I just read through an article I wrote in 2013 on why retailers need total solutions providers. The interview focused on why ISVs and VARs should expand their line cards beyond legacy point of sale (POS) solutions to offer mobile point of sale (mPOS). Retailers were beginning to use the technology to increase customer engagement and improve operational efficiency.
It’s astonishing how things have changed in just six years.
It’s not that mPOS isn’t relevant anymore — quite the contrary. But it’s just one piece of a today’s connected, omnichannel retail environment. Merchants who adopted mobile POS technology for in-aisle assistance, line-busting, and additional checkouts when needed inside (or outside) the store were innovators in 2013. If they stayed on the cutting edge for the past six years, it’s likely that their businesses now also leverage solutions such as:
- Point of sale (POS) and e-commerce integration
- Social media integration
- Customer relationship management (CRM) and customer engagement solutions
- Digital signage
- Interactive kiosks
- Various forms of data collection including video and people counters
- Omnichannel payment solutions that include mobile payments and tokenization
And the list goes on. Today’s retail technology pioneers are using artificial intelligence (AI)-powered cameras to reduce shrinkage, developing systems that enable cashierless checkout, offering augmented reality (AR) systems that enable online shoppers to visualize what items would look like in their homes — and then providing same-day delivery.
Retail Has Changed. Have You?
Even if your client base has traditionally included SMB merchants, the playing field has still changed. A total solutions provider in 2019 offers much more than legacy and mobile POS systems.
It’s rare to find a merchant today without an online presence. And future-looking retailers of all sizes are exploring how technology can help them create shopping experiences to win customers and earn their loyalty. Merchants need solutions that enable them to sell online and accept returns in-store, allow shoppers to buy online and pick up in-store, or to create seamless buyers’ journeys that start on a smartphone, continue on a PC or laptop, and end at a self-service kiosk or face-to-face with a sales associate using a mobile device.
Your clients are also looking for ways to automate and save on ever-increasing labor costs in a fiercely competitive climate. They may be adding self-service checkouts, automated receiving and inventory solutions, or automated purchase order generation to handle some tasks so employees can focus on providing the best possible customer experiences. For retail ISVs and VARs, this all means your world should have gotten a whole lot bigger in the past six years. You need to stay educated on the range of technologies available to your clients, form new partnerships, and collaborate to deliver total solutions. “Lifestyle businesses” are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. VARs and ISVs that don’t keep up with changing industry demands won’t survive — even if it’s just six years to retirement.
Blast from the Past: Advice for Retail ISVs
The interview from 2013 ended with some evergreen advice:
- Your client’s needs and their business goals take precedence over selling technology.
- Educate your clients on how tech solutions can make a positive impact on their businesses.
- Show them how to bring all the pieces together to create a comprehensive system.
Even though the retail world has changed, your clients still need a trusted advisor who can help them optimize the value they get from their technology investments. ISVs and VARs, today, however, need to have a bigger knowledge base to draw from to create the solutions retailers need. And you won’t be able to use a cookie cutter to meet all of your clients’ needs. Retailers must create unique experiences to differentiate their brands in a crowded marketplace.
The role of total solutions provider in 2019 is much more of a problem-solver than a solutions-seller than ever before. The degree to which you have adapted to a quickly changing industry and can deliver what retailers need will determine the right to call yourself a “total solutions provider.” It will also determine how successful you are, now and for years to come.