Orlando Florida is home this week to the Retail Solutions Providers Association annual meeting and the show has been terrific. Held at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel, in Disneyworld, hundreds of participants came to look, listen and learn.
Mobility – in all its various forms – was the hot topic this week – and, by default, the Apple iPad was the golden child.
Demonstrations from companies like TabbedOut - who's mobile app allows customers to see their restaurant or bar bill, add a tip, and pay through their mobile phone, was on display both in their own exhibit and their partner's FuturePOS booth as well. Other mobile apps and companies that were present (and there were a great many) included MobiMagic, who had an Apple based solution that is the underlying platform for a new mobile restaurant applications, pcAmericas coming solution among them, and Restaurant Manager was showing off their already released "Write-On Handheld" software running on the iPad.
The Tuesday morning panel discussion included noted retail luminaries such as Greg Buzek, IHL Services, who said that 2013 to 2014 is the time tablets are going to become part of point of sale, and John Kirk, Radiant Systems, spoke of the need to "be on the journey with the customer" – stressing that solutions are going to continue to be evolving, and (of interest to food service personnel) that "better tips are likely because of better engagement with the customer" as waiters can take credit card payments at tableside. Another observation from the panel was that the iPad, while technologically ideal, was not retail "hardened" and since Apple is a consumer driven company, they are not likely to produce a iPad that can withstand the proverbial four foot drop onto concrete. True enough, however, this writer is confident that dozens of companies are working on a solution to that problem and that it will be on the market imminently.
Joe Finizio, RSPA President and CEO, gave a talk on the use of social media in marketing and branding, a seminar that was well attended and closely listened to. Speaking to Joe on other matters, he stressed the interest that the RSPA has in continuing to raise the bar for high quality point of sale software, POS installations and POS staff through an on-going practice of certification and education.
The RetailNOW show also offered a downloadable app for smartphones that had all of the needed information included – that's an innovation I particularly liked!
Other speakers included Todd Cripe, VP Sales of Lifera, on the topic of NFC (Near Field Communications) to a standing room only crowd. Some of his key points were; NFC is safer than credit cards, solving some of the PCI compliance issues, NFC is cheaper to merchants than credit – allowing some flexibility at the point of sale to steer customers away from credit card usage, and NFC is coming right now in various trial rollouts.
Credit card processing was a big part of the show, with payment companies almost drooling on point of sale resellers for a shot at getting their clients' business. I am more that a little skeptical about this corner of the market. The amount of money being thrown at securing the transaction business seems inordinately high, leading me to believe that there are presently excess profits abounding in the payments business. Perhaps the frenzy is in the form of some bigger companies acquiring, and over-valuing small payment processors? One thing is for certain - "excess profits invite excess competition" and this niche is sure to experience some humility down the road. With the prospect of widespread NFC payments on the horizon as a major competitor to the credit card business and a less profitable one, I'm not sure I get the current hubris.
Congratulations to the entire RSPA staff on conducting a very well organized show.