By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA
The 2023 Retail Management Hero (RMH) Partner Conference, held Sept. 13-15 at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio (TX) Riverwalk Hotel, of course covered the technical basics of an ISV event: development updates, product roadmap details, new features, and software enhancements.
But my biggest takeaway went well beyond bytes and coding. RMH provided an example of what VARs and vendors should look for in an ISV partner beyond product functionality.
Choosing the right people to work with helps you avoid tons of downstream issues. Find a partner who shares your principles and cares about the same outcomes, and things will eventually work out for everyone involved. Skip that step by focusing on something else – like only product, price, or personality – at your peril.
The five recommended actions below speak directly to ISVs but also apply to VARs, distributors, and other vendors in the retail IT channel who value healthy, long-term partnerships.
Be forthcoming with your partners.
RMH CEO Jeff Riley opened the conference sharing with nearly 100 partners an unvarnished look at the company’s finances, growth, successes, and learnings. His presentation wasn’t softened by a PR consultant or an attorney. His language was direct and specific, not sanded down. The tone felt more like an internal team update rather than an external presentation.
Be flexible with your partners.
Riley talked about RMH presenting opportunities to partners, not mandates. “We don’t want to tell you how to run your business,” he said. “We want to serve you.”
Genuinely value your partners and express your gratefulness to them.
Again, Riley’s unvarnished language drove this point home. “An ISV’s secret weapon against a well-known brand is the VAR who works with the merchant on their business,” he said. “The merchant will be sold on the person helping them.” He added, “The channel exists because vendors can’t do it all on their own.”
Be knowledgeable about the industry; don’t myopically focus on your product.
Riley talked about the omnichannel challenge, noted retail industry trends, and shared details from the 2023 RSPA Retail IT Channel KPI Study to ensure he and the partners in the room were apprised of the same macro information. Then he articulated the value of the channel and a view of the future of our industry in a way I hadn’t heard before: “The businesses in the middle will always need a channel partner. The biggest companies might not. Merchants on the lower end might not. But the companies in the middle need you and they always will.”
Ask for feedback. Then ask again.
A strong partner relationship can’t be a one-way street. Riley and the RMH staff were approachable and mixed with their partners from conference start to finish. I’ve seen this executed supremely by RSPA member NCC at their annual conference as well. Successful ISVs ask questions, listen intently, and take notes on how their partner can be served better through product and service changes.
When ISVs engage with a prospective partner, they need the other person to walk away thinking about more than the functions and features of the software. They need them to think, They care. They’re straightforward. They have their act together. I’d be happy having them on my team.
What Payment Industry Changes Are Impacting VARs and ISVs?
I had the honor of once again moderating the annual payments panel at RMH featuring Dan King of New West Technologies, Blake Rouse of Cardknox, Rachel Smith of Retail Realm, Chris Rotondi of Shift4, and Gary Kielich of STG. I couldn’t take thorough notes while running the discussion, but I did capture a few nuggets.
Among the significant industry changes the panelists noted were the advancement of the payment facilitator (PayFac) business model and embedded payments. Most of the discussion focused on the advance of self-checkout and self-service which has necessitated that payment technology providers care about not just the merchant experience but also the customer experience. Instead of cashiers handling all payments, more and more the consumer needs an intuitive interface to process payments successfully.
Payment trends the panel mentioned were AI, digital wallets, BNPL (buy now, pay later), cryptocurrency, FedNow, surcharging/cash discounting, touchless technologies, and biometrics. When one of the panelists wondered aloud why biometrics (e.g. pay by palm) hasn’t been more widely accepted, I asked the audience who was comfortable sharing their biometric information for payment purposes. Maybe 10% in the room raised a hand in favor.
RMH Annual Award Winners
Three RSPA members were among the partners recognized by RMH for their contribution to the ISV’s channel over the past 12 months:
- RMH Partner of the Year: New West Technologies
- Industry Focus Award: POS Unlimited, for their work in the beauty industry
- Vendor of the Year: BlueStar