Brick-and-mortar retailers face unprecedented rivalry from online counterparts. Will channel collaboration come to the rescue? Are you ready to join forces for the greater good?
By Jeff Burroughs, VP, Sales & Marketing, AURES Technologies, Inc.
Change Is Good
As any reseller knows all too well, the point-of-sale technology channel is a diverse ecosystem comprised of many interdependent, constantly moving parts. For decades, it’s been a fairly smooth and steady ride; traditional POS companies grew healthier and stronger from years of sweat equity and real-world experience. But today’s channel is experiencing transformative evolution with an influx of fresh forces and complex technologies that might look foreign to those of us who’ve been around a while. Instead of staying cocooned inside your technology comfort zone, it’s time to venture out.
Let’s face it — brick-and-mortar retailers are desperate to stay relevant. They’re struggling to create in-store experiences that measure up to one-click, hyper-personalized online shopping. Consider this: Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute recently reported a significant number of consumers say they see shopping in-store as a chore. The study corroborates shoppers are frustrated by brick-and-mortar’s inability to keep pace with the efficiency and convenience of online shopping. There’s real opportunity here, as more than half of retail executives polled admitted they haven’t made their physical stores as digitally enhanced and equipped as they should, with 78 percent adding this is now priority. If you’ve got solutions that map to this pain point, it’s a good time to pick up the phone.
We’ve all heard the mobile hype for more than a few years now. Juniper Research validates the buzz, reporting mobile POS will handle over 20 percent of all retail transaction value around the world by 2021, and at least a third of all POS systems will be tablet or smartphone-based within the next five years resulting in at least $2.3 trillion in mPOS revenue. As 451 Research put it, “The POS is becoming a platform on which other applications are built and delivered, opening up new revenue streams for providers.” The point-of-sale is no longer just a fixed station for in-store transactions; it’s evolved into an intelligent, cloud-connected business management system. For those selling mobile solutions, this comes as no surprise. But the opportunity seems to be gaining traction, not losing steam.
Back To Basics
I recently went to see one of our cinema customers, and all I took was a notepad and a pen. I didn’t go in with an agenda or a rehearsed sales pitch. I didn’t have a flyer to offer or a presentation to deliver. The customer was a little surprised by this. I simply asked him what we could do as a company to make his business better. Then I just listened. The customer opened up, offering more than enough insight about his business for me to do my job — which I began to see in a new light. I didn’t have all the answers to my customer’s questions, and my company doesn’t offer a solution for his every pain point, but at least I knew what those pain points were.
It’s no secret dinosaur POS systems are still out there, taking up space and barely functional. Look no further than your local chain; you’ve likely encountered colossal grey boxes monopolizing counters, their slow, noisy, solely transactional heartbeats scarcely beating, frustrating clerks and shoppers alike. According to Boston Retail Partners, the new, connected consumer has left many retailers struggling with point-of-sale solutions that constrain growth. “Saddled with legacy systems that are not designed to accommodate today’s retail environment, retailers have scrambled to cobble systems together in attempts to deliver the Omni channel capabilities customers expect. Retailers need to invest in infrastructure, networks, and a service-oriented architecture (SOA) layer and do it right. The risk of losing customers due to disappointing shopping experiences caused by flawed Omni channel architecture is deadly.” In order to deliver unified commerce solutions (and lay dinosaur systems to rest for good), it takes a village — meaning industry veterans and millennials must work together to get it right.
Older workers (pointing to myself, here) are valued for maturity, leadership, domain expertise, and relationship building. Conversely, millennials are sought for native technology skills, outside-the-box thinking, and new perspectives. It should be every company’s dream to combine these two diverse skillsets into one super-talented, unstoppable workforce. Because both seasoned industry veterans and fresh-thinking millennials inhabit the same space at the same time, this dream scenario is possible on some level, right now, inside the retail technology channel. I’ve seen it happen; it’s a powerful combo.
If you’re a POS industry veteran, you have close customer relationships built on years of doing the right thing, bringing in the right solutions at the right time — and most of all, building trust. By tapping millennial talent from a myriad of emerging software vendors, you can differentiate your offering with more flexible, modern platforms that your more cautious, legacy-entrenched competitors have dismissed as outside their core competency.
Add to that the potential for shared earnings from residual SaaS revenues, and aligning forces with software partners becomes even more appealing to forward-thinking resellers. If you’re an ISV, attending POS and payments industry events will help you build relationships with traditional POS VARs and processors — and discover how to bundle your software smartly, with ideally-suited, complementary partners. As a veteran of countless industry events, I’d like to recommend a couple here. If you’re looking to network like never before and walk away with something of tangible valuable, mark your calendar.
RSPA RetailNOW: The traditionally all-POS provider 60-year industry organization RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) has evolved, embracing all flavors of retail technology stakeholders, including software developers and its hottest growing segment, payments providers. August 6-9, 2017, Las Vegas (www.gorspa.org)
ETA Transact: Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), traditionally all-payments-focused organization launched its POS Pavilion in 2015. CEO Jason Oxman commented, “Technology at the point of sale is converging, and huge new business opportunities await resellers, application software providers, processors, and hardware manufacturers. The Retail Technology Pavilion showcases the latest payments technologies, allowing retailers to take advantage of new value added services that make integration possible through technology.” May 10-12, 2017, Las Vegas (www.electran.org)
Use The Force
Thinking back to the cinema customer and my old-school notebook and pen approach, I’m reminded of how getting back to basics makes a lot of sense in a complicated world. There may be new players on the field — payment processors, ISVs, ISOs, MSPs and more — but the end goal is the same: to help brick-and-mortar stores be successful. The Capgemini report found today’s consumers want technologies to help them engage in the store along each step of the shopping journey. They’re annoyed with waiting in lines, extraneous promotions, and not being able to find the item they came for; they expect things like same-day delivery, in-store social spaces, and experiments and loyalty programs. We can all relate.
To help retailers compete and win customers over, we have to understand what they’re up against. And that means looking at how we deliver value in a whole new way. Richard Branson said, “To launch a business means successfully solving problems. Solving problems means listening.” By listening to our customers, and joining forces with complementary channel players for the greater good, we’ll all come out on top.