Analysis: How cloud is being use to return retail to the golden age of shopping.
Cloud has been widely recognised as being one of the most disruptive technology advancements in recent history. The disruption has been felt across numerous sectors from manufacturing to retail and commerce.
The impact cloud has had in the commerce space is being increasingly capitalised on both long standing vendors that have operated in the space for a number of years, and disruptive newcomers that have been born in the cloud.
Verifone is one of those companies that has long operated in the payments and commerce solutions space with 35 years of history and 29 million end-points in 150 countries.
The company is an established name and it has developed a new solution for connected commerce that brings together payments, cloud applications, customer service functions and other functions that are designed to help businesses run on a single integrated system.
Called Verifone Carbon, the POS system features dual high-resolution screens that allows merchants to run register and business apps from the tablet screen while customers pay and interact with a separate screen that offers a personalised shopping experience.
June Felix, President Verifone Europe, spoke to CBR about Carbon and how the company has taken the POS system from what used to be a dumb phone to being a smartphone.
Felix said: "We have tech platform now that connects the mobile online and in-store so that it can draw a much more engaging experience with consumers and merchants."
The idea is to provide an omni-channel experience that sees customers get the same feeling and offers that they get online in-store.
Felix said the technology has typically been very clunky to change because: "Payments have to be very safe and secure and in this world it has to be certified by lots of regulatory bodies and ensure that when transferring money has to be very secure.
Any offer it interacts with the payments also has to go through a lot of rigorous testing and certifications."
The system comes with Verifone’s Commerce Platform, which is an open, cloud-based platform that allows business to customise applications and services.
It is this use of cloud to create the rounded shopping experience that could potentially have a big impact.
Felix said that Verifone has already been working with companies such as truRating and Pennies which allows customers to make charitable donations. Further work is being done to partner with companies that offer instalment payments over time and it is also working on inventory management applications.
Cloud has managed to open up an ecosystem of additional capabilities that suddenly Verifone, retailers and other SaaS vendors can tap in to.
Verifone isn’t alone in looking to the cloud with their Point of Sale system. Vend, a company from New Zealand that was founded six years ago, is a cloud based retail platform.
The company says that it offers all the software that a bricks and mortar retailer needs to run their business from POS, inventory management, customer loyalty, eCommerce reporting and analytics.
The company has rolled out to more than 15,000 stores worldwide and has retailers in around 130 countries.
Vend’s platform predominantly runs on Amazon Web Services and unlike Verifone, doesn’t has a piece of hardware associated with its technology.
Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend told CBR that retail trends of moving towards omni-channel, eCommerce and in-store are lines that are increasingly being blurred, Rowsell said: "Typically eCommerce and retail have run as two separate businesses with different sets of tools," which is something that is coming to an end as cloud and big data have brought to the market cheap tools that allow retail stores to create a true omni-channel experience.
Rowsell said: "The writing’s on the wall for retailers who are using legacy based offline systems that there is no way they can transact in an online social environment if they are using legacy updated platforms."
By using a combination of tools built by itself and using best in breed, Vend is utilising AWS as a platform that can connect to multiple technology in order to deliver a better experience to customers.
Verifone may have spent a long time producing its omni-channel commerce product along with its own app hub, but Vend has been able to take advantage in a much faster way.
As the lifeline of operations, the POS system should be affordable, easy to use and should do more than just accept payments and process sales. The addition of features such as inventory management, staff management and numerous other tools make it vital to the business.
As with any technology that is extremely important to the business there comes a whole host of different solutions that are all aiming to be the number one choice.
Some of the other solutions in the market include LightSpeed, a POS system that offers features such as inventory and purchase order management tools that includes over 3000 vendor catalogues that are pre-programmed into the system.
Another offering, Square, is a simpler offering that focuses on basic transactions and simple inventory management. Shopify, meanwhile aims to deliver a greater omni-channel experience with tan integration of inventory, customers, and financial information of Shopify eCommerce.
This highlights just a few of the vast amount of offerings that are available in the market.
Many of the POS systems available are utilising cloud technology to make their technologies better, with the newer born in the cloud solutions using cloud to tap into a growing ecosystem of retail focused devices such as beacon technology from the likes of Swarm, this recognises the MAC address of mobile devices and helps stores to identify customers.
The POS system can no longer be a dumb device, it has been forced by technology to become a device that is intelligent and can do a lot more than process payments.
Vendors such as Verifone which have operated in the space for a long time have been driven to embrace these capabilities in order to remain relevant in the market, while vendors such as Vend have been the ones pushing the change.
In the end the goal is to make retail a much better experience for customers, something that it is hoped will bring back the golden age of retail where customers walked into the store and they knew you by name.
In the modern world this is a difficult experience to achieve but with the use of technologies such as cloud enabling an omni-channel experience, it is a possibility.