In September, we provided you with a recap of the activities at our successful RetailNOW 2010 Convention and Expo. Equally important are some of the initiatives discussed during the general sessions and panel discussions. Number one on the list is channel sustainability – or the ongoing health and growth of the reseller channel for retail technology. RSPA’s reseller members typically represent the best and most successful resellers in the industry. However, there is a generational transition taking place. Many resellers, who have built their businesses up over the past 30 to 40 years, are ready for retirement and passing the baton to new management. Others are simply closing up shop, which is not a good situation for our industry or anyone developing products for the retail technology industry.
The good news is that new resellers are getting into the business. Many of these companies are established businesses looking to extend their reach to retail technology, expanding from the back to the front of the house or new businesses.
Arguably there are approximately 2,000 legitimate retail technology resellers in North America – about 30% of those resellers are members. RSPA’s role is to assist both new and old resellers and extend their business with retail technology. We are working with our Membership Committee, Canadian Committee and our Vendor Working Group to reach all resellers to make them aware of the business benefits of membership. RSPA’s education, certification and networking member benefits provide a source of peer to peer information to help members quickly hurdle any business or technology obstacles facing their businesses. The goal of these efforts is to help maintain and grow the retail technology resellers channel and provide them with tools to make their business more productive.
Educating Future Leaders
Providing a source of industry specific education for our future business leaders is a critical element of channel sustainability. In years past, vendors provided a wealth of industry and product education for their employees and resellers. NCR’s legendary “Sugar Camp” and the DTS Education Center are two examples of the quality education provided that helped mold yesterday’s industry newbies into today’s leaders. At RetailNOW we kicked off an initiative to educate the next generation of leaders with our Management Focus - sales and service training sessions. We continue to expand this education initiative with Sales Focus – industry specific sales education to be held December 12 and 13 in Orlando, Florida.
If you intend to be a future leader or are currently in management and want to extend beyond your comfort zone… then you need to be at this session. Check out the web site for more information www.GoRSPA.org/education
There’s a disturbing trend beginning to develop in the marketplace – technology resellers and vendors are being targeted as the “bad guy” in the eyes of the customer base. In July, an article titled “Retailers Need To Protect Themselves From Lying Vendors” appeared in Storefront Backtalk. Also in July, a reseller member shared an e-mail from a customer telling them not to contact them with anymore PCI updates because it was only a way for them to make money off the retailer.
The wide majority of retail technology providers are doing the right thing for their customers. However, some are not; which provides the fuel for those articles and perceptions. The author of the article in Storefront Backtalk works for a forensic auditor. I called him about his article and he shared several horror stories of poor communications with customers and a lack of understanding PCI standards. In one example, a customer purchased a system that used a token for payment processing because they were told it would eliminate their need to worry about PCI compliance. When the forensic auditor asked the technology provider how this worked and how it eliminated the need for PCI compliance – a viable answer was not provided and ultimately the customer had to upgrade a second time, to be PCI compliant.
RSPA’s PCI education should help with the knowledge but good, transparent communications with your customers is the critical element. Become your customers trusted advisor rather than the “bad guy”. Make sure you understand the PCI issue and your products' offerings which address this issue. The responsibility for compliance is clearly in the hands of the end-user or “merchant”. We will be doing our part at RSPA to help change that perception. However, you can start to change the market perception by helping your customers understand their responsibilities by clearly and transparently defining all options and costs for their retail technology, administration and ongoing support.