By : Adam Blair
July 02, 2015 06:30 PM
Craig Dewar, Sr. Director of Windows Commercial Marketing, Microsoft, discussing the Internet of Things at NCR Synergy 2015.
The strongest argument for designing NCR Retail ONE as an open application ecosystem, one that can easily incorporate and amplify solutions from multiple technology vendors, comes from what may be retailers’ biggest challenge today: the new, and still rapidly changing, ways consumers expect to interact with them.
“The biggest ‘pain point’ retailers face today is what’s happening with consumer interactions,” said Eli Rosner, CTO of NCR Retail Solutions, adding that the complexities of these challenges will only increase as the Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon gains momentum. The worldwide IoT market is expected to grow 19% in 2015, according to consulting firm IDC, and 60% of retailers surveyed by IDC last year said they were actively pursuing IoT technology-based initiatives.
“Increasingly digitally savvy and mobile-enabled consumers expect retailers to offer an integrated online and brick-and-mortar based shopping experience, with services such as wish lists, click (or reserve) and collect, and real-time digital store stock checks, for greater speed, convenience and value,” said IDC Retail Insights Senior Research Analyst Miya Knights. “This is putting huge pressure on retailers to transform their businesses, which they have traditionally run as a number of stand-alone channels. But many are finding that current IT investments make it difficult to keep up in terms of enhancing customer awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty across the entire shopping journey regardless of how many channels it may touch.”
NCR Retail ONE, designed from the ground up as a highly flexible commerce hub, helps address these issues by making it easier for technology vendors to align their innovations with retailers’ current and future requirements. Vendors directly involved with NCR Retail One include Microsoft, Inmar, and Freshub, and other leaders expressing support for the newly launched hub include Cisco and Intel.
“NCR’s Retail ONE platform is an exciting solution that addresses a retailer’s need to deploy seamless omnichannel capability today, while being extensible to meet the unpredictable innovations of tomorrow by leveraging the cloud and the Internet of Things,” said Brendan O’Meara, Managing Director for Worldwide Retail Industry at Microsoft. “Microsoft is thrilled that NCR chose the Microsoft Azure hybrid cloud platform for Retail ONE. The combination enables capability, flexibility and scale at an unprecedented level thanks to a worldwide network of Microsoft-managed datacenters across 19 regions and a growing collection of integrated services.”
Establishing a Presence in Consumers’ Kitchens
Freshub is a strong example of how IoT applications will be extending the reach of retail. Its technology can read product barcodes to build digital shopping lists, and also includes gesture-based functionality. It can be embedded in household appliances such as microwaves, smart bin recycling containers. and music players.
Consumers can add products to digital shopping carts of participating retailers, and also interact with touchscreens to browse virtual aisles or search for specific items. The technology is being piloted in several U.S. cities and is seeing strong acceptance and high usage. “Consumers use the connected appliances multiple times throughout the week, adding more than $175 worth of products on a monthly basis,” said Freshub founder and CEO Iri Zohar.
Providing shopping capabilities on high-resolution screens via form factors that are always powered and are placed in a key product location, the customer’s kitchen, offers “a unique user experience that can’t be replicated on a desktop, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet,” added Zohar.
NCR Retail ONE simplifies connections between participating retailers and the ecommerce capabilities of Freshub, speeding deployment of the technology. “The solution makes it very easy for us to do business with any Retail ONE customer, almost at the touch of a button,” said Zohar. “If a retailer wants to do a pilot, the ability to set one up almost instantly is an advantage for us.”
Inmar, another element of the Retail ONE ecosystem, offers a digital promotion platform that enables retailers to maintain strategic control of promotion programs; respond effectively to growing consumer use of digital offers; and grow revenue from promotion-driven sales and increased traffic. “Retailers employing Inmar’s digital promotion solution can leverage our nationwide, open network to provide their customers with attractive, purchase-motivating offers,” said Inmar Chairman and CEO David Mounts. “In addition to helping build and sustain shopper loyalty, our platform allows retailers to maintain optimal visibility into shopper behavior and promotion performance.”
Retail ONE Supports Phased Approach to IT
The commerce hub configuration of Retail ONE recognizes the reality of retail economics. “Retailers that have made significant investments in technology aren’t willing to begin large-scale, transformational projects,” said NCR’s Rosner. “They’re looking for a more phased or incremental approach, as well as one that allows them to react much more quickly to address the changing needs of consumers.”
NCR Retail ONE offers the speed and agility these retailers are seeking. “Say I’m a retail customer with an existing infrastructure, and while I’m not in the market for a transformational POS upgrade, I want to add some new capabilities,” said Rosner. “With Retail ONE, I can get a connector in and within three months be up and running with the four applications that are already built into the system: digital coupons, digital receipts, ecommerce integration, and the Pulse tool that provides KPIs and other real-time data to managers’ mobile devices.”
High agility levels offer benefits throughout the product lifecycle. “If a retailer does use Retail ONE to update their POS solution, they gain a headquarters-level system that manages all workflows,” said Rosner. This means that they can experiment by specifying a change they would like to test, down to the level of a single POS lane in a single store. “When you have a system that allows you to try something new in an easily isolated environment, you’re less afraid of making mistakes, so that promotes a more agile frame of mind,” said Rosner.
Other features align with the growing use of Big Data, including separation of data related only to transactional elements from data used for higher-level analytical processing. This allows retailers to take advantage of “a wealth of Big Data-type applications, from NCR, internal analysts or third-party data scientists,” added Rosner.