Nearly 2,000 hardware companies, solution providers and resellers gathered at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for the 2012 RetailNOW conference. The event took place from July 28 to August 1, 2012, with more than 150 organizations exhibiting on the EXPO floor.
Developed by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), RetailNOW spotlights the latest trends within retail, hospitality and restaurant markets, as well as training and certification sessions for specific solutions.
Topics leading the pack at this year’s event were mobile and “as-a-service” models, both of which present new business opportunities for technology providers, distributors and value-added resellers, according to Joseph Finizio, President and CEO of RSPA.
“To be successful at addressing all of the changes taking place will require good information, planning and execution,” Finizio said. “Because merchants have become tech savvy and there is so much information on the Internet, retail technology providers can’t hack their way through business — they will not be successful.”
Because education is paramount to driving innovation in the retail technology space, RetailNOW offered in-depth sessions categorized by three topics: Industry Business Vision, Technology Vision and Customer Vision.
During the panel titled: “What Customers Want,” merchants across markets discussed their wants and needs regarding new technology implementations and partnerships.
Panelists included: Greg Buzek from IHL Group; Phil Crawford from Yard House Restaurant Group; Raphael Cohen with Universal Watch Co., Inc.; and Mario Berlanga from Mario’s Westside Market. All panelists discussed their current business processes and goals, as well as their involvement with solution providers.
“In my position, I have a lot of interaction with VARs,” Crawford said. “Having that mutual respect and understanding business wants and needs, deadlines, zone modifications, and expansion goals is key. We have very open door policy, so it’s very important from an IT stand point to have that interaction.”
Buzek added that while this communication is imperative to driving customer satisfaction, it is oftentimes a rare commodity in the competitive marketplace in which resellers treat smaller retailers as “a notch on their bed post,” he said. “It’s about getting the sale [to VARs]. And once they do, they’re gone. There’s a lot of buyers remorse because of that: you have to fight more than ever because retailers are getting more information on new technology and solutions.”
In fact, all panelists discussed their poor communication with technology partners. For example, as a smaller retailer, Mario’s Westside Market needed guidance following a POS implementation. However, because of the merchant’s size, it was smaller for executives to receive the insights they wanted and needed, according to Berlanga.
“After POS installation, we didn’t have support and overall it was hard to get a hold of team members,” Berlanga explained. “The machinery did what it was supposed to do, but there was no training on how to use it effectively.”
However, merchants also risk the chance of inquiries being lost in translation. Universal Watch Co., Inc., adopted a web commerce solution stationed outside of the country. Language barriers and misunderstandings prevented the retailer from obtaining a seamless checkout process, Cohen explained. Rather than allowing a few clicks to transaction, it was required that all customers register an account before completing a purchase.
“Consumers today don’t have time to do that,” Cohen said. “Everybody is in a rush.” On the technology provider’s part, it was a misunderstanding regarding the overall wants and needs of the shopping experience in the U.S., he explained. “I would expect tech companies to understand what needs to be done and if they have partners, the partner has to understand the business and cultural differences.”
To help VARs strengthen their relationships with merchants across markets, and to prevent any conflict with vendors, offered strategic insights that honed in on the need to understand the business goals, wants and needs of end-users. This especially is true in the retail space, in which technological trends and advancements continue to proliferate.
“Differentiate yourself by service offerings,” Buzek advised. “If you sell with the mindset of how to help a retailer succeed and build that system and provide those processes for loyalty initiatives, that’s key. It’s those kinds of solutions to endear merchants to say they have a partner to guide them along the journey.”