Entrepreneur Elon Musk has had a rough go of it lately, but let me provide some good press about him for a change. During my time at the Retail Realm Partner & User Conference at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas Aug. 20-22, I recalled this wise quote from Musk: “If you go back a few hundred years, what we take for granted today would seem like magic – being able to talk to people over long distances, to transmit images, flying, accessing vast amounts of data like an oracle. These are all things that would have been considered magic a few hundred years ago.”
At Retail Realm nobody mentioned flying or magic (except for the David Copperfield fans) but data was front-and-center at the event, starting with keynote Balaji Balasubramanian of Microsoft. “Data is at the core of everything that's going on,” he said. “At the heart of the (retail) transformation is accessibility to data. You have to make sure you have unified data in one place in an understood format that you can build applications on.”
When you sell to restaurants and retailers, are you leading with hardware? Talking only software? Do you have a bundle that includes services? Even better would be detailing how the data your solution provides will enable the merchant to increase their sales and improve their efficiency – exponentially.
Have you explained that your solution will help your merchant become “digitally enabled to better respond to challenges”? That’s a phrase Microsoft Retail Solutions Advisor Brion Reusche said is effective when pitching a new solution to a merchant. Reusche warned that you can’t just “add on” significant data capabilities; data has to be foundational to your solution and integrated throughout. “When something changes – the merchant needs to upgrade the POS or wants a social integration – you can get to a point where you’re in digital concrete. If you move one thing, it will break a lot of other connections. This really sucks for IT, doesn’t it?”
My second question to POS VARs and ISVs is: Are you offering merchants only IT fundamentals or a next-gen solution?
Balasubramanian said fundamental IT functionality includes usability, performance, compliance, data residency, automation, and supportability. If your offering stops there, you risk merchants viewing your solution as a commodity. Next-generation offerings include intelligence, insights and connected processes, Balasubramanian said.
I sat with a group of resellers at lunch Tuesday, and one detailed his data-centric formula to success. One of his differentiators is the insight gleaned from the data he’s generating. A key aspect of that is aggregating sales data to help his merchants in that vertical understand macro trends they wouldn’t have exposure to operating as an independent SMB without a trusted advisor.
So, my final question to POS VARs and ISVs is: What are you going to do today to provide better data – and more overall value – to your merchants?
Also overheard and observed at Retail Realm 2018:
- The lunch conversation I just alluded to included two executives from a reseller in Jamaica, a reseller in Virginia, and one from Atlanta. The exchange of information between bites was non-stop with the U.S.-based VARs sharing their best practices for processes, recurring revenue, sales, training, installations, and more with the Jamaicans. It’s neat how conferences like Retail Realm make the world smaller and our community tighter.
- One of the guiding principles for growth-oriented VARs and ISVs that I’ve promoted the past several years is: “Vertical market expertise enables resellers to charge more. Focus only on the areas where you can charge more.” My conversations at the Retail Realm Conference only added credence to that as I’ve been exposed to VARs (calling them “VAR/ISV hybrids” might be more accurate) who are making hay by focusing their offerings on bike shops, beauty products, independent hardware stores, or other niches. They’ve modified software to fit their market’s needs and developed standardized offerings that can be shipped – and installed – almost anywhere. They configure the hardware/software bundle at their office, provide the merchant with initial installation directions along with video training, and tie up any loose ends over the phone. This approach enables them to charge a premium for the specialty offering but keep their employee count and overhead low. The riches are in the niches!
- On a related note, I overheard this conversation between two resellers: VAR #1: “What vertical do you focus on?” VAR #2: “Customers with money.”
- I’ve discussed on this blog how POS resellers greatly value their independence, and that was mentioned several times in Vegas. One channel veteran took it a step further, repeatedly (and passionately) referring to POS resellers as “fiercely independent.”
- I was honored to moderate two payment processing panels at the Retail Realm Conference for the second consecutive year. One point during the panels that especially stood out to me was made by Retail Realm Chairman Afshin Alikhani (second from the right in the photo below). While two other panelists downplayed the possible impact of cryptocurrencies because of their uncertainty, Alikhani wondered aloud how the payments space could be disrupted if there was an Amazon or Apple bitcoin.