By Linda Sudderth, Epson America, Inc.
If you're a retail VAR or MSP and you’re not a member of the RSPA or you haven't been to a RetailNOW event, what are you waiting for?
The RSPA's (Retail Solutions Providers Association's) annual RetailNOW event took place recently in San Antonio, TX at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. There were more than 30 new exhibitors at this year's show along with nearly 300 first-time attendees. Overall attendance at the New Member Welcome Reception event almost doubled from 2018 in Nashville, and the reception was full of energy and comradery. The fact that this association continues to attract top-notch members and is continuing to grow isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s affiliated with it. If you didn’t make it to this year’s event — or perhaps you’re not familiar with the RSPA — here are five key takeaways.
One of the standout technology trends at this year’s event was POS hardware manufacturers turning their terminals into kiosks. Kiosks are playing a vital role in omni-channel retailing — enabling customers to avoid long lines and allowing them to engage with retailers and restaurants on their terms. With the POS terminal manufacturers pushing in this space, we’re going to see retailers and hospitality companies of all sizes and niches incorporating kiosks in their businesses. It’s also an excellent opportunity for MSPs and ISVs to add value with custom apps and content creation and management services.
Another essential tech trend is software migrating toward a subscription model (i.e., SaaS). Retail solutions providers who embrace this model and learn how to sell it can build recurring revenue streams, which also drives up the value of their businesses.
There have been several mergers and acquisitions over the past year, and it was noticeable on the show floor with all the new features, functions and offerings on display. And the message from these big companies to the IT resellers was clear: ‘Work with us, and you'll get better rebates, discounts and service than ever before.' IT solutions providers have a critical decision to make when it comes to payment processing companies. Do they partner with one provider exclusively and risk alienating some customers or try to remain payment processing agnostic and maybe not make as much margin?
The education at RetailNOW is always first-class, and this year was no exception. Joshua Stanphill, business development manager, strategic accounts, Epson America, moderated a panel for RSPA’s NextGEN community. “One of the big takeaways from the discussion is that the RSPA is building a formal program just for ISVs [independent software vendors],” he says. “ISVs play an invaluable role in the IT channel ecosystem, and they’re looking to partner with hardware vendors and resellers that value higher levels of engagement with customers and partners.”
Another excellent education offering from the RSPA is their QIR (qualified integrator and reseller) certification program. The program includes advanced training on some of the most critical aspects of security, industry-recognized certification and listing on the PCI's (Payment Card Industry's) directory of QIR companies and individuals. To learn more about QIR certification, click here.
The RSPA has several peer networking opportunities for members. Besides the NextGEN community mentioned earlier, there's W2W, a community that was created to provide a support network and resources for women as they enter and continue to advance in the retail technology industry. I had the privilege and honor of moderating a W2W panel which offered perspectives from a female workforce with representatives from the Baby Boomer generation, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z. The panelists talked about how they chose their careers in technology and how the work environment has evolved. The discussion dispelled several myths, such as younger workers being "job hoppers," or only focused on money, and there was a consensus that more women are filling technology job roles and things are moving in the right direction, but there's still a lot of room for improvement.
In addition to some of the points outlined earlier, investing in an RSPA membership is a financially sound move. Most members will find that an RSPA membership more than pays for itself in several ways. First, members gain access to the association's UPS Savings Program, which provides discounts up to 34 percent on UPS domestic air, ground and international shipping. Additionally, RSPA members can buy discounted office products from Innovative Office Solutions, a progressive, woman-owned provider of office productivity solutions. The association also gives members unlimited phone consultations with RSPA General Counsel, Bob Goldberg, as well as supplier contract reviews and access to legal templates. The association offers members preferred rates on a variety of HR services, too, including access to employee benefits such as healthcare insurance. Employees and family members of reseller members can even apply for scholarships.
I understand as much as anyone that you have a lot of choices when it comes to joining associations and attending industry events. If you're an IT solutions provider with customers in the retail and restaurant verticals, however, I'd recommend putting the RSPA up against your current list of associations and events. If you're unable to add one more association or tradeshow, then maybe it's time to cut one of your lower-performing events out to make room for RetailNOW. Trust me; you won't regret it.
About The Author
Linda Sudderth has been with Epson for over 21 years and has responsibility for the strategy and direction of the OEM, VAR & ISV Channels focused on retail, hospitality and financial markets in North America.