out interested VARs. If you’re interested in diving in head first or are just looking to test the waters, there are more recurring revenue options available today than ever.
Cloud, Mobile POS
Finally, the number of new cloud and mobile POS software providers at the show was amazing. And, beyond the offerings from all the new exhibitors, many of the traditional POS developers were showing off new mobile/cloud versions of their software.
While I’m sure VARs are overwhelmed at the many options, it’s good to *have* options. And, very importantly, options from companies that, as of now, are interested in going through a reseller channel. Time will tell if this plays out. Companies like ShopKeep initially showed interest in the POS reseller channel but then changed up their strategies and went in different directions. The good news is that, while customers might still be luke warm to pulling the trigger on mobile/cloud solutions, it gives you time to find the right software for your line card.
RetailNOW 2014 Wishlist
By all accounts, this year's RetailNOW was another step forward for the organization. Education was top-notch, attendance reached a high (unofficial reports are at 2,100 attendees), and the expo floor was sold out. What more could one ask for?
The things still missing from this event are more complementary technologies. Apart from digital signage, I didn't see a whole lot of tech that VARs could be adding to their line cards, despite the fact that there are lots of opportunities out there. Why aren't companies like Motorola (who has a gigantic booth at NRF and clearly has a retail focus) not exhibiting? Cisco? Microsoft? Video surveillance companies? No shows (with minor exceptions of getting a corner of a distributor booth maybe).
Additionally, why can't companies who are exhibiting bring their full suite of products to the show? If I'm a retail VAR, might I be interested in your servers or printers? Help your VARs get in deeper with their customers!
I've got to give credit where it's due. Panasonic is one company that has figured out the "total solution" pitch. Their booth contains a full suite of their products allowing them to show VARs what's possible when POS terminals, video cameras, digital signage, and tablets are working together.
All said, RetailNOW 2013 was an awesome show and without a doubt, 2014 will continue to be the place where the industry meets.
RetailNOW 2013, hosted by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), was conducted Aug. 4-8 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For more information on the event, go to www.BSMinfo.com/InsideRSPA.