RetailNOW 2022 Analysis: “RSPA 2.0” Features Managed Services, ISVs, and Sophisticated VARs

By: Jim Roddy, President & CEO at the RSPA

I arrived at the RetailNOW 2022 venue in Orlando two days before the show’s official July 24 kickoff and was immediately greeted by a leading retail IT VAR congratulating me on a successful event. As you can imagine, I was perplexed – we were still 48 hours from welcoming approximately 1,500 attendees to the Gaylord Palms.

The VAR explained the event was already a win because he identified at least three dozen new vendors on the show floor map who could help his company add new products and services, increase recurring revenue, appeal to new prospects, and become stickier with current merchants. “The merger of managed services and our industry is finally here,” he told me. “This show isn’t about just point of sale and payments anymore.” Another VAR told me later, “RSPA 2.0 isn’t something that’s in the future. RSPA 2.0 is here today.”

Every reseller or VAR/ISV hybrid I met during the July 24-26 event was bullish about these new opportunities to expand their business. They saw RetailNOW as one-stop shopping that could transform them into the total solution provider they – and their merchant clients – have always dreamed about.

After the show I talked with several of the aforementioned new exhibitors to see if the feeling was mutual. I know some vendors outside our traditional channel have considered the “POS dealers” who walk RetailNOW not the right fit for their go-to-market plan. However, this year, the overarching feedback from first-time exhibitors was along the lines of “where have you been all my life?”

Exhibitors said the VARs, ISVs, hybrids, and DISDs (Direct Independent Software Developers) who visited their booths were no doubt sophisticated enough to represent their offering. “Quality leads” was a commonly repeated phrase. These vendors also saw opportunity inside the other booths. Half the show floor featured software companies who could integrate with each other and multiply their go-to-market power. The sold-out expo hall was buzzing all the way through the final hour of the show’s final day.

Our industry has always been interconnected, but to me this is the dawn of extreme connectivity in the retail IT ecosystem. How do we fight off behemoth channel-unfriendly payment providers and their army of sleek but simplistic POS systems backed by marketing millions? By working together to create personalized, niche-focused technology and service offerings the big boys can’t compete with.

During my talk on the RetailNOW main stage, I shared that when we spread our fingers apart our hands don’t have much power – and it’s easy to get injured. But when we make a fist – when we band together and work as one community – we’re powerful and protected.

RetailNOW 2022 set the stage for a new-and-improved retail IT channel ecosystem. It’s time for us to leap forward – together.

Responding to Reseller Shakeups
Is it possible for an industry to contract and expand at the same time? For sure. One sector can grow while another can tighten. An undercurrent of conversations at RetailNOW focused on the resellers who have sold their businesses or are soon to be scooped up by another entity.

Visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

In the past, this talk has been accompanied by fears about the demise of the channel. But this year, perhaps because retail IT solution providers have endured so much over the past decade and the survivors have stronger business acumen, fear was replaced by optimism. Of course some executives were unsettled by the developments, but most expressed to me that change in other organizations results in opportunities for their own business.

Day 1 Highlight: ISV Challenges in a Virtual/Hybrid Workplace
One of the featured education sessions on the first day of RetailNOW was “Challenges of a Virtual/Hybrid Workplace and How to Overcome Them,” part of the first-ever ISV education track at an RSPA event. Here are some of the top quotes by ISV executive panelists Brett Bennett of POSitive Technology/OpSuite, Jeff Riley of Retail Management Hero, Rick Feuling of RITE Enterprises/Cloud Retailer, and moderator Richard Rotbard of SOOP. A few of my favorite quotes from that session:

  • “Focus on people, systems, and processes when setting up a virtual work culture. And people are the most important. They have to have initiative.” Riley
  • “We’re constantly evaluating the value proposition we’re offering to our employees. It’s harder in a hybrid environment to know if they’re happy or not.” Bennett
  • “The key word I’m hearing is ‘deliberate.’ You have to be deliberate as a leader to know the career goals of all your people. If you don’t know their goals, how can you be aligned with them?” Feuling
  • “Virtual work can be better simply because there’s much less gossiping.” Riley
  • “Simplify your systems, simplify your thinking when you shift to virtual. Then document those systems and procedures — there’s no learning by osmosis anymore.” Bennett
  • “We were forced to go virtual years ago because of snowstorms and hurricanes. You can’t lose half your support team helping customers just because they can’t make it into the office.” Rotbard
  • “The key is hiring the right personality and mindset. You can teach everything else.” Riley
  • “The bargain between employee and employer is different today.” Feuling
  • “With a virtual work environment, I’d say our developers are 20% more productive.” Bennett

Day 2 Highlight: “Building a Better Employee Experience”
One of the many excellent Day 2 breakout sessions was “Building a Better Employee Experience” with Michelle MacKeith of VAR Pinnacle Hospitality Systems, Brad Lucas of VAR Lucas Systems, Tracey Lande of VAULT, and moderator Michel Sirois of BlueStar Canada.

  • “‘Employee experience’ doesn’t mean they get back rubs every day. It’s giving them what they need.” MacKeith
  • “A superior employee experience begins with personalizing the recruiting experience.” Lande
  • “If we’re not focusing on being flexible with our employees, we know another company is. You have to build something people want to be a part of.” Lucas
  • “This is no more they sell us (in the recruiting process). It’s now we sell them – on the adventure, the idea, and the mission.” Sirois
  • “You need a list of behaviors and attitudes that you hold employees to and recruit for.” MacKeith
  • “The candidates who are familiar with the phrase ‘employee experience’ are typically higher level. They care about mission, vision, values, and growing the bottom line.” Lucas
  • “Don’t just hang your mission on the wall. Give examples every week of employees living your mission.” MacKeith
  • “A one-time aha moment doesn’t work anymore.” Sirois

RetailNOW 2022 Notes

  • The RSPA Scholarship Fund received two important boosts at RetailNOW. First, RSPA Hall of Famer Ann Maynard led an on-site fundraising campaign that generated over $5,000 for the program. Maynard and a team of volunteer members collected donations throughout the show with donors receiving an inspirational butterfly magnet handmade by Maynard. During Monday’s general session, Terry Zeigler, the President and CEO of longtime RSPA member Datacap Systems, announced that Datacap is establishing a new scholarship through a special $50,000 donation to the RSPA Scholarship Fund. Over the years, RSPA has awarded nearly $3 million to families of RSPA reseller member companies through the scholarship program. Maynard’s and Datacap’s efforts will help more kids, more families, and more resellers.
  • RetailNOW 2023 will be back at the Gaylord Palms, July 30-Aug. 1, 2023. The RSPA will be making plans to expand the show floor after this year’s expo hall sold out.
  • Save the date for Inspire 2023, Jan. 22-25, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency in Maui, HI. This leadership-focused event offers education sessions for current and up-and-coming leaders and industry networking nirvana across four days. The agenda will be announced soon, but in the meantime check out the amazing resort.
  • Individual award winners at RetailNOW were W2W Leader of the Year Christine Duffy of Star Micronics, RSPA Retail Technology Pacesetter Brian Edwards of VAR Everything But The Food, and Retail Technology Hall of Fame inductee Dave McCarthy of VAR DUMAC.

Don’t forget to visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

Jim Roddy is the President and CEO of the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the retail IT channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by 420MSP, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact