Today’s consumers—armed with smartphones and tablets—can access more information within a store’s walls than the store’s own associates can. Within the next three years, retailers unable to support customers’ shopping preferences—whether in-store, online, mobile or some combination of all three—not only will lag behind their competition, but also stand to lose customers. Here's how you can help them stay ahead of the curve.
The New Essentials
Digital signage, mobile POS systems, data analytics, EMV payment solutions, IoT sensors and physical security represent only a few of the hottest technologies for retailers. From interactive kiosks to facial recognition for loss prevention to systems that track shoppers throughout a store and offer personalized incentives, the store is open for new ways to improve the customer experience and boost sales.
To weave these technologies into their operations, retailers rely on solution providers who can securely integrate the right portfolio of digital tools. Cloud and managed services, network and data security, and data capture/POS are major opportunities for solution providers.
“The solution providers who succeed in retail know that the grand potential lies in providing differentiating services for customers,” says Tom Blankenhorn, senior director of vertical markets and vendor management, Ingram Micro.
“Anyone can sell retail hardware or products, but the solution provider who knows how to build complete, secure technology solutions is the most valuable to the retailer. Those solution providers know how to solve for the biggest things that keep retailers up at night: security, payments, infrastructure, an improved in-store experience and data analytics.”
Cloud and Managed Services
Retailers are moving inventory, supply chain, analytics data, disaster recovery and business management software to the cloud. This increases the need—and opportunity—for solution providers who offer onpremises, cloud or hybrid data management services for retailers.
The use of pro AV and digital signage, along with IoT devices, is increasing exponentially in retail and also requires data capture and cloud solutions. Digital signs capture data from customers who interact with digital signage via touchscreens, gestures or mobile devices. Some digital signs can gather anonymous analytics, such as how many people viewed the sign, along with their age and gender. While configurations vary widely, the key elements of digital signage include large-screen dynamic or interactive displays; a content management system, wireless and wired networks, data-gathering tools and audio.
Solution providers should begin every new digital signage initiative by determining what the customer wants to achieve, keeping the focus on the return on objective. For solution providers who need assistance with digital signage solutions, Ingram Micro Professional Services offers infrastructure assessments, site surveys, and system rollout and installation. And for those who want to obtain a Digital Signage Certified Expert designation, Ingram Micro is the only distributor to host this prestigious training program.
Cloud-based building automation solutions also present a significant growth opportunity. This category ofproducts includes access control, surveillance and video management software. Retailers can easily take charge of their environments from anywhere, controlling lighting, temperature, cameras and in-store security systems. These systems are most useful, however, if the retailer or solution provider has the expertise to manage and use the data that’s generated.
Network and Data Security
A secure network is essential to any retail strategy. With new mobile payment technology, stores and restaurants can explore new ways for customers to pay. For example, a server in a restaurant can bring the payment device to the customer at the table, which keeps the card
in the customer’s view at all times for secure payment. However, this method requires the restaurant to have full Wi-Fi location coverage with no dead spots.
To help solution providers determine where upgrades may be needed, Ingram Micro offers infrastructure assessments to check the wireless coverage area at the merchant’s locations. As part of the assessment, a detailed report shows the levels of wireless coverage and outlines a plan to ensure all of the merchants’ wireless devices can function properly and securely on the floor.
Retailers and merchants in the U.S. are slowly but surely moving to EMV, the chip card standard that requires new payment terminals at the point of sale. Unlike the magnetic stripe on traditional cards, the chips create a unique transaction code that is useless to cyberthieves attempting to intercept transaction data.
To process EMV chip cards, merchants need specialized payment terminals capable of processing chip information. Conversion has been slow, as only 37 percent of merchants were EMV-ready by the end of last year, according to TSG analysts. For the merchant, having a roadmap to conversion minimizes upheaval, avoids business disruption and ultimately protects the business from fraudulent activity.
To help solution providers, Ingram Micro provides a portfolio of products and services for payment systems, including PIN pads and readers, payment processors, security software, PCI compliance scanning and key injection services. For solution providers who don’t have the time or geographic reach to help merchants deploy complex PCI/EMV-compliant payment systems, Ingram Micro can deploy, install and test new and more secure POS devices and terminals on-site. These services can supplement your own installation services.
Expand Your Learning, Virtually
To master the technology needed to implement each of these solution areas and more, retail solution providers can find what they need with the tools and relationships available through the Ingram Micro virtual learning environment. Focusing on general retail, grocery and convenience, and quick service and fast casual restaurants, the program offers solutions to meet new standards of collaboration, compliancy, integration, analytics and security.
Updated resources for retail solution providers include a new online learning environment launched in October that is accessible to partners through a secure password. By using this resource, “the solution provider can learn everything Ingram Micro knows about a vertical
market,” says Blankenhorn.
The portal houses educational resources to help solution providers develop a deeper expertise in retail and other key verticals, including solutions blueprints, educational white papers, videos and webinars on retail industry trends; retail industry workshops; and playbooks on how to sell professional services and managed services.
“Solution providers have all the tools at their disposal that they need,” adds Blankenhorn. “They can show up differently in front of partners and deliver immediate value.”