Ray Carlin, VP and general manager, HP Retail Store Solutions Global Business Unit, was one of the members of the Industry Vision Panel at RetailNOW 2012, which took place July 29-Aug. 1 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The panel was divided into two segments, a hardware-focused group and software-focused group, and was moderated by Jim Roddy, president of Jameson Publishing and Business Solutions magazine. As part of the hardware-focused group, Carlin shares his thoughts below on many of the different topics impacting the POS industry today that were discussed at the panel.
“State Of The Industry”
Jim Roddy, BSM: Talk about the landscape you’re seeing today in the retail IT industry. Give us the state of the industry from your perspective.
Ray Carlin, HP: Just maybe to vector off a little bit to an overall industry perspective, when you think about where we were a year ago, certainly we've seen a lot of change. There have been a number of supplier changes. I predict that trend will continue and we’ll see some further consolidation. From the retailer perspective, we see more effort on the part of retailers who use technology as a differentiator. So how do retailers look at IT, whether it's POS signage or mobile devices? How did that serve the customer the way the customer wants to be served? And how can technology help make that a different experience than perhaps their competitors? So, it's really also using technology as a weapon.
The iPad Impact On The Retail Channel
Jim Roddy, BSM: An article published on the Business Solutions magazine website was titled, “Are You Tired Of Your Customers Asking About iPads?” It received close to the most reader comments we've received on any article posted on our website this year.
How much will iPads impact our channel? Is it going to damage it? Is it going to enhance it? Should resellers – some of them are fighting iPads – should they stop fighting and just join them by selling software that runs on iPads?
Ray Carlin, HP: I think it's important to think about this at the subsegment level also. I think the adoption of tablets is going to be different (for each segment), so while we are thinking about serving our customers, we need to also think about what environments they're in and just a lot of business process changes in addition to the technology and management, such as the security issues which are real.
There are some business process challenges that folks that have already experimented with or piloted tablet devices have come across. But make no mistake about it, it's going to be a significant part of the overall point of sale mix. I agree we need to embrace it.
The Debate Surrounding Free POS
Jim Roddy, BSM: I’ve been told by some folks in our industry not to ask this next question. They said, “Don't touch this point. It's just too much of a hot-button in our industry.” But since it hits a nerve, I think we need to talk about it. The topic is free hardware. From your perspective, are vendors who are offering free hardware, are they wrecking the POS channel or are they leading the charge of what's coming?
And then, are resellers who participate in free hardware programs gaining a competitive advantage or are they shooting themselves in the foot. Or, as some folks think, are they shooting themselves in the head?
Ray Carlin, HP: I was a little surprised about your question, actually. The last time I looked, there's no such thing as really free hardware. Our friends at Intel and Microsoft and others are certainly charging us something for the stuff that we manufacture. To Steve’s point, it may be more of a bundling tactic.
The other point is, this isn't a new concept. It's been a prevalent business model in the cell phone market. It wasn't that long ago that we saw companies like SalesForce.com talk about the end of the software. They've been very successful, but certainly, it isn't the end of the software.
I think that it's really an opportunity to let value to shine through as an individual organization sees it in terms of what's the best fit of their strengths to an individual customer situation. I think that's what's critical.
It doesn't have to be either/or. A few years ago, when StoreNext was being introduced, it was a hybrid-type model. It was a combination of hardware sales and software and a subscription model. I think there’s a lot of room for folks to work within.
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?
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.
Jim Roddy, BSM: Everyone is concerned about channel sustainability. (Retail Solutions Providers Association CEO) Joe Finizio was talking about it this morning. You can wring your hands about it and fret, or you can do something about it. What actions would you say a reseller needs to take today to make sure that their business is relevant and thriving five years from now?
Ray Carlin, HP: I would focus on embracing the change and the opportunity. I think if you look at what's available to sell to your customers today, whether it's digital signage or video surveillance or mobility, point of sale is so much richer than it has been in the past. I would continue to encourage folks to really focus on becoming that trusted advisor. That's how you really get sticky with your customers. They come to you first as the resource that's going to help them navigate through these changes in technology.
To read other panel member's thoughts, visit the pages below: