How HaaS Can Help Retailers Deploy Modern Tech without Straining the Bottom Line


As the retail landscape changes in front of our eyes, one thing that’s clear is that the ability to scale, pivot and innovate are essential not only to growth, but survival. Whether part of the T&L supply chain, retail warehouse, grocery, brick and mortar store, online retail or hospitality industry, we are all reacting to or strategizing during this time of uncertainty.   

During this time of upheaval, I’ll leave projections to the analysts and instead underscore this industry’s historic ability to solve problems and scale to meet continuously changing market conditions and consumer demands.   

One thing that’s as true now as always is that continuing to improve efficiency across the retail operation is crucial and requires the most up-to-date software, hardware and devices. 

Smart technology solutions are essential to serving today’s consumer when, where and how they need to be served. Likewise, these solutions empower retail store or warehouse employees with the flexibility to work more productively and respond to the changing landscape more efficiently. 

See also: Retail’s Moonshot Moment: Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

State-of-the art mobile devices and wireless mobile printers, for example, are being used for new buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) applications; they’re boosting operational efficiency and keeping consumers at safe distances at checkout, and support quick markdowns and pricing on the sales floor and in the aisle.

They enable the printing of quick barcode shipping and returns labels and an unlimited variety of on demand shelf edge, tags, markdown labels and receipts — nearly anything needed from the front of the store to the back of the warehouse. 

But deploying the most advanced business technology is a challenge even in the best of times. It’s not unusual for a technology project to get delayed or denied for approval — despite clear business benefits — due to cash flow issues or competing budget priorities. And today, the right technology is even more important.  

One answer to clearing this procurement roadblock is the Hardware as a Service (HaaS) model. With HaaS, acquisition costs are shifted to operational expense (OpEx) rather than capital expenses (CapEx), so the latest technology is attainable without undue strain on the bottom line. This may well become the preferred procurement model in retail, as it requires no up-front investment, a predictable monthly spend, and flexible, end of term options to scale up or down.   

Why HaaS Makes Sense for Retailers

According to Spiceworks “State of the Hardware as a Service” study, the retail industry as a whole has embraced HaaS, with retail and wholesale organizations being the most likely to use the HaaS model. Spiceworks notes that this most likely due to retail locations often being spread out geographically, making it difficult for internal IT teams to service remote locations. The study notes that 31% of retail/wholesale organizations use the HaaS model for one more types of devices and an additional 7% of retail businesses plan to adopt HaaS within the next two years. 

Retail operations managers are realizing that HaaS offers a better alternative to business as usual and potentially holding onto older technology longer than they should. Small and mid-size organizations often pay an especially high price in terms of reduced productivity, agility and revenue when they continue to rely on outdated legacy equipment. 

HaaS makes deploying state-of-the-art technology easy and smart, helping remove concerns about the cost and timing of investing in new technology. Instead of paying for technology up front and in a lump sum, companies can take advantage of a predictable monthly payment for hardware, accessories and even warranties. 

Making the Shift to HaaS 

When evaluating the best method for acquiring the desired technologies, it’s important to distinguish between options for the best way to pay for them. When using a HaaS model, procurement is treated as an OpEx, which is usually associated with assets needed for the day-to-day functioning of a business. 

On the other hand, CapEx are often larger investments incurred to create benefit in the future. OpEx and CapEx are treated differently for accounting and tax purposes, an important consideration for any business. 

The Best Technology – All the Time

Perhaps the biggest benefit is that the HaaS model makes it possible for retailers of any size to utilize the latest, best-performing technology — at all times.  Not only is it possible, it’s now relatively easy to scale up to meet growing needs; an essential tactic for today’s operations managers under intense competitive pressure.

Operations and warehouse managers also gain peace of mind and can count on industry-leading equipment warranties and support with some HaaS programs like the Shift & Print Subscription Service Brother recently introduced.  

David Crist is president of Brother Mobile Solutions.

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