Steve Cuntz, the Chairman/CEO of BlueStar, was one of the members of the Industry Vision Panel at RetailNOW 2012, which took place July 29-Aug. 1 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The panel was divided into two segments, a hardware-focused group and software-focused group, and was moderated by Jim Roddy, president of Jameson Publishing and Business Solutions magazine. As part of the hardware-focused group, Cuntz shares his thoughts below on many of the different topics impacting the POS industry today that were discussed at the panel.
“State Of The Industry”
Jim Roddy, BSM: Talk about the landscape you’re seeing today in the retail IT industry. Give us the state of the industry from your perspective.
Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: As we talked about last year, we see the continuation of retail getting closer to the customer. We are seeing more mobile applications, more cloud-based applications. We are seeing slightly different form factors of hardware being used to accomplish that. And the retail industry is trying to get more in tune, from what we have seen, with the way that their customers shop. A young buyer today is sophisticated. They do a lot of online research before they purchase something, so I believe the retail industry is trying to position themselves to take advantage of that.
The iPad Impact On The Retail Channel
Jim Roddy, BSM: An article published on the Business Solutions magazine website was titled, “Are You Tired Of Your Customers Asking About iPads?” It received close to the most reader comments we've received on any article posted on our website this year.
How much will iPads impact our channel? Is it going to damage it? Is it going to enhance it? Should resellers – some of them are fighting iPads – should they stop fighting and just join them by selling software that runs on iPads?
Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: I was thinking about something like this last night in the Minus5 Ice Bar (where everything is made of ice). I hadn’t been in there before and I was thinking, “I wonder what it's like to freeze to death?” Because at first it doesn't feel too bad. I'm an outdoorsman; I can handle this. It's not too bad.
You know there's a lot of people who die that way. Complacency or not accepting of the change in the environment is not a good survival strategy, and it would do this industry good to sit down and disseminate the opportunities that are there. For example, if you offered in a bundled package these types of mobile devices, dealers may not know that the carriers will offer you a monthly contribution for every month that that activation occurs.
If you're operating in a cloud environment, not only do you have an opportunity to get recurring revenues with the cloud services, you have an opportunity to get revenues off of activation of broadband. Something to think about.
The Debate Surrounding Free POS
Jim Roddy, BSM: I’ve been told by some folks in our industry not to ask this next question. They said, “Don't touch this point. It's just too much of a hot-button in our industry.” But since it hits a nerve, I think we need to talk about it. The topic is free hardware. From your perspective, are vendors who are offering free hardware, are they wrecking the POS channel or are they leading the charge of what's coming?
And then, are resellers who participate in free hardware programs gaining a competitive advantage or are they shooting themselves in the foot. Or, as some folks think, are they shooting themselves in the head?
Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: I want to thank Jim for throwing me a hand grenade. I tried to bring all my body armor for this. From my perspective, we all have to examine the value proposition that we bring to the ultimate businessperson in retail. Frankly, I think we have to do more and more. I don't think it's an either-or-if proposition.
In other words, what is to prevent a dealer from giving away credit card processing services and charging for the hardware? If everybody claims that the value of the processing services are more valuable than the hardware … has anybody put a pencil to that?
I think we’re in an open community. If it's a business model that works for an ISO, then so be it. But that doesn't mean that the dealer doesn't have the ability to reexamine that model and see what value-add they can add to it and see where the numbers come out and do a sales pitch to that end user.
Jim Roddy, BSM: Almost everyone in this industry I've talked with has seen a trend towards selling beyond point of sale and providing a total solution for the customer. I just heard in the RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) board meeting Saturday that this organization is focused mostly on about 20 feet away from the entry door to a retail customer, and we need to expand beyond that.
Two technologies beyond POS are security, such as video surveillance, and also digital signage. What one piece of advice or what one pitfall to avoid would you give to the resellers in the audience in regards to these technologies?
Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: These guys are right on the spot because this actually happened to me. I have a friend who owns a restaurant, and he called me up and said, "You're in the industry, what do I do?" I said, “About what?” He says, "I got a guy trying to steal my compressor and get all the copper out of the air conditioning system at my restaurant." And I said, "Did you ever hear of a security camera?"
These products are so good with IP protocol today that you can actually have a software to determine whether it's bothering the owner or not or whoever the manager is. This is a great opportunity if you think about the revenue stream. You get the installation of the security package, interior and exterior, and it doesn't just stop with that part because you got to have a default system which is usually broadband because these guys are smart enough to cut power lines so the phone lines don’t work.
Now, you get to install a default backup system that's internet protocol that will go right to your smartphone. For a lot of owners, it's cheap insurance. And while you're at it, you can sell him a cell phone and you can give him a warranty package. You get the activation fee and you can get a $5 insurance package and sell it with a $300 phone.
Jim Roddy, BSM: Everyone is concerned about channel sustainability. (Retail Solutions Providers Association CEO) Joe Finizio was talking about it this morning. You can wring your hands about it and fret, or you can do something about it. What actions would you say a reseller needs to take today to make sure that their business is relevant and thriving five years from now?
Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: Well, it's kind of like everything else in life. You can only count on change, and my attitude is embrace it. It's coming whether you want it or not. It doesn't really matter what you think. I love the IBM Selectric (typewriter). I think it was the greatest invention. As a young clerk, I did a lot of typing, and I spent most of my time using bottles of White Out. I would come home with white fingernails every night. And then, when we got our first Selectric, I thought, "My god!" That's the greatest thing on the face of the earth!"
To answer the question directly, things are changing in the channel, but I've never seen a more committed group of manufacturing partners in my life than to this channel. I don't see anyone going out and attempting to promote a way to sell these products and these services around the dealer base and valuate it himself. I think they've embraced this channel. They depend everyone here, and I can guarantee you the manufacturing community is here to support you.
To read other panel member's thoughts, visit the pages below: