By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA
I haven’t seen my office desk much in September, but I haven’t been playing hooky either. I’ve been on the road attending back-to-back channel events and visiting RSPA members for the first time since COVID rocked our planet and our industry. Earlier this month, I reported on BlueStar’s VARTECH 2022 conference, and in this edition of Channel Traveler’s Notebook I’ll offer highlights from the Retail Management Hero (RMH) Partner Conference, held Sept. 14-16 in Orlando, and my Sept. 18-20 road trip to visit six RSPA members in Greenville, SC.
RMH Channel is Rising
Retail Management Hero – the product and the channel – were launched in 2016 as a replacement for the end-of-life Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System (a.k.a. RMS). The first RMH conference I attended in 2018, the year Jeff Riley was appointed RMH CEO, revealed a small but engaged reseller channel. Four years later, the RMH channel is still laser-focused on the retail vertical and all-in on their product, but the 70 VARs in attendance were about 4x what I saw four years ago.
The key to their success is a specialized product and resellers who have morphed into ISV/VAR hybrids, tweaking the software to fit niches that include specialty retail, grocery, c-store, liquor, pool supplies, and more. Two RMH conference panels I participated in offered insights all solution providers can learn from.
“How to Grow Your RMH Business” featured an all-RSPA member lineup of Dan King of New West Technologies, Javier Rivera of BC POS, Paul Flowers of STG, and moderator Dan Jablons of Retail Smart Guys. One topic that yielded several insights was about marketing methods. The panelists said what worked best for them included:
- Social media – “It’s easy and cheap”
- Frequent marketing emails to your customer base to ensure they understand your full offering
- Videos – “People would rather hear stories than read stories”
- Generating more Google reviews to increase your SEO and drive more traffic to your site
Later in the show I moderated the “Implementation Best Practices” panel and asked questions to Margaret Bourke of Positive System Solutions, Victor Lopez of BC POS, and Paul Husted of Falcons Next Business Solutions. Among their insights were:
- “Unprepared partners are not rewarded”
- Checklists are key to consistent implementations – and for helping you assess where gaps might exist during the implementation
- A post-implementation review is key to understanding where you need to improve for future installs
- A customer relationship has to be viewed as a partnership with a two-way dialogue as the foundation
Technology Trends in C-Store, Grocery, and Retail
An RSPA vendor member I spent quite a bit of time with during the RMH event – that’s what happens when your tabletops are seven steps away from each other – emailed me afterwards to pick my brain about trends I’m hearing in convenience store technology. My answer is below; it also reflects grocery and retail trends because these verticals are all playing off each other.
- Anything in the self-service area is skyrocketing – mobile ordering online, mobile ordering through apps, self-checkout, kiosks, etc. Independents and smaller retailers were hesitant to be pioneers with self-service because it could be perceived as worse service, but large grocers (including WalMart, Target, etc.) have moved the bar related to self-service. Those larger orgs have trained the consumer on self-service, so the rate of acceptance will continue to increase.
- I’m hearing a lot about personalization and analytics as well, and that ties in to loyalty. Again, the big boys (including Amazon) have set the pace for what consumers expect in terms of shopping for what they want. Merchants today need to gather not just broad data to run their business but they also need data about each customer … and then they need to convert that data into actionable information. To do that, they need their customers to utilize the merchant’s loyalty program to track purchases. If the merchant’s systems aren’t fully integrated, this won’t work. Related note: Recently I stopped at a c-store (we are big Sheetz fans) where I purchased gasoline, a beverage, and a snack. Shortly after, I received an email from Sheetz saying they will email all future gas receipts to me so I don’t have to print a receipt at the pump. They say it’s good for the environment, but I know they also want to incentivize me to let them know when I’m pumping gas there. Data, data, data!
- I’m also hearing about digital signage combined with AI. Yes, digital signage will still be used for menu boards and promotions, but I’m hearing about them being equipped with cameras to analyze who is in that aisle and then serving that person (e.g. man in 50s, woman in 20s) a more targeted promotional offer. That might apply more in retail and grocery, but I’m sure it will find an application in c-store as well.
- A broader trend that will lead to technology changes is grocers/c-stores adding more services and becoming more of a gathering place. Many newer c-stores are now 80-85% store and 15-20% restaurant. Integrating those systems and providing the technology structure (network and hardware) to integrate those systems will be challenging. My generation grew up hearing you shouldn’t eat a tuna sandwich sold at a gas station. My daughter’s generation prefers to grab lunch at a c-store. And now so do I!
What does all that mean for VARs and ISVs? There’s a ton of opportunity if you and your partners can create a solution that delivers on all that.
The Road to “Total Solution Provider” Status Cuts Through Greenville, SC
RSPA VP of Member Services Ashley Naggy and I spent Sept. 18-20 in Greenville, SC, meeting with three distributors (Ingram Micro, TD Synnex, ScanSource), two ISVs (NCC and Vigilix), and one VAR (Lucas Systems). After those conversations I feel I understand the channel better … but after a half dozen meals in South Carolina I still don’t understand the appeal of shrimp and grits on both the breakfast and dinner menu. :)
Ashley’s and my conversations with these members aren’t for public consumption, but I don’t think I’m speaking out of school to share this overarching trend: VARs who want a profitable long-term future should transition towards becoming a Total Solution Provider.
Less progressive resellers view Total Solution Provider status as a burden, a path they don’t want to embark upon, a stress upon their already time-strapped business. High-initiative, growth-oriented VARs and ISVs welcome the opportunity to be their merchant’s one throat to choke or one back to pat.
The good news for solution providers is that distributors can fast track you to becoming that Total Solution Provider. Every RSPA member disty has in place a team, the technologies, the programs, and the desire to help VARs and ISVs expand their linecard. You have the choice of adding to your own capabilities or partnering with other solution providers to win more complex deals.
Now I don’t expect a small reseller specializing in POS to all-of-a-sudden pitch complex ERP solutions to their mom-and-pop restaurant clients, but there’s a whole bunch of appropriate technology and services between here and there to be offered. The more you learn about our industry’s distributors, the better positioned your business will be for a new-and-improved future.
That sets me up perfectly for attending the ScanSource Channel Connect Partner Conference Oct. 2-5 in Nashville where I’ll be filing another report for the RSPA Blog. Cue Willie Nelson’s classic “On The Road Again!”