The days of innovating for technology’s sake are over, especially when it comes to omnicommerce. The February edition of the PYMNTS Developer TrackerTM profiles 80 developers and their work in this area — underscoring how vital it is to keep what’s important to the customer top of mind.
As new payment mechanisms and advancing technologies continue to enter the payment landscape, the point of sale can sometimes become a very complex place for both merchants and consumers. For brick-and-mortar businesses, which continue to compete for relevancy and market share against the surging eCommerce channel, striking a balance between a frictionless checkout and keeping pace with changing POS technologies is key.
Dan Nesmith, founder and president of Paladin Data Corporation — which provides technology and POS solutions for businesses spanning the pharmacy, hardware and retail sectors — sat down with PYMNTS to discuss why taking a simple approach to POS software is helping its customers navigate the rapidly changing retail environment.
Here’s an excerpt from our chat …
PYMNTS: What major trends or innovations do you see coming down the pipeline that are impacting the POS space specifically? How is Paladin helping its customers to keep pace with these upcoming changes?
DN: The retail market is changing. Some retailers see it and are changing their game plan to accommodate the new retail dynamic, but I believe part of our job is to attempt to educate retailers that the world is different today than it was only a few years ago. I use a first-person example with all of them in that their greatest challenge in retail is keeping a grumpy old guy like me attached to their store. Shoppers have more options than they’ve ever had and it needs to be important to retailers to figure out what they have to do to keep consumers coming back in-store.
That has to be the No. 1 change. It has to be understood and embraced that the store must really focus on the customer shopping experience. This includes everything from having the correct product at the correct time in the correct quantities, to having the right mix of new, seasonally inspired items that the shopper hasn't seen in 10 other stores. It's about having a seamless, effortless checkout process — one that the cashiers aren't struggling with and that offers payment card solutions shoppers can actually understand. This is something that, in my opinion, the POS market has been a little oblivious to. But as an industry we are going to have to switch gears because if we don't keep retail healthy, there isn't going to be any retail left to buy POS systems.
PYMNTS: Can you give us an introduction to Paladin Data Corporation and your POS solutions?
DN: Paladin Data Corporation has been designing, building and supporting business technology systems for 37 years. We have always specialized in providing customer-centric solutions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to delivering technology to the marketplace. We listen to what customers have to say, carefully observe what goes on in their stores — as well as the growth and evolution of the customer shopping experience — and work to provide solutions that will keep people engaged in brick-and-mortar stores. We demonstrate to retailers that they can effectively compete against online merchants and that there is still a place for them in this world, although the retail game is very different than it was a number of years ago.
We offer supply chain management and inventory control, EDI communications with a merchant's vendors, and integration between the vendor's computer systems and the store's. Our solutions also feature automation regarding just-in-time ordering and, to a substantial degree, the system is entirely automatic.
While a component of all that is the point of sale, that is really a relatively small component of what we do. In the POS realm, we never wanted to be a credit card processing or credit card software development company, but it simply came about as one of the necessary evils to deliver all of the other products we manufacture. Our approach in the payment process is notably different than a lot of companies because we focus on a customer-centric, end-user shopping experience result. We firmly believe if we cannot keep the customer engaged in our clients’ stores, the future is dim for all of us.
PYMNTS: The approach Paladin takes in its solutions is noted by your customers as being very simple and easy to use, but how exactly have you been able to keep solutions simple in a landscape that is consistently growing more complex? Has this helped Paladin to stand out in the market?
DN: I admire automation and sophistication, but it doesn't mean that something has to be complex. While most retail software on the market is immensely capable, most of it is insanely difficult to use. It's no wonder people in the retail workforce often struggle with technology solutions when it’s so far above either their willingness, attention span or ability to come up to speed on. Simplicity is incredibly important to us, which is why we don't change the user experience in our package very often. It has been 12 years since our software has had a change in any fundamental structure or appearance. With every single thing we build, the principle challenge is how to add new features without adding steps, keystrokes, without requiring a higher level of understanding from our end users; it’s about understanding the goal we are truly trying to achieve and finding the shortest possible pathway there. I believe that's in part what makes our product so unique in our markets. For example, our EMV integration and NFC-enabled contactless integration did not change our cashier requirements or responsibilities at all. There was no change to our user interface at all — even with the introduction of accepting new payments.
PYMNTS: With a focus on simplicity on the front end of your solutions, how do you handle the installation of your software and deploying updates on the back end?
DN: No matter whose software you have, if you don't have the service and support network behind it you're going to have difficulty. Service and support really are key to making these things work, and work well. When a new customer decides to join our family we go through an interview process with them after the sale. At the conclusion of the interview process we construct and assemble their system, capture and convert their data, and then load all of their customer-specific settings. All of this is done before the store itself sees anything, when our product arrives in the store it’s ready to run. There's no configuration, there's no setup – it’s truly ready to go. Once the system is running, our customers never have a hand or any responsibility in our updates, which are downloaded, installed and configured automatically. Also built in to this system is complete redundancy. If something ever were to make it through all of our testing that presented a problem in the field, with a single push of a button the store automatically can run the prior version of the software if needed. Every terminal running our software constantly reports its status and condition to our national error log server facility, which is monitored in real-time by both our development and customer service department, looking for anything that might be impacting stores. It could be anything from a machine that isn't running well to low disk space on a particular terminal, or even a store beginning to display network issues, and we are able to see these things before the store itself has any inkling they may be having a problem.
PYMNTS: You mentioned that your solutions go far beyond just the POS, with inventory control also being a significant offering. Looking at the retail sectors Paladin serves, which include hardware and pharmacy stores, inventory management is very critical. How do your POS and inventory management components work together in order to bring value to your customers?
DN: Paladin’s POS keeps every detail of every transaction that has ever occurred in the stores served, even including giant stores with tens of millions of transactions recorded. Our solution enables us to know who bought what, when, what time of day, what products they purchased to go along with a particular item and if there is anyone else with similar buying habits. We amass a gargantuan amount of data and from this our inventory control system effectively mines patterns out of this data. Over the last 25 years we have continued to build and refine the existing pattern recognition algorithms to provide our customers with a list of what they need to purchase today, with results based on also knowing supplier lead time, delivery transit schedules and the likelihood products will be available. Anyone using our POS will have the ability to answer the question, “How many days of salable inventory am I interested in owning from this particular supplier at this particular moment in time?” The system is dynamic and constantly changed the stocking level of every product a store has in inventory based on the data available.