Retail IT Leaders Share Business Lessons Learned in 2023

By: RSPA NextGen Community

Change is a constant in the retail IT channel, and our community of industry leaders thrives on adaptability and resilience. To gain insight into the shifts that helped define 2023, the RSPA invited retail IT channel leaders to look back on the year, offering their valuable lessons learned and expert advice for the future of retail IT businesses. Sharing their perspectives are:

  • Allie Haskell, VP of Client Engagement and Success, ISV/VAR CBS NorthStar
  • Craig Kaliebe, Director of Business Development and Marketing, VAR Biztracker POS
  • Dean Reverman, VP of Marketing, BlueStar
  • Robert Symmonds, President & CEO, ISV Auto-Star Compusystems
  • Serena Smith, Director of ISV Channel Development, ISV IPOS/Dejavoo Systems
  • Travis Hare, Director of Hospitality Solutions, ISV/VAR DCR 


  • Allie Haskell: From where I stand, there’s been a common misconception that ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores, including restaurants, are at odds. To be honest, I once viewed them as distinct realms, too. But the more I dive into it, the clearer it becomes that they’re not competitors but collaborators. Today, it’s almost routine to start our hunt online — be it for a product or a meal — going through reviews, comparing features or ingredients, and then heading to a physical spot to touch, feel, or taste. I’m guilty of this, too! The way I see it, the digital and physical worlds are drawing closer, complementing each other beautifully. Another intriguing shift? The subtle but undeniable infiltration of AI into our industry. It’s not about robots taking over but about enhancing our experiences and operations. AI-driven tools are gradually shaping everything from personalized shopping/restaurant experiences. It feels like every time I blink, there’s some new AI innovation making waves in retail. And honestly? It’s exciting to see where it’ll take us next.
  • Travis Hare: In a time where seemingly everything is unichannel, and VARs are being forced into disadvantageous agreements with their software providers, there are a few bright shining lights. New software vendors will quickly outpace and outshine the unichannel systems within the VAR community.  Understanding that we are not “sales arms” will be the market differentiator.
  • Craig Kaliebe: One positive outcome is that the supply chain issues of 2021 and 2022 appear to be behind us, and now many of the manufacturers seem to have excess inventory. There are lots of promotions and incentives available right now as the manufacturers seek to reduce their inventory. Prices are finally coming down, and it’s becoming a buyer’s market after two years of inflation and supply constraints.
  • Serena Smith: I have seen the latest technology continue to improve with new enhancements like faster and more powerful operating systems, better battery life, memory, and reliability, and at a lower cost than before. We also saw great response and adoption of contactless tap on phone technology that requires no hardware. Innovation in technology is not slowing down.
  • Robert Symmonds: As we move forward from pandemic-related customer apprehension, there has been a noticeable increase in foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores this year. As a result, in-store retailers are experiencing increased sales and new growth opportunities, which are fueling the demand for in-store upgrades in technology, resulting in revenue growth for us as an ISV and our VAR partners.
  • Dean Reverman: 2023 witnessed the continued growth of retail media networks, specifically the growth of place-based programming (pDOOH) via digital signage technology. In fact, 18% of all digital ad spend will happen over RMNs (a portion of which is place-based digital advertising), representing $50B in the U.S. alone, providing resellers an opportunity to leverage relationships and garner recurring revenue opportunities. Kiosk and self-service solutions continued to outpace standard growth with a 12.5% CAGR for the next six years.


  • Symmonds: The first lesson is transparency. Establishing straightforward pricing, clear expectations, and an open dialogue about business decisions with customers and partners creates a relationship of mutual trust and accountability. The second lesson is the importance of collaborating within the organization for business advancement. Fostering a culture of innovation goes beyond R&D for product development. It encompasses all employees and departments contributing to new and improved organizational processes. Business is not static; it’s always evolving, and everyone in the business contributes to our success.
  • Smith: We saw a surge in ISVs looking to expand on their integration options. The general response we received was not wanting to have all their eggs in one basket and the power of choice. I think these were lessons learned post-COVID that continue to stick with us. There was a recognition that not all end users will like, want, or need the same solution, and they need to adapt to the market.
  • Hare: The year 2023 saw the end of being able to survive on POS sales alone. Customers have an expectation of a zero-cost POS system thanks to our rivals.  Bundling secondary services is the only way to make a living.
  • Kaliebe: Video marketing and a social media strategy are more important than ever. We’re seeing a lot of new, younger entrepreneurs entering the market. They are very tech-savvy and are accustomed to getting their information on video via social channels. We must adapt, and if we don’t have quality content to support our sales efforts, customers will question our credibility. Business development is a challenge these days. Cold calling is not efficient, and getting new prospects to respond to any outgoing messaging is difficult. Traditional trade shows are as important as ever, as they’re loaded with qualified potential customers looking for solutions, ready to engage. If I meet someone at a trade show and exchange contact information, they’re 15x more likely to respond to an email, text or call after the show.
  • Reverman: Protect the core business and look for opportunities to grow via partner-assisted ecosystems. Economic headwinds have proved to create challenging business environments. Most businesses learned to protect their core offerings, but the ones primed for growth protected the core while exploring opportunities for growth through partner-assisted ecosystems. It is critical for businesses looking forward to consider adding AI, edge, RMN, and robotics solutions to their story.
  • Haskell: The business landscape? It’s ever-evolving. One takeaway that’s hit home for me is the need for agility. Gone are the days when businesses could stick to a single game plan. They need to be nimble, adapting to what customers are after or even the occasional supply chain hiccup. If there’s a life lesson wrapped up in this, it’s resilience. Staying adaptable and being prepared to pivot — that’s the name of the game in today’s unpredictable environment.


  • Reverman: Across the globe, edge AI alone is forecasted to be a $67B marketing with a 21% CAGR. For retail solution integrators to grow, they should look to several of these emerging markets to leverage their relationships and build on their core offerings.
  • Symmonds: To adjust to current customer habits, rising operating costs, and a changing workforce, retailers will have to continue to be flexible and look towards new technology and innovative solutions. Retail technology is always advancing, and this continues to be an important time to strengthen our retail partnerships and serve as knowledgeable advisors.
  • Haskell: One thought that’s top of mind: the rise of the omnichannel experience. We’re already seeing the beginnings, and it’s bound to become the gold standard. Retailers and even restaurateurs need to blur the lines between online and in-person, striving for a seamless consumer experience. Regardless of how someone chooses to shop or dine, the journey should feel uninterrupted and holistic.
  • Hare: I hope that 2024 is the year when merchant services finally have some legal interjection.  The fact that there are essentially two companies who are judge/jury/executioner with no legal support is an injustice to the SMB owner