What’s Next for the Point of Sale

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What’s Next for the Point of Sale

01/29/2020

Today’s retail point-of-sale systems are expected to tackle it all: They need to deliver compelling omnichannel customer experiences; they have to optimize cash management; and they’re expected to exploit stock info across multiple locations, store formats and even franchise partners.

Today’s top POS systems can deliver—without appearing invasive—as much personalization in-store as online, and they’re more convenient and attractive than brands or marketplaces like Amazon that sell directly to consumers.

Given its crucial spot in the entire path to purchase, choosing and implementing a POS can be nothing short of nerve-wracking.

The “What’s Next for POS and Friction Free Shopping” webinar took a deep dive into retail’s wave of digital store investments and the transformation of POS systems into ecosystems that deliver cloud-mobile, AI-infused, Uber-style shopping experiences. A panel of experts from Capgemini, Intel and Forrester discussed examples and findings of best practices in POS evaluation, selection and implementation.

Don’t miss these invaluable insights about the latest in POS. The full transcript is below as well as the slides from the presentation.

Joe Skorupa: Welcome everyone to the “What's Next for POS and Friction Free Shopping Webinar,” which is hosted by RIS News and presented by Capgemini. Hello, I'm Joe Skorupa, editorial director of RIS and I'm really glad you could be with us today.

Retail is riding a major wave of digital store investment. Traditional POS systems are quickly evolving into an ecosystem that delivers a cloud-mobile, AI-infused, Uber-style, frictionless shopping experience. Choosing and implementing a POS can be a nerve-wracking experience because retailers expect it to deliver compelling omnichannel customer experiences on top of optimizing cash management and accessing stock information across multiple locations, store formats, and even franchise partners.

There was need to deliver - without appearing invasive - as much personalization in the store as online, and to become more convenient than competitive brands or marketplaces (like Amazon) that sell directly to consumers. On today's webinar we will check on the latest research from Forrester, and get end-user perspectives from Intel and Capgemini about options to deploy new technologies that will help win and retain retail customers, as well as build a sustainable competitive advantage. The panel of experts will answer questions and share examples of best practices in POS evaluation, selection and implementation. The webinar will offer practical tips about what you need to know about how your next POS can deliver friction free shopping.

Here with us today to discuss this important topic are George Lawrie of Forrester, David Dobson of Intel and Martin van Vugt of Capgemini. George Lawrie is vice president and Principal Analyst for Forrester, bringing more than two decades of experience deploying global enterprise resource planning and ERP applications into complex multinational corporations. During his five years with Forrester, George has led research into topics such as best practices and ERP consolidation, IT investing and prioritization, global data synchronization and trade promotion management. Welcome today George, I'm really glad you could be with us.

George Lawrie: Thanks so much, I'm glad to be with you too.

Skorupa: Also joining us today is David Dobson. He's Intel's global industry director for the retail, hospitality and consumer goods industries. David's focus is on end-user engagement and transformative projects. His current areas of research and engagement include: the future of the store, the new digital age, how and where retailers turn data into competitive advantage, the role of technology within the cross-channel shopper journey, the use of cloud technologies, and how to reduce waste in the supply chain. I'm also glad you could be with us today, David, welcome.

David Dobson: Thank you, Joe, my privilege to be here.

Skorupa: Our final panelist is Martin van Vugt. He's the global POS lead for Capgemini's consumer products, retail and distribution division. He has deep experience in retail consulting with food and non-food retailers in the Netherlands and internationally. Martin's current areas of research and engagement include the future of the store in the new digital age, the role of technology within the cross-channel shopper experience, and how to reduce waste in the supply chain. Welcome Martin, glad you can be here.

Martin van Vugt: Thank you, Joe, I'm also glad to be here and co-presenting together with George and David.

Skorupa: Let's begin with a question for George: this is the year 2020, so why focus on POS now? Why not focus on cutting-edge technologies like AI or machine learning or shopper tracking or robotics? Why focus on the store as well? Isn't the digital world where the retail action is today?

Lawrie: That's a great and very provocative question, Joe. Do you know what though, still the vast majority of retail is either transacted or fulfilled in the store. The store is still, in fact, a very, very important part of the customer experience. From the retailer's perspective, the point-of-sale is not so much a point really, it's a point-of-service, and it's becoming a really important element in the whole path-to-purchase. So, it's true that people might start their shopping at home, perhaps online, they might continue on their mobile device, but it's still in the store normally that they get to touch and feel, and most importantly, to experience new products. That's where they find new products, and you know that innovation is a very important part of winning - and continuing to win - market share.

Skorupa: Absolutely true. So tell us about those research findings.

Lawrie: Well, the interesting thing is that there's, I would say two tendencies which are coming together. One is in the customer's behavior. We were just talking to some customers this morning and they were saying, "Well, are there really practical cross-channel instances that require point-of-sale to be more advanced." The answer is, yes. One of the most important ones is that people buy online, then return in the store. You need to have a really great returns process, which needs to run through the point-of-service.

The second thing is, I would say the technology has advanced enormously. What we're seeing people deploy now is typically applications which run a little bit in the cloud, a little bit on a mobile device, perhaps on the associate's device, perhaps on a fixed device, perhaps even on the consumer's own device or a customer's own device. The technology is now in place to do that. But also to mine a terrific amount of information and to give people some contextual content depending on where they are, what time of day it is, what day it is - that's making a terrific difference, Joe.

Skorupa: So friction-free shopping, that is something I hear a lot about in the marketplace. It's a goal, I suppose, a goal tied to a strategy. How do you achieve it?

Lawrie: It's interesting, Joe, because one of my customers said to me something that really stuck in my head, "When you are with the Uber you don't see the transaction, it's invisible." Of course all of us have looked at Amazon Go and many of us will be using contactless cards all the time. So what will be involved in this friction free, it's really minimizing the transaction. It's usually with the technology that we have to make the transaction a smaller and smaller part of the experience, if that makes sense.


Skorupa: Absolutely. So let's get to our agenda for this part of our webinar. I'm going to put up the agenda slide here, George, and let's just jump into our key topics.

Lawrie: Perfect, I'll take it away from here. I'm going to start by talking a little bit about what's happening in retail. Recapping some of this stuff that I'm sure that most of the people in the audience know, but I'm then going to say what does it mean for store systems, and in particular these new technologies that I was talking about. Then I'm going to be a bit provocative and I'm going to tell you why your point-of-sale or your point-of-service is holding you back. I'll look at what's happening to retail around the transition from systems to platforms, and I get to be really presumptuous and make some suggestions about what people in our audience should do now.

Let's talk a bit about what's happening in retail. I'm going to go back one, I'm sorry. We can't ever stop thinking about what comes and goes is doing, but the point is: can everybody have all those senses all around the store, all that enormous technology investment, probably not. What it shows us is that retail is a hub of innovation that is shaping customer experiences, but most of all shaping customer expectations as well. What do we see around this? If we look at U.S. retail - and this is, by the way, the same in other countries as well - we see that a terrific amount of retail is shaped by what's happening online. The store, as we said, is terribly important, but it's typically shaped by what's happening online. Think a little bit about the journey, or this path-to-purchase that I talked about. We think about people discovering.

Remember I talked about new things, new products, new releases from consumer packaged goods companies, in particular new offerings that retailers come up with themselves and how people discover them. Actually, they discover them in the store to a very large extent. They can perhaps discover them with Google and Amazon, too. What will they do next? They're going to explore. We know this from our own consumer panel. We know that people when they find a new thing in the store, they turn on their phone, they scan the barcode, and they try to understand more about it. They also understand which of their friends have bought it, they understand if it has been produced in an environmentally responsible way, and of course, they try and find it, see if they can buy it cheaper somewhere else, so they always do a price check. We know 75% of people do that.

If you move on to the next stage, they could also buy, they could buy in the store, but they could buy with Amazon as well. You can see that Amazon is there right at the beginning of this cycle. We think about the customer and the retention of the customer and delighting them. That continues when they use the product, when they ask, and when they perhaps engage more about it. So we think that this is really kind of a cycle that they're engaged in. But the thing that I want you to notice - and to think about - is that if you're a retailer, Amazon potentially is there ahead of you in the cycle, so they've been perhaps a little bit earlier than you have in that discovery stage.

What does all that mean for your store systems? Here's the interesting thing that we found: 71% of customers or consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand or a product (or perhaps a retailer) that provided a personalized service or experience. So, it's the personalization. Remember I talked about the technology that enables us to do this much more easily than ever before? What we have to think is how can we make that path-to-purchase, how can we make it more personal for each of the consumers? Most interestingly, in an omnichannel world, the in-store personalization ranks top of the list. For the question that you asked earlier, Joe, about why do we care about POS, because it's that in-store touchpoint that people really care about.

Now, I talked a little bit about what's really driving the consumer or the customer. I talked about this cycle. Here's something that's very interesting. What do they look at? They look for the best price, I already mentioned that. We expect them to do that - their price checking - but look at this: they're looking about enjoying the experience. They're looking about how easy it is to find what they're looking for, the convenience of their shopping, and most importantly, they're looking at doing more product research. Two of the other panelists today are looking at sustainability and supply chain. This is incredibly important to consumers. They want to research and understand more about what they're buying, and each of those really is driven by content. This is why we think about content and commerce and point-of-sale as being very tightly related.

I promised that I would tell you why your point-of-sale is potentially holding you back. It’s because in this journey that we talked about, this path-to-purchase, there are different devices of course. We talked about a kind of digital world, an offline world, the mobile world, but the systems of engagement that try to identify the customer and personalize what they're seeing - these systems of insight, which try to understand will they really be susceptible to a promotion, can we up sell them, can we cross sell them - all of these are basically fragmented.

It means that the critical thing for retailers is to bring all of this together around the basket. The basket is the really critical thing. This is why we're seeing really smart retailers thinking about the fact that the basket starts as soon as they're doing their research, when they're at home, it goes onto their mobile device, it continues in the store, and perhaps they move the basket from the cloud or from their own device to an associate's device to help them solve it, perhaps to a fixed device. You can see that this idea of the basket being able to think about that and having a life, having a time span is incredibly important to solving this high expectation of customers, for us to service them across all their devices, and in particular to understand their profiles.

So, it's not just let's say their personalization, that their profile could be different at different times - their behaviors might be different at different times of day, different days of the week. Also to understand their sentiment. So what are they feeling now? What's their attitude? To understand, to present the right content to them and perhaps to help them to understand what their friends reviews and ratings are, and to bring all of that into one place. So the context, the location, the time, the situation, what they've done so far, we think a lot in our research about the path-to-purchase. When they're first thinking about it, perhaps price isn't so important, price becomes more important as they're getting closer to making a purchase.

To orchestrate all of this, and to do it in real-time and dynamically calculate intent is really where people are going with store systems. One of my clients put it brilliantly, "really retail is a huge laboratory with millions and millions of natural experiments going on hour by hour." She said that the compound that we're dealing with is the most volatile known to man, it's human intention, and she thinks a lot about this. How can you dynamically understand their intention, and then deliver personalized content to them equally across every channel, every screen. If you think it's difficult now, it's only going to get more difficult.

We think about the different ways in which consumers interact with us, in the future there's going to be voice as well. This is an application that already exists both on an iPad and with Alexa, it's one they initially put together and the reason they did it is they know when people are cooking they are looking at recipes, they might start with the iPad, but now their hands are full. You can see this gentleman here has his hands full with Alfredo and he's asking his robot, his Alexa, what to do next.

Now, I have to say, I very frequently get calls from our clients saying, we know how to, for example, populate the title in Amazon. We know how to populate search engines, but how will people search differently when it's by voice, and how can I organize my content to work that way? Thinking about this continuum, a path-to-purchase of which the point-of-sale is a part as to understand a lot of different things; content intent and different ways of interacting including in future, voice.

This is really what I wanted to talk about, the rise of retail platforms. We know already that a significant amount of e-commerce is taking place through marketplaces like Amazon, and it's going to increase even more. That means as a retailer you've got to think about your store, which is differentiating for you, and think about the technology that you have there. How can you make it stable or sustainable? How can you keep that platform that you have, but still keep innovating? One of our clients said, "in the current climate, speed is all that matters.” You all know this, you make small changes at your point-of-sale. You might add, for example, credit at the point-of-sale because people like credit as they're coming up to holiday or Christmastime. But actually to do that, and to test it normally with most point-of-sale technology, that's pretty difficult.

We used to have projects that lasted one or two years and you know, a real latter point-of-sale used to take that kind of time. I used to do loads of these years ago, but now you've got to do it in one or two quarters. Why? Because you've got to stay ahead of the game. So what does that really mean? Well, this is an example that I took from Waitrose. They have a great example here where they have the basket that is created in the cloud that can be accessed and can be added to on any device, including the associate's own device, including self-checkout, including the customer's own mobile device. So they can scan, they can pay, but they could also take advantage of one promotion engine that runs across all of this, of one e-commerce integration. The important thing is when you're thinking about your new point-of-sale that it should support all of these elements.

Also equally important, I wanted to pop this in here, is to think about what you might orchestrate in terms of the experience. O'Donnell, some of you might know it, is a quite small but very innovative furniture retailer. They're competing all the time with Wayfair. Many of you will know what Wayfair is like, you know that the content is fantastic, and that is very well displayed to you in the context of what you're doing and what you've done before. Now for O'Donnell, what they've really had to do was to orchestrate their own experience, point-of-sale and e-commerce, to make sure that their content was at least competitive with what people were seeing on Wayfair.

So these platforms then, are platforms which are partly in the cloud but partly have elements running on the associate's device, on a fixed point-of-sale or perhaps on the customer's own device. What then should you be doing about it now? Well, our advice is that you really need to be thinking about creating a digital store transformation program. We have an entire workbook around this, around how to get there, how to start, how to create the business case. But what is essentially does is create a platform, one of these ideas that we talked about, that will enable you to plug in different devices, but also to ingest different content, and to be able to customize it and present it at the right point in the path-to-purchase. Equally, to be able to ingest different streams of data, and that data might be social data, it might even be search engine data - what are people looking for - to enable you to anticipate what the customer is going to want.

Skorupa: The interesting thing about something like this is the strategy for retailers. Some retail formats, as you can imagine, don't feel like they are very omnichannel. So recently, for example, though you did mention Waitrose, a lot of grocers did not feel like they were omnichannel and so they really focused on their fixed station. Then as grocery transitioned, they really had to move away from a pure fixed station approach. So it's not surprising to see that kind of “all of the above” is rising in importance to the majority.


Lawrie: I think you're right Joe, it does depend quite a lot on the format of retail, what are they doing.

Skorupa: So here, we polled the audience asking about which sales channel does your POS use? And only in stores, I suppose if we wanted to call something traditional, that would be traditional since POS in stores was launched in, I think, 1973. So that's how retailers were used to doing it. But the second option here is a POS solution for stores and online, and then a single omnichannel solution for both stores and online. So should it be only store, should it be a separate for one for stores, the different system for online or single for both? It looks like the single omnichannel for both stores is leading, both stores and online.

So it looks like omnichannel retailing is something that retailers look at when they analyze and assess their POS strategy.

Lawrie: Absolutely. We've seen those two interesting results, and thanks Joe for your comments on them. We were talking here about this idea of a platform that would help you to innovate, would give you the sustainability to help you innovate. These are my contact details if any of you would like to contact me because this is the research that I use, you'll get a copy of this. If you would like a copy of any of these reports then please feel free to email me and ask.

Dobson: Really interesting and thought provoking comments from George, and really good responses from the team. I'm just going to talk a little bit today about some of the challenges specifically from a hardware perspective. There's a bit of a noise on the line, specifically from a hardware perspective with some of the challenges that are going to occur for retailers when they go down, especially in this omnichannel and multi-device environment.

What we're seeing is sort of four major challenges:

1. The cost and complexity of different hardware choices. As both George and Joe mentioned, and as we got feedback from the team, people are not just having a single device to manage in the store anymore. There's typically different devices, different formats of devices, different operating systems running on those devices.

2. There may even be different software components running on different devices. An experience for mobile is very different to the experience that you run on your POS for example.

3. These systems are still managed from a central location. You need that remote management and how do you manage those devices across potentially hundreds or thousands of stores, and maybe internationally as well as cross border-type challenges.

4. Perhaps 10 years ago, we wouldn't have talked about so much, but now that the POS systems and the store systems are connected to the internet, are more open to the world, and how do you protect these systems and how do you protect your systems from malicious attacks.

We've got a couple of concepts around the challenges, a little bit more detail on what I said, and then some of the answers from an Intel perspective. We provide solutions that have a common device architecture and can flex from the smallest to the largest devices - this is not very well known and not hugely leveraged across the industry, but within our Silicon we actually provide management tools like vPro that enable you to do remote management at the hardware level, beneath your software, beneath your operating system so you have an extra level of redundancies. You won't be coming across these lock devices. You'll be able to manage those devices even in the most extreme failure cases. Those device management tools can also be used to reduce the power output - do your POS systems all need to be on at all times? If you can manage the devices remotely, maybe then you can start to think about power saving. Again built into the Silicon at Silicon-level we have some key security technologies.

Some of the critical POS hardware capabilities that we like to talk about that are going to help with all of those four challenges. There's a drive towards solid state devices, less moving parts on the device means more resilience. We talked a little bit about remote management, advanced security and common architecture, but equally you want support from multiple operating systems these days. Some operating system choices you may want to make based on the application, based upon the device itself, based upon the experience you want to present or based upon the skills that you have inside your businesses. You want to have that choice to manage across multiple environments and absolutely your hardware needs to be able to do that.

You also want to have a platform for innovation. So yes, of course your applications need to run on those environments. You need to have an environment that will be able to move forward and provide all of these flexible new functions and features that we can't necessarily predict over the next coming years, the challenges that you have - a lot of that is revolving around some of the innovation that's happening in the media or in the video space. Then the final piece, from our perspective, is you want to choose the vendors that work for you. Whether that's the software, hardware package, operating system, or some of the technologies that Joe mentioned at the beginning. Keep in mind: which cloud do I connect with, and what AI tools do I want to use? All of that comes with you making that selection as a customer, selecting the right solutions for you and the platform needs to provide that vendor choice.

One of the things that we talked about earlier and have started to recognize is more important specifically at the POS is video analytics. People are starting to put cameras in the store, not necessarily recording video footage, but think of the camera as a sensor. Instead of recording just raw video footage, you can use those cameras to detect activity that's happening. Some of the key use cases around this, obviously George mentioned earlier the Amazon Go store, where you've got videos driving the whole in-store experience. There's some people are actually thinking about this from a slightly different perspective, saying, "well, can we just solve some specific use cases of problems with video, and can we help get there faster?"

Firstly, one is faster through the checkout. Can you start to recognize items as opposed to somebody struggling to find out where the barcode is on an item or if an item doesn't have a barcode. Can you use a camera to actually spot those items and automatically have it displayed for your customers or staff who are going through the same process.

The second piece, and really important, let's not forget the POS was implemented in the very early days to reduce fraud inside the store. Video can improve whatever we have within fraud detection systems today, it can track patterns of behavior that may indicate fraud happening. I think we've all heard of the types of stories around self checkout where somebody scans a cheap bottle of wine and puts maybe an expensive bottle of wine in their bag. Well, a camera could check that activity, stop that being done, and alert somebody to come and talk to that person about the mistakes that they may have made in their scanning process. We’re starting to see that fraud detection being used around this camera based sensors.

So if you have these cameras doing these things well, you're also starting to understand more about who is coming into your store. So now, can you use it to understand, maybe anonymously, the types of demographic, traffic patterns, where people are moving through the store, starting to unlock some of that insight in terms of how your store is being used by your shoppers. Then as I say, the fourth and perhaps the one that's got most traction today, is the frictionless experience. Can you use an all-video-equipped store to create a new environment for shopping for people? But let's not forget the other three. I think the other three have real tactical opportunities for people to improve the experience today without the huge potential capital investment required to do a frictionless environment. From an Intel perspective, we've done a lot of work in all of these use cases and we've got a little link there some of the work that we've got with our OpenVINO toolkit and we've got a lot of models prebuilt and pre-trained accelerated solution packages for you to go, accelerate your development in this area.

van Vugt: Thanks, David. Capgemini and Intel work closely together on initiative that’s called the Smart Digital Store, which I will talk a bit about later.

First, and Joe already mentioned this in his introduction, talking about AI. Although this webinar is not about AI, I would like to touch on this because I think there is a link between AI and point-of-sale, and I will explain what I think that link is in a minute.

Looking at this pie chart and the chart, it's coming from a Capgemini report called “Building the Retail Superstar.” Our unleashing of AI offers a multi-billion dollar opportunity. What you can see, and that's why I think it's interesting, is that there are a lot of opportunities and retailers across different sub sectors and countries that are already implementing AI. I think as for many innovations, you see that the, what I would call, the non-food retailers are ahead of the game - they're implementing AI more than from a food perspective.

I think what's also interesting, particularly if you look at the last line of the graph, luxury is not at the front of the adapters and implementers of AI. That's surprising news a bit, but again, this is not something that I will cover in more detail. What I would like to show you in my next slide is that if you look at AI from a score perspective, and looking at the red box, there are quite some areas and opportunities where AI plays a role - and can play a role and can interlink - with the U.S. point-of-sale. It's all about improving your proposition to your customers and also talking about dynamic pricing and those kinds of things that can be used if you have your AI in order on top of your point-of- sale.

David talked a bit about video. Video and AI are tied together, and also the point-of-sale, in my opinion because point-of-sale is still the basis, the fundamental so to say of all data used together with AI. It's coming from the point-of-sale, from all other devices in the store. So talking about the digital stores, it's all the devices that bring you the data and you have to deploy that using AI. Not only from a POS perspective talking about offline stores, but also coming from the shop.

Talking about the fundamental, the right and modern POS should provide a consistent experience of both online and offline. That's also what George talked about using a term like a “platform” where everything is coming together, and talking about things coming together like our Smart Digital Store initiative. This initiative is lasting now for a couple of years, together with Intel, and it's bringing together the online and offline world with all devices and we address that in four key dimensions.

All data that we collect from the single devices with the point-of-sale, and the kind of heart in that is covering propositions and improving processes towards the customer, the employee, the product and also the physical store itself. Talking about Smart Digital Store initiative, we have built quite a framework for a number of offerings.

There is a lot of detail in this slide and not my intention to cover it all at this very moment, but I think it's important to understand that this might be historically work, a set of offerings that it's able to support your ambitions and your innovation power. Also the cycle coming from define, deploy, sustain and discover, is covered in this and we are happy to share our experience in using this platform for many retailers already. This information can also be found on our website.

I know we mentioned a couple of times that the point-of-sale is fundamental, the basis for a lot of things to improve the experience of the customer in the store. Also like George mentioned, it's part of the path to purchase, but still the software will be needed for a long time even when you use or implement the picture in the store, you will still have a lot of processes to cover via what we currently still call the point-of-sale.

Starting more than 10 years ago, we collected from a big number of point-of-sale vendors, a lot of data coming from questionnaires we sent out every two years. We started off with, well, more the general recap questions, and we built it out to be an enormous database of solutions. Ninety percent of vendors mentioned in that report are covered in our tool, including a number of additional vendors. With in-depth knowledge and information about things - not only the general information, but also about architecture, is it a cloud solution? Is it whatever kind of technology is behind from an architecture and technology perspective. So we have quite a few questions that we are covering in our tool.

This tool has been used successfully in many projects for our customers around the globe. Not only Europe, but also in the U.S. and Asia. I will give you an example of a recent retailer that used the tool. What we have done because the point-of-sale is used for more general retail, we also added the second point-of-sale tool for the QSR market, the quick service restaurants market, what's bigger in the U.S. than in Europe, especially where the big companies are. So we own more on the solution, the point-of-sale tool for retail and from the Netherlands and from U.S., the ownership has taken for the QRS tool. But for both instances it's important to understand that we have a lot of knowledge and experience using all kinds of material that we have collected over the years to support your processes, finding a new point-of-sale. Again, the fundamentals of a lot of things that you have to do as a retailer.

Closing my part of the presentation is showing you an example of what was a Pan-Asian retailer. This retailer has many different brands over at least 11 countries in Asia, a lot of stakeholders. We manage - by using our tool, our templates, and our approach - to support them and save them a lot of time in narrowing down what solution to choose. We performed the RFI, request for information process, request for proposal proposers, and also support them in the final phase of negotiations with all the information that we have gathered over the years and in our point-of-sales tool. If you want to have more information, either about our tool, about our reports, please go to our website and on the next slide you can find the contact information for myself and my colleagues working in the point-of-sale area in the U.S.

Skorupa: All right, well thank you very much Martin. We’ve got quite a few questions and comments, so we're going to try to get to all of them here. The first question I'm going to toss over to you George is that I believe you had a slide, and this comes from a viewer, that you said that investing in POS is a top priority. I have to say that I have polled spend trends among retailers for a number of years, and honestly now it shows up pretty high just about every year, although it does go in cycles. So George, what's your reference point on that? Why did you say that you think right now POS is a top and best priority?

Lawrie: Yeah, you're absolutely right. Because traditionally retailers, they've seen it as a kind of - Oh, I didn't know - a kind of hygiene factor, “well, I suppose we'll have to upgrade it.” And they tried to put it off as long as possible. It used to be a seven year cycle and then we saw some data trying to make it a 10 year cycle. But the thing is, it's this path to purchase thing and it's also the point about let's say being able to capitalize on those tools, and its differentiation in terms of experience from sitting at home with your iPad shopping on Amazon. That's what's making people think a lot more about it.

A lot of people are thinking, actually the store is something we have that Amazon doesn't. Of course it does have the Amazon Go stores, but what can we do now to capitalize on that and how we, let's say, make our point-of-sale less the point-of-service and more as a point-of-sale. Secondly, how can we make it not a point, that something which is a set of services and content that they experience through the whole path-to-purchase.

Skorupa: Let me bring in David for the next question. I can't tell you how many times in years past I heard from retailers say that they want speed, speed, speed through the checkout. That's our number one priority. You give me that, I'm happy. But now we're asking the vendors and retailers to layer on top of many, many other functions, such as dealing with electronic shelf labels - which is coming as a question to us and other touchpoints, services, or functions among POS. Is it our contention here and David, I'm asking you this question that POS should be able to do it all speed and accommodate those other services and functions.

 

Dobson: Great question, Joe. So I think I'd just take one step back. I think we get into a mode where we talk about retail and retailers as if every retail outlet and every retailer does the same thing. The truth is, there's different experiences and different modes that people are in when they're doing shopping. Now essentially, yes, the POS has to fulfill all of those needs, all of those different needs, whether it's an Amazon Go experience or whether it's a more traditional grocery experience or maybe it's an electronics shop.

The first thing is, you need a flexible platform to be able to deliver those different store experiences for different audiences, and you as an individual, when you go shopping, you shop in different modes. So if I'm going for my family Staples shop, I want convenience, I want speed. If I can get away without actually going shopping maybe for some people then I'll do everything online, but if I'm going for that purchase that I've been thinking about for the last month that my friend showed me this cool thing that I want to go buy, it's a completely different shopping experience.
 

The same for POS, if we flip a little bit to that electronic shelf that's labeled, there's a place for electronic shelf that's labeled and it makes sense for people who want to deliver a different experience to the shoppers. It could be driven by regulation as some European countries have some regulation in place that means without electronic shelf labels is difficult to make sure your prices on the edge of the shelves to what your POS is selling. So that can be one driver.

In terms of the customer experience, people are playing with shelf labels to maybe do some advertising on those labels to attract people to the shelves. They're also providing some 2D code where you could actually scan and on your mobile phone, find out more product information about the items on the shelves, so they're making them an interaction point. There's lots of innovation happening in that space. As I go back to my original point, I think it needs to fit in with your strategy of how you want that customer experience to be and then have the right technology to map to that customer experience. I think that's the winning strategy.

Skorupa: Now let's build on that point and bring Martin into the discussion. Martin, one of the interesting things about your presentation was one section had a focus on leading edge technologies. I can tell you another thing I've heard a million times throughout the years is that POS is a conservative technology. It's the most conservative technology in store because you want it never to fail. Because of that, is that really the place where you want to experiment with cutting edge technology? I think you mentioned AI, I think you mentioned that the capability of building in voice search. We've mentioned here electronic labels. How do you do that safely? What case studies or examples do you have where these things are rolled out safely and it does not impact the key transactional and speed nature of POS?

van Vugt: I would like to take the answer a bit broader than that, Joe. I agree it's not the most innovative part of a store or the store environment. If you look at what a point-of-sale or ... I'm not allowed to use the word til from George, but I will use it. The older tils in the old days, 100 years back. The registration process from that perspective it's not that different, but just the capabilities of the point-of-sale from a software perspective have enormously grown. We have had the time that it was almost a kind of enterprise resource platform, the ERP for the retailer. Then they brought it to the cloud or to a central solution and later on to the cloud.

So there is still a lot of work to do because more and more in my opinion, the point-of-sale is the heart of the retailing and it's remaining the heart of the retailing. Because everything is coming together there and it's the basis for all the other processes and stuff that you are doing towards your customers. Does not probably not exactly answering your question, but it's evolving.

Lawrie: Joe, if I could make a comment on that. I mean, one of the things that's really interesting about this is that yes, stores used to be entire little islands and they kind of grew big in themselves. Then we started to try to join up the enterprise. But the thing that's really making a difference now is the chips themselves have become incredibly powerful and memory has become incredibly cheap - that's what's enabling all this visual stuff that David was talking about. You could deploy it at the edge of the network. It has now terrific amounts of power and memory and can be resilient because of that. So things in the past, if you wanted to process an image, you'd have to pass it somewhere else to some great data center to do the work. You could do that on the spot now. That's what's really different and interesting now.

Skorupa: Our next question has to do with the consumers themselves, the customers that walk into the store. And I know we are all doing our POS analysis based on what customers want and need, as well as the systems approach to making the store more efficient and productive. But what about the customers themselves? There are different generations of customers. For example, there are different generations of employees that use the POS system. How does that come into play during the POS analysis and assessment period?

Lawrie: It's certainly true that people think that younger customers and younger employees are going to be more, let's say, autonomous and more self-sufficient, or want to do more discovery. Actually our data shows it's not really related to age, it's related to attitude. So there are plenty of, let's say, silver surfers who are pretty keen to download their own application, to do their own scanning, to understand this and to let’s say be more autonomous in the process. It's certainly true that people are more empowered and the more empowered they are, the more in particular the associates expect to have as much knowledge at their fingertips as the customers who being at home, perhaps doing four days of research before they go and buy a set of golf clubs or a pair of skis. If they don't have access to that directly in front of them, if they don't have video training to understand what the assortment is, if they don't know where all the inventory is, or when the next lot is coming in, then they feel they're really doing their jobs and that's a really important element that's driving all of this.

Dobson: Just one quick comment on that. I know we're almost out of time, but just the self-checkout was a great example. All the people love using self-checkout. Why? Because they can go at their own pace and it's a more private interaction. People don't ask them why they bought something. So they like those two aspects of it. That's going to apply to new technology, too. I 100% agree with that. It's about what the technology can do and what your shoppers would like to do as opposed to how old they are.

Skorupa: Martin, let's give you a one last minute for a comment about how you deal with customer groups and how POS relates to ages, millennials, gender.

van Vugt: I think we have multiple ways to do the checkout nowadays and not talking about the digital store. So everybody can choose their way for checking out either themselves checkout on their mobile phones - it's a bit like what George was talking about. I think the freedom of choice that will cover the fact that you have different kinds of customers in different ages, etc.

Skorupa: Thank you very much. That's going to wrap up our web conference for today. For anyone who wishes to revisit the presentation, or wants to share with their colleagues, we're going to be posting it on the RIS News website at www.risnews.com.

We had a fantastic panel and great presentation, great slides, great data, great recommendations. I really want to thank all three of you for your great insights into the important topic of POS and stores, and really in the whole omnichannel platform that retailers present today to do the bulk of their business. Have a great day.