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An Interview with Sam Reynolds
Question: What are the top three fundamental issues on the minds of retailers today?
SR: In terms of utilization of point of sale (POS) technology, it’s really how do I leverage POS to either increase revenue, increase market share, or reduce costs.
Question: What do you view as some of the biggest challenges retailers faced concerning mobility?
SR: It depends on which aspect of mobility you’re talking about. If you’re using mobile devices just internally, then there are issues associated with device management and security across multiple mobile platforms. That’s always a topic. If you’re looking at consumer-facing challenges, you’re looking at competing digital wallet platforms, like the old VHS/Betamax platforms—you know, who’s going to win out there. I think also you’re looking at consumer acceptance of various opt-in mobile marketing strategies. I can see consumers becoming irritated with a cluttered mobile messaging world in the future. And then, finally, how do I integrate mobile strategies into my existing legacy systems?
Question: How do you see the social network sites influencing the retailers and what can a retailer do to ensure their success and participation in that?
SR: I think the real challenge is maintaining visibility in an increasingly fragmented media. So, out of necessity, you have to have some social media strategy toward all consumer-facing outlets. I think the biggest thing they can do is leverage interactivity by promoting in-store offerings through social media; getting people into retail locations.
Question: What does it mean to be a customer centric retailer? Should retailers strive to be “customer centric” and, if so, what are some things they should be doing?
SR: Customer centric really depends on the definition that an individual gives to that, but to me, it’s really focusing on an individual, knowing their specific habits, what their wants and needs are, and then taking the marketing, as well as the shopping experience to them. But not all retailers will want to do this. That requires the ability to effectively collect, understand, and act upon data. It really depends on your niche. If you’re high-service, high customer-touch, or whether you’re mass market—different strategies.
Question: What effects will the cloud have on retailers and what should they be doing today to ensure success in the cloud?
SR: Cloud-based platforms offer an ability to deploy POS and other systems with lower infrastructure costs and greater flexibility. I think you have to assess existing systems’ capabilities to make sure you can align existing systems with the company vision toward how they’re going to use the cloud.
Question: IT has dramatically changed over the years, but retailers are often still using older technology. How can retailers get the data they need to grow and manage their business with this older technology?
SR: It has to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Some older technologies may be perfectly viable, while others may be more costly to retrofit and may need to be replaced. In a lot of cases I think it’s going to be a matter of replacing that technology—the customer-facing and consumer-facing technologies or maybe POS technologies—while maintaining some of the legacy supporting systems.
Question: What should retailers do to become more efficient and balanced while increasing their dependence on technology? How can they manage the cost of IT when everyone wants to increase investment in IT? Where will they need to support their dependence on IT?
SR: They have to make wise IT investments in systems and platforms that can be used across multiple business units. In other words, avoid system and application silos, and look to invest in platforms that can work across the enterprise.
Question: Where should retailers increase usage of technology when IT budgets are shrinking?
SR: They have to explore the potential uses of software as a service, other SaaS/pay-as-you-go types of options, while developing an overall IT investment strategy. So, in other words, look at SaaS expense versus capital expenditure while you’re unsure of what your overall strategy may be.
Question: How does a retailer set itself up to service its customer, no matter how the customer wants to purchase, and still maintain a relevant relationship?
SR: You have to have opt-in programs that close the loop from a marketing perspective. In other words, I need to be able to identify an individual and make sure that I have an awareness of their activities, whether it be web, in-store, mobile device, you name it. And I need to know from a transaction perspective what did that result in. So what sort of marketing campaigns, what sort of offers did they opt-in to, and what kind of results did I get from that.
Question: Tell me your position on wallet-type of capabilities. Where do you think that’s going?
SR: I am a person who believes that mag stripes on a chunk of plastic is a very old technology that is past its prime and that, for the most part, a smartphone or mobile computing device that a consumer carries around in their pocket is going to replace that. How it replaces it, and who replaces it… it may be that there are multiple wallet offerings, some private, some industry, and maybe some consolidation of applications as well. I think you’re going to see a lot of action in that area for a number of reasons. The wallet in and of itself is a vehicle that offers more security to a consumer—I don’t have to give up my card to someone, because there are multiple factors of authentication built into that—and it offers the retailer more security in that they do not have to have any access to credit card information or PIN numbers. So it’s a natural. The real question is how are the card brands going to respond to this, and ultimately, who is the winner. That is really big.
Question: What are the top three fundamental issues on the minds of retailers today, as it relates to Point of Sale?
SR: I’m dealing with legacy hardware – is it capable of handling the demands of the future? How do I support and maintain that infrastructure? How do I leverage that infrastructure to meet the current and future demands? What are my strategies for “traditional POS” that requires an operator, as opposed to kiosk or other forms of self-service, be it mobile or web?