Nearly 2,000 retailers, retail solution providers and resellers gathered at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for the 2012 RetailNOW conference in July. Specifically targeted to small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), this year’s event drew record-setting attendees.
One of the highlights of the event was the customer panel discussion, designed to allow end-user retail and hospitality customers to let their solution providers partners know how they can help their businesses move forward.
For this year’s What Customer Want panel, Retail TouchPoints Editor-in-Chief Debbie Hauss moderated the discussion, supported with insights from Greg Buzek, President, IHL Group. Panel speakers included executives representing both retail and hospitality industries:
- Phil Crawford, CIO, Yard House Restaurant Group
- Raphael Cohen, Founder & President, Universal Watch Co.
- Mario Berlango, Owner, Mario’s Westside Market
- Doug Redding, Technology Manager – Sales, Nature’s Best (a natural foods wholesaler representing more than 6,000 retail stores)
Panel members shared their experiences with their current solution provider partners and how those relationships could improve. Berlango, as a single-store retailer, expressed particular concerns around receiving proper attention and service from his solution provider partners.
“Mario’s comment is the biggest complaint of smaller retailers,” noted Buzek. “They feel they are treated as a notch on the bedpost. Once a solution provider gets the sale, they’re gone.” Instead, he advised solution providers to differentiate themselves with service offering. “If you sell with the mindset of how to help the retailer succeed and provide processes for key initiatives, such as loyalty, you will endear merchants and they will feel they have a partner to guide them along their journey.”
Redding noted that his retailers often need assistance finding information on new technologies and facilitating change. “As a distributor working with many different retailers, what we ID as a key challenge is helping to control change,” he explained. “I have had retailers call me to ask how to go about searching for a new POS system. If you (as a solution provider) can control that fear of change and provide answers to tough questions, then you will earn their trust.”
Cohen shared a specific instance in which his company did not receive the expected services in a new technology implementation, resulting in lost sales. When moving forward with a new e-commerce platform, Cohen found out, during the process, that the system was not offering guest checkout. “This was a big turnoff for our customers,” said Cohen. “Our sales dropped 40% without that feature.” Later Cohen learned that the feature did exist within the platform — it just wasn’t turned on.
Crawford expressed his satisfaction with some of his VARs, who work to interact with the company. “Having mutual respect and understanding of the business’ wants and needs … is very important to us.”
Other topics covered included: mobile technology, in-store wifi, showrooming, analytics, network challenges and inventory management.
Highlighting The Latest Trends For SMB Retail and Hospitality Companies
Developed by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), RetailNOW focuses on the latest trends within retail and hospitality, and offers training and certification sessions for specific solutions. More than 150 solution and service providers exhibited on the EXPO floor.
Top-of-mind topics 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 address all of the changes taking place we need solid information, planning and execution,” Finizio noted. “Because merchants have become tech savvy and there is so much information on the Internet, retail technology providers cannot hack their way through business in order to be successful.”
Because RetailNOW executives believe education is paramount to driving innovation in retail technology, the event offered in-depth sessions centered around three topics: Industry Business Vision, Technology Vision and Customer Vision.
Click here to view the TouchPoints TV interviews from RetailNOW 2012.