Where Are You Looking For Touch Sales?
POS (point of sale) distributors discuss how VARs are extending their touch customer base by approaching end users in specialty retail and quick service.
As new market segments begin to demand touch technology, POS (point of sale) VARs have the opportunity to penetrate those markets and profit from them. As touch technology begins to trickle down from the national level to the regional level, POS distributors believe resellers have new potential in specialty retail and quick service verticals. End users are becoming more comfortable with the technology, resulting in more installations being deployed. Armed with the fine points of how to penetrate these markets and where profit can be found in them, you will be able to take the proper steps in boosting your touch sales.
Specialty Retail Lends Itself To Touch Applications
Taking a look at shoe and apparel stores in specialty retail may help you find potential customers you may have overlooked. Although touch has been talked about quite a bit in the retail vertical, it has yet to be widely implemented. However, as touch technology becomes a proven form of data entry at the POS, more retailers are beginning to find a comfort zone with the technology. More comfort for them means you should not shy away from pitching touch to those retailers.
If you are looking to get into this market but are not sure how, there is help. Distributors and vendors of the products can provide the training you need as well as some customer leads. According to Mark Fraker, Systems Solutions Group national sales manager at BlueStar, Inc. (Florence, KY), the first step in selling touch in specialty retail is finding the right tools. "VARs need to pick the software package they are going to sell first, because hardware is dependent on software," says Fraker. Many vendors and distributors have educational services and programs that will assist you in finding a total solution that incorporates the hardware and software in one complete system.
"If you look at software companies for POS, probably 80% to 90% are touch applications already. Of the ones that can go either through touch or non-touch, about 90% are used as touch applications," according to Fraker. A reason for this rise in touch being the preferred technology more often than not is the reduction of mistakes caused by human error. Using a touch screen eliminates steps at the POS, and also allows end users to skip the step of looking away from the customer and the screen to enter data into a keyboard. Touch technology also offers the convenience of speed. These end user benefits are VAR benefits as well. If you know how touch technology can improve retailers' operations, then you have the pitch to replace their keyboards. The opportunity is present and numerous POS resellers are already exploring the potential in specialty retail. "When VARs come to us with an RFP [request for proposal], 1 out of every 10 requires touch applications specific to retail," says Fraker.
Self-Service, Quick Service Demand Touch Technology
Self-service is quickly becoming a preferred approach to quick service. As self-service checkouts and pay-at-the-pump gas stations are erupting as frequent POS solutions for the larger businesses, the effects are beginning to make their way to the regional and local levels. "As the corporate players begin to use touch technology, we see it beginning to work its way down to the regional level in quick service applications," says Buck Baker, senior VP of merchandising at ScanSource, Inc. (Greenville, SC). Coming down to a regional level opens the door to implementing touch for self-service applications in unsaturated niches. "As we begin to look at vertical markets, we have to look at touch from a technology standpoint to decide how it fits into the retail and quick service space," says Baker.
To get started in using touch for self-service applications, Baker believes VARs need to begin to look around and find the opportunities in their areas. Because a touch solution has become more executable and less cost intrusive, it can be implemented on the regional and local level, if you look in the right places. For example, going after hotel customers to add self-check-in and checkout on the regional level affords you more opportunity than chasing the larger chains.
Quick service is similar to specialty retail in the push from the end user side. "If you look at touch technology, it is driven by end users' demands for self-service applications. For the end user, it represents a cost savings by eliminating labor. These customers need technology, it is up to resellers to describe the benefits of making that a touch technology application," says Kevin Su, COO at Nimax (San Diego).
Part of the reason for the customer demand in quick service is the emergence of new applications in touch applications for self-service in quick service. McDonalds has been experimenting for more than a year now with touch screen enabled self-ordering for its customers. The touch screens allow customers to order via a touch screen to help speed up the process. USA Today reports that McDonald's will soon have 13 stores in the Denver, and Raleigh, NC, areas using a form of the technology. Recent advances have taken this order procedure one step further by bringing RFID (radio frequency identification) into the picture. Several fast food restaurants in the Phoenix area are now testing ExpressPay. This allows customers to pay for their order simply by waving an American Express ExpressPay key chain tag using RFID technology at a diamond-shaped scanner. (The RFID technology is provided by Texas Instruments.)
Another touch-enabled trend in quick service is the use of dual touch screens. Bruce Mann, VP of marketing at CRS, Inc. (Minneapolis) says using dual touch technology for customer interaction offers end users and resellers a source of additional revenue. "The dual touch screen could be used for payment or advertising in quick service markets [e.g. restaurants, coffee shops, retail]. We have one customer that has rolled out 60 stores and is selling ad space on the rear of the terminal," says Mann.
The dual technology allows clips of advertisements to run on the customer's side of the terminal. This space can be used to promote other non-related businesses (e.g. a jewelry store could advertise on a coffee shop's screen). Mann believes showing end users the financial benefit of this advertising tool will give VARs an edge over the competition in the quick service market. "If a reseller can demonstrate the additional income end users can receive from this technology, they will have additional leverage in the sales cycle," says Mann.
As end users begin to find faith in touch technology, more installations will be rolled out in previously keyboard-saturated verticals. As these distributors see more VARs using touch to go after these markets, sales result from it. The key is to be innovative and creative in finding and servicing these end users. In turn, you will gain a space in the niches your competitors cannot reach.