NRF Illustrates Key Role ISVs and Partners Play in Retail Revolution

NRF's Big Show highlights the critical role ISVs are playing in leading the retail revolution.

(c) NRF

Whether you’re an ISV that specializes in retail technology solutions, or you’re just a consumer, we’re all aware of the transformation taking place in retail. To compete with online retailers like Amazon who are focused on providing engaging shopping experiences that breed loyalty, brick and mortar retailers of all sizes are looking to revamp their stores to capture similar experiences and engagement.

With retailers willing to invest in technologies to achieve these critical outcomes, ISVs are heavily involved in, if not leading, the retail revolution.

While taking in the show floor at this week’s NRF Big Show in New York City, I saw hundreds of ISVs showcasing solutions that help every aspect of a retail operation — from the warehouse, through the supply chain, into the store, to the hands of store associates, to the hands of customers.

Of course, ISVs can’t deliver ground-breaking solutions without great partners. In many booths, we saw amazing examples of what happens when merchants, ISVs, cloud providers, hardware companies, and payment processing companies pool their resources.

Augmented Reality Has Become A Reality

One innovative solution comes to mind from ISV BlueFletch. Richard Makerson, managing partner of the company, was in Zebra’s booth showcasing his open source inventory management solution that leverages augmented reality through Google’s Vision API. Using a Zebra mobile computer like the TC51, merchants can quickly and accurately see up-to-date information on products on the shelf. Data such as inventory count, price discrepancies, and sales trends can be viewed through the interface to make impactful inventory decisions.

Check out this demo of the solution in action:

IoT Brings Intelligence To All Devices

IoT has become a buzz word that doesn’t always live up to the hype, but ISV ProxToMe was showing off its proximity-based solution that gives users the ability to remotely interact with any smart device that would normally require physical interaction. Partnered with Brother Mobile Solutions, ProxToMe’s Carlo Capello was showing how a simple IoT hub could be connected with non-intelligent printers, displays, and other devices to remotely monitor and manage those devices. In real-time, ProxToMe’s management portal could deliver information on a Brother printer such as its open/close status and more. Connected to a managed power switch, ProxToMe could be used to cycle the power on a device remotely, greatly aiding in that first common step to troubleshooting a problem. Additionally, ProxToMe could push content remotely to a display, showcasing a simple but effective digital signage use case.

Essentially, by using a ProxToMe hub, the solution enables customers to gain remote IoT-like capabilities with devices that don’t typically have them. In addition, the company is doing some pretty innovating things using Facebook Messenger chat assistance. In one demo, Capello was using a chat bot to take coffee orders on a mobile device. Upon completion, the user taps the phone to the printer and a receipt is printed. Here’s another demo of ProxToMe’s post-sale customer engagement application:

Cash Drawers Gain Intelligence

When you think of innovation, cash drawers don’t often come to mind. However, thinking that way would be selling APG Cash Drawer way short. The company has created its SMARTtill Cash Management Solution. According to APG, the SMARTtill “enables retailers and hospitality providers to dramatically reduce cash losses, the cost of cash handling and associate productivity. The SMARTtill Solution, integrated with your trusted business partner ecosystem, captures, in real time, every transaction and cash discrepancy in every register in every store, providing powerful analytics to better manage your business.” Essentially, the drawer takes constant weight measurements to ensure that what the POS says is in the drawer really is.

Of course, IT hardware is seldom as powerful as when married with a good software solution. Gulfcoast Software Solutions was in APG’s booth showing off its middleware that uses the SMARTtill to instantly alert merchants if cash drawer counts are off by a penny. In the event of a loss or discrepancy, the software can integrate with surveillance feeds to pull up video footage from the time of the discrepancy, so merchants can perform an analysis of how the discrepancy took place.

On a show floor full of AI, virtual reality, and holograms, cash drawers might not seem sexy, but the fact is that retailers are seeking ways to streamline operations and this new solution can do just that.

Of course, these are just a few of the thousands of solutions shown on the NRF show floor. The lesson to ISVs here is that retail, like all markets, has unique needs. Your software plays a key roll in addressing those needs. By partnering with the right hardware, cloud provider, and/or payment company, you can play a big part in leading your own revolution. 

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The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of DevPro Journal.