There have been plenty of articles written over the past year about where the POS industry is headed, and predictions of who will be the first to get there. Often these predictions change or are tossed out the window as the landscape shifts. Technology acceleration certainly isn’t new. However, the velocity of consumer adoption of technologies like online ordering, buy now, pay later and contactless payment is at historic levels. A 2020 report from Accenture illustrates how utilization of technologies that have been around for 10 years is experiencing a 6X growth curve in 2020.
So what’s causing all of this? While new applications, better technology, and yes, a global pandemic, have all been contributing factors, it is the consumer who is the driving force behind this speed of change. When consumers act, the world reacts. And yet, it’s amazing how often we rely on our emotions, personal experiences or biases in our interpretation of what is valued in technology. A better approach to understanding what is needed and valued is to go to the source - the Customer.
We are all customers that consume a variety of goods and services each day. Merchants have customers that purchase goods and services from their business. Resellers have merchants. ISVs have sales distribution partners. And almost all of us have employees who are actually customers by another name, with needs and ideas of their own. At Heartland, we’re in the unique position to work with customers in all of these categories. There's a lot of time spent interacting with and processing customer feedback. We use these insights as the foundation for setting direction. We are sharing some of the bigger themes from those conversations.
1. Simple is Best
In retail and hospitality, we see that merchants are desperately seeking technology with features that simplify their operations while needing to reach disparaged customers. The POS generally in the past 5 years has had instore and online buying but rarely really linked. It is not enough to have disconnected technologies they need to be joined and simple. Cloud POS in itself isn’t enough. Retail and restaurant owners are finding that a million features found in monolithic client server POS are not going to sustain their changing customers needs. What’s needed is a graceful solution that is intuitive and doesn’t restrict their business. In our personal roles as customers we’re now ingrained with software and technology apps that are intuitive and deceptively simple. So it’s not surprising that merchants, who like us are also consumers, have this same need. We know simple and powerful are possible, though it is hard to execute.
2. Cut Through the Clutter
The next thing merchants want help on is navigating digital convergence. Specifically, the need to have their messaging stand out in the bombardment of email and text from competitors and general media noise. Merchants are struggling to have a relevant message while not turning off their customers in a wave of unwanted communications. They deserve a central view that allows for a balanced and strategic approach to text, email, social and mobile notifications. The junk mail box is no longer the physical one, it's the mobile device.
3. Seamless User Experiences (UX)
By far the most prevalent theme coming from customers is the unification of multiple technologies into one transparent experience. Merchants no longer want to access a POS for reporting, then an online or e-commerce website for orders then their credit card deposits from multiple websites.
Merchants want, and expect, a single seamless solution for their customers that facilitates an online buying journey to be equivalent to, or even better than, their in-store experience. A purchase made with the click or tap must support gift cards, offer loyalty rewards, real-time inventory availability and provide multiple ways to receive their goods - in-store, curbside, delivery, etc.
This one stop shopping experience is essential to get right as consumers use a growing number of ways they interact with their favorite stores. Rarely are businesses able to thrive limiting the way their customers purchase any longer.
In the midst of this transformation, merchants are getting bolder charging more for the instant delivery choice. Consumers are proven in multiple studies to willingly pay a premium for a buy now, get it now purchase. Merchants need better options to adjust pricing and fees to capture the opportunity to expand top and bottom lines.
Listening to a customer is one thing, being able to deliver their needs and quickly is where the rubber meets the road. A merchant’s technology has to support this rapid environment. The POS can help or hinder an operation as the central nervous system that drives operations and execution. The first essential component is a true cloud platform. This isn’t new but the viability of onsite servers is long gone. The inflexible nature and expense of these platforms is debilitating. A POS must go beyond a transaction and incorporate payments, gift (stored-value), payroll and analytical reporting.
Also, merchants need (whether they know to ask for it specifically) accessible API’s. This gives the possibility of connecting and using many peripheral solutions from a single system. Additionally, merchants need to own their data. Data represents the results of effort and experience. It might not be something that is useful now but regaining rights to it later is impossible.
Flexibility is the key. Technology should always be customer-centric, allowing merchants “ to choose their own adventure”.
More than ever customers are looking to have these conversations with a trusted advisor that can help decipher the noise and provide practical guidance. Resellers play a vital role at the community level directing and more importantly listening to the customer. So what will this year bring to POS? Let’s talk with our customers and build it - together.
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