The Future of Blockchain in Retail

Written by: Michael K. Spencer

According to leading retail news publication, Retail Dive, blockchain will drive $164 billion in efficiencies for retail by 2030. The press release by IHS Markit defines business value as the cost savings and efficiencies resulting from incorporating blockchain into business strategies.

According to a Spring 2018 report by Deloitte, blockchain’s adoption in retail will also be at a tipping-point in the next five years. Deloitte sees this occurring especially in three main pillars of adoption:

  • Consumer — Improving and protecting the consumer experience
  • Supply chain — Improving process efficiencies across the supply chain
  • Payments and contracts — Improving transaction processes and ensuring the validity and implementation of contracts

While this provides a nice overview of mainstream adoption, it doesn’t take into consideration all the specialized blockchain startups that are seeking to impact a particular niche.

Recently, a corporate startup called Bakkt was announced where the likes of even Starbucks is a major partner. This has the retail and crypto community buzzing over if we’ll be able to pay for a Starbucks drink with cryptocurrencies such as ETH (Ethereum), XLM (Stellar), XRP (Ripple) or another crypto.

What makes this news noteworthy is since Bakkt is being formed by Intercontinental Exchange — the trading colossus that owns the New York Stock Exchange and other global marketplaces, namely Jeffrey Sprecher and his partner Kelly Loeffler. With the likes of Microsoft and Boston Consulting Group involved, the retail applications here could be enormous.

This could be a “Bakkt to the future” story for crypto in retail, where Starbucks on ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) combine forces. However, for blockchain in retail, the patents are where the real action is occurring, where the likes of Alibaba (the e-commerce giant) is a leader for blockchain patents with long-term implications in retail.

Deloitte’s report suggests that for blockchain’s future in retail, before 2020 many large retailers and businesses are quickly determining what value blockchain might hold for them, and have —or will begin—testing it soon, to benefit greatly while others will surely miss out and fall behind. Major retail chains now need not only to think about e-commerce, but the next layer of the internet, blockchain.

According to the forecast by IHS Markit, in the worst “downside” case scenario for the future of blockchain in retail, still sees this value increasing to $49 billion by 2030. To put this figure in perspective, the business value of blockchain in 2017 for retail and e-commerce was only $38 million.

Bakkt’s CEO describes it as the following:

“Bakkt is designed to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant, and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security, and utility.”

Merchant and consumer participation definitely sounds like retail. Many analysts believe Bakkt is an example of—and which the ICE can offer— something the crypto world currently lacks and that many crypto enthusiasts steadfastly reject: a trusted third party. How cryptocurrencies might integrate into retail will require these trusted and centralized businesses to get involved to help spur innovation in the space.

This signals Wall St. and larger investors that are starting to enter the cryptocurrency and blockchain landscape and while retail has been slow to follow; in the 2020s this movement could accelerate considerably as more use cases come into being including IBM’s private blockchain consortium. In 2018 a rapid rise of crypto funds and Wall St.’s more active involvement means it will spur on the retail sector to integrate with blockchain solutions that ultimately won’t just decrease costs and improve efficiencies, but improve customer experiences.

 

 

POS Industry Updates and Trends of 2016

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We are now in the middle of the POS industry redefinition. 2016 and 2017 will be very interesting years where we will see major players rising and others disappearing in the industry.

In the last few years, mPOS solutions have proven that tablet devices are a reliable hardware solution for many retailers, and that the cloud is a reliable solution to provide instant information on not only one, but multiple retail locations. The POS of the 21st century was born, and is continuing to grow quickly.

What we see now is a strong demand for small, and easy to deploy POS solutions. Since most of the POS solutions now provide a cloud solution, the need for heavy store hardware has decreased significantly, and many POS providers are rethinking their hardware offering.

For many restaurants and retail stores, a simple tablet, cash drawer, and receipt printer is all that is needed . And don’t forget your payment device!   The payment device has actually become one of the most important devices at the POS.  It is the device that has the capability to enable Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and most importantly, EMV enabled payment.

The October EMV deadline came and passed. It did not motivate many SMB retailers to change their POS. The way we, as consumers want to purchase a product is what will make the retailers want to upgrade their point of sale system.

Retailers and restaurateurs alike are looking to increase their revenue by offering purchase options both in-store and online. While online shopping has been around for quite some time, restaurants and food service are also beginning to adopt the idea of online ordering by allowing customers to order pick-up or delivery right from their smart phones.

Leading the transition to this new world, Star Micronics’s hardware and software solutions represent new opportunities for technology providers. Adopting Star Micronics peripheral suite of mobile or desktop printers with Star Micronics cash drawers,  or just embracing the world of all-in-one with the mPOP™, (cash drawer, printer, scanner and tablet stand in one, easy to ship package) helps to answer the requirement for smaller POS solution.

Technology like CloudPRNT allows restaurateurs to receive orders from online ordering services without the need to have the printer connected to any other device or service inside the store. CloudPRNT will work with the online service to store jobs, create jobs, and communicate with the printer directly through the cloud.

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In addition to leading the way to a better shopping or eating experience, Star is improving the way we manage our purchase receipts. Last year Star released the first true digital receipt solution, AllReceipts™, where shoppers can now decide for themselves if they want to keep their paper receipt or save and store them on their mobile device. Now, Star is offering retailers the capability to communicate electronically with their customers to promote their latest products.

The face of retail will continue to change rapidly and Star will always be there to lead and innovate for you and keep your business successful.

A Beginner’s Guide to POS Software and Systems

POS Buyer's Guide

Investing in a point of sale (POS) system is one of the best things you can do for your business, but with so many options on the market, how do you determine which POS hardware and software best suit your business needs and your budget?

This guide can help you get on the right path to finding the perfect POS system for your business.

Step 1: Define Business Needs

No one wants to waste time and money on a POS solution that lacks needed capabilities, or has unnecessary features that increase the price. To avoid purchasing a system that isn’t right for your business, you need to identify the specific challenges that you will need your new POS system to address.

Start by asking yourself:

  • Is business suffering because customers must often wait in long lines at the POS?
  • Do shoppers frequently leave your establishment empty-handed because you don’t have the merchandise they want?
  • Are you spending too much time managing employees or trying to find out why your sales volume often doesn’t jibe with your inventory levels?
  • Do you want to attract new customers?

Once you have clearly identified your business needs, research which POS functions address them. The list of functions you need your new system to provide will help narrow the field of choices when you shop for a new POS system.

Step 2: Set a Budget 

Decide how much your business can afford to spend on a POS system. By most accounts, the average industry investment in POS systems total 2 to 3 percent of retailers’ annual volume, and 1 to 1.5 percent of restaurant operators’ annual volume. Consider ongoing costs, such as software maintenance/updates, hardware maintenance, and technical support.

Step 3: Shop for Software

As you consider your options, you will find that not every software solution is compatible with all POS hardware. Selecting your software first will prevent you from being limited in functionality.

There are different types of software you can choose from:

  • Native. Native POS software is installed on your POS hardware. It is easier to customize then cloud-based software.
  • Cloud-based software (Software-as-as-Service, or SaaS). In a SaaS model, software is delivered via the cloud, and you pay for it on a monthly subscription basis. Also, cloud-based software can be accessed from anywhere there is an Internet connection, giving you enhanced visibility into, and control over your operation. Customizing this type of software may be difficult.
  • Hybrid software. This software can be run online in the cloud or offline.

Step 4: Find Compatible Hardware

The POS software you choose will dictate the POS hardware that you can use. In many cases, however, there will still be a number of options to choose from. Some of the choices you must make are related to how your employees will use the system. For example:

  • What is the preferred input method? Some operators favor keyboards or a scanner interface for POS data input, while others prefer a touchscreen interface that facilitates faster data input and easier training for new employees.
  • Will you use mobile POS? POS functionality on a tablet or other mobile device can give you line-busting, in aisle assist, and pay-at-the-table capabilities that can greatly enhance customer experiences. Your options include adding mobile POS to a traditional, stationary system, or using mobile POS alone.
  • Which peripherals are needed? You need to consider printers, cash drawers, PIN pads, payment card readers, and barcode scanners, and select the model that best suits your needs.
  • Will you accept all forms of payment? Make sure your new system gives your customers the ability to pay by their preferred method. Now that the U.S. is migrating toward EMV payments, all new POS systems should have the ability to accept chip card payments. Failure to do so can result in bearing liability for fraudulent payment card changes. Also consider trends that indicate emerging payment types. Mobile wallet use, for example, is gaining ground. To accept payments of this type, you’ll need POS solutions that include near field communications (NFC) technology.
  • Which terminal design do you prefer? A traditional POS terminal design may work well for your business. If space at the checkout counter is limited, however, you may want to consider a more ergonomic solution with a smaller footprint, such as an all-in-one configuration that incorporates basic peripherals (e.g., printers, cash drawers, credit card readers, PIN pads, and customer displays) or a tablet POS system. You will also find options that are aesthetically pleasing and don’t detract from a store’s dècor or restaurant’s ambiance.

For more information on choosing a POS system, download our POS Software and Systems Buyer’s Guide eBook.

10 Ways mPOS Can Benefit Your Business

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As a business owner, the last thing you should need to stress over is your point-of-sale system. POS  systems are designed to make your daily workflow smoother and easier for business owners and employees alike. If you’re considering a mobile POS solution, be sure to look at ergonomic mobile solutions.

These solutions recognize that some businesses need peripherals beyond the basic tablet POS, such as a combination cash drawer/receipt printer. Here’s what ergonomic mobile solutions offer:

1. Convenience. With an ergonomic tablet POS plus cash drawer/receipt printer, you can accept all payments anywhere, anytime. This is a big improvement over common mPOS, which traditionally only handles electronic payments.

2. Space saver. Ergonomic solutions reduce your POS footprint significantly. With their small size and sleek profile, these platforms are attractive and unobtrusive in your retail or restaurant environment, freeing up space in which you can add tables or expand merchandise displays.

3. Assist mPOS solutions. Because these ergonomic mobile solutions rely on Bluetooth technology for connectivity, they’re fully mobile when needed and rid you of tangled wires and a jumble of dongles.

4. Full functionality. Ergonomic mobile solutions offer robust features and functionality for a wide range of applications.

5. Receipt printer. Small and compact, a built-in printer lets you quickly and quietly print a receipt as soon as the transaction closes. Additionally, sometimes single accessories are needed without a full system. In this case, you should check to see if your system can support additional printers for your bar, kitchen, and other areas.

6. Barcode scanner. If your tablet or mobile device lacks a barcode scanner, your ergonomic mobile solution easily accommodates an optional plug-and-play scanner for reading merchandise.

7. Cash Drawer. A secure cash drawer stores currency, checks, receipts and other important items. The size of the cash drawer you choose will depend on the number of cash transactions you process a day.

8. Software application. To get the greatest value of your ergonomic mobile solution, pick a software application that supports the latest payment options such as NFC and EMV. This will help you to avoid another technology upgrade in the near future.

9. Tablet/device. When evaluating tablet and mobile device options on the market, be sure to select hardware that’s designed to process NFC and EMV payments, preferable without requiring add-ons or peripherals to do so. Choose a device that’s compatible with your preferred software application. Most software applications have a preferred operating system, however if you need a software application to be cross compatible, make sure to do your research and find a web-based solution.

10. Digital receipt. More and more retailers want to deliver an in-store experience that provides digital support. There are innovative, downloadable apps on the market today that are supported by many POS systems. These apps allow your customers to receive a digital copy of their receipt on their smatphones. Some of these apps even allow functionality for customer satisfaction surveys, so retailers can always get a gauge on how they are perceived by their customers.

For more information on mPOS solutions, download our eBook: mPOS: How it’s Revolutionizing Payments

4 Solutions to Overcome Mobile Printing Challenges

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Point of sale (POS) is no longer limited to the traditional, fixed model. Merchants have tried and proven the benefits of mobility. They can complete payment transactions in-aisle of tableside, and set up additional checkouts for line busting.

Here are four common challenges merchants face with mobile printing and the solutions that will help you overcome them.

Challenge 1: Printing from an iOS, Android, or Windows Native App

With most legacy applications, many POS printers and printer brands could be used by just installing the right Windows driver. Since iOS and Android operating systems do not have a print engine to support drivers, the printer functions need to be integrated inside the POS software, thus limiting the choice. Fortunately, these companies have usually integrated the best of breed printers which make for an easy choice.

Solution: SDK Integration

A software development kit (SDK) helps software engineers or developers to speed up the process to support special features (like printing) in software applications. The printing SDKs needed to create applications are usually available for developers to download from the printer hardware manufacturer. For example, iOS applications traditionally use Objective-C or Swift programming language, while Android uses Java.

An advantage to SDK integration is that the application your software engineer or developer creates can give you more complete control of printing, such as adjusting print formatting, controlling the cash drawer, or checking the status of the printer. It also enables additional, innovative features to be added to the print application such as digital receipts and other cloud services.

Challenge 2: Printing from a Web Browser Application

Advanced Web standards, such as HTML5, give developers the ability to build Web-based applications with nearly the same level of features as native (local) applications. Web applications have the added advantage of allowing live, automatic updating so that customers always have the most up-to-date version of the software since the application lives in the cloud.

If the POS software is Web-based, the issue isn’t which mobile device the application is running on. Most Web-based solutions are device agnostic: if the device can connect to the Internet, it can usually use the application. In this case, it’s necessary for the printer to receive data directly from the Web-based application.

Solution: WebPRNT

Star’s JavaScript-based WebPRNT technology allows complete control of any Star WebPRNT Ethernet interface printer. Developers can use Star’s JavaScript library and Builder API to integrate a Web-based application with a WebPRNT printer. In addition, this functionality can be extended to Bluetooth printers by using the WebPRNT Browser with little to no changes.

Challenge 3: Printing from a FileMaker™ Project

FileMaker Go is a free app that runs FileMaker applications, such as those for POS and retail management solutions on iPad®, iPhone®, and iPod Touch®. Traditionally, it has not been possible to print from applications such as FileMaker Go to point of sale and mobile printers.

Solution: PassPRNT

Star’s PassPRNT application solves the problem of printing from FileMaker applications. Any FileMaker Go project, native iOS or Androud application, or Web application can send the receipt in an HTML format to the PassPRNT application using a URL Scheme. The PassPRNT native application then formats the receipt for the printer and sends it to any Star Bluetooth printer paired with the iOS device. The operating system can automatically switch from the FileMaker application to the PassPRNT application and back, making seamless, “one-tap” printing possible.

Challenge 4: Continuing to use a Legacy Windows Application with Newer Mobile Hardware

In some instances, a merchant may want to update its hardware to be more mPOS compatible, but also wants to continue to use their legacy system running an OS such as Windows or Linux. Examples may include a PC upgraded to a Microsoft Surface, or a desktop serial or parallel printer upgraded to a network or Bluetooth POS printer.

Solutions: Update Hardware and Drivers

Most legacy applications can be used on the latest Windows 8.1 or 10 tablets. But like any new installation, the new hardware needs to be set up, meaning new drivers, and new configuration. Network printers (either LAN or WLAN) are usually recommended for mPOS system, however new Bluetooth printers are often as powerful and easier to set up. In this configuration, the old cash drawer can be connected to the new printer. However, if the decision is made to use a mobile printer, more modifications are needed. Since 90% of all cash drawers are usually driven by a POS printer, if a portable printer is now used, you will need to update your cash drawer to a wireless one, or integrate DK-AirCash to bring the old drawer to an Ethernet or wireless configuration.

To learn more, download out eBook: How Printer Software Technology is Evolving to Accommodate mPOS

But what does Star Micronics really do?

In conversation recently, I was asked that same old question “What does your company do?” As an automatic reaction, I delivered my well-rehearsed reply how ‘we provide consumers with proof of purchases at millions of location worldwide.’ After delivering the response, I realized how dramatically the company has changed in recent years and it was time to redefine the new Star Micronics.

As I took inventory of the company, our people, the markets, and our key differentiators, I could quickly see a what the value of the new Star Micronics. Although every company is proud of products, services and solutions, it is truly our family that make Star shine.

Star Micronics is blessed to have an experienced team of trusted sales advisors for our partners that has over 210 years of industry experience which equates to over 17 years per team member. When you are speaking to a member of the Star channel sales team, you can be confident you are consulting with the best in the industry. As the company and industry have rapidly evolved, so have our partners. Star Micronics is proud to welcome new partners to the Star family every day by embracing long term industry stables that recognize the status quo is over and Star is leading the path to the future and new industry partners that bring ideas and technology to our rapidly changing market.

For many companies mobility is just another trend or challenge but to Star Micronics Business Development team, this was our moment to demonstrate our “Always Leading, Always Innovating” spirit. Our team recognized that the mobility was the future, mobility was the disruptor that the once stagnant POS industry needed. Star embraced mobility and recognized that the world of feeds, speeds and emulations was over. The new mobile world opened the doors to integration, connectivity, and solutions. Star Micronics America invested in the right people to capitalize on the new mobile world and now 25% of our workforce is in the integration and market solution team – helping ISVs and end-users utilize our SDKs and new connected solutions. Behind the scenes, the Star family from Operations, Finance, IT, Human Resources and Sales Administration makes it happen everyday.

The next time you ask me about my company, I will be proud to say that ‘the new Star Micronics is the market leader that drive innovative solutions today and a family of proven partners for success tomorrow.
Michael Hanson

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The Challenge of mPOS in Today’s Industry Trends

Mobile point of sale technology has become ubiquitous in today’s society, however the last impression of indicating customer satisfaction are often still at the checkout counter. Hence the challenges of mPOS in today’s industry are critical to the positive effect of customer experience.

“mPOS has been particularly successful in small business environments due to large feature set available at a low price point. In 2015, the mPOS adoption rate will accelerate as small to mid-sized merchants leverage mobile solutions to enhance customer experience and improve sales. The challenges of mPOS change drastically when moving from a small merchant with a single checkout setting to a multi-store, multi-check out, enterprise environment. For large enterprise retailers, there are new products and services in security, connectivity, design, functionality, and hardware to make your mobile strategy a success”

Michael Hanson, Executive Vice President, Star Micronics America, Inc.

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Enhance Customer Experience with a Clean, Organized Store

Adopting Star Micronics peripheral suite of mobile printers with Star Micronics cash drawers unlocks the power of our software developer kit to leverage new mobile solutions. Technology such as ProxiPRNT, which uses Bluetooth Smart (BLE) connection helps locate the nearest peripherals and securely open remote cash drawers. Star’s ProxiPRNT technology is ideal for any enterprise establishment implementing the ultimate mobile POS application to reduce queues in larger stores and have customers efficiently checked out with the purchase completed immediately. This will result in fewer lines and more space for new customers to shop in the store.

Saving Space in Customers’ Wallets

With the release of AllReceipts™, Star Micronics’ Digital Receipt Solution, customers can now save their receipts digitally during those busy holiday seasons. Complementing the paper receipts, shoppers can now scan the QR code and save a digital version of the receipt without having to provide any personal information such as e-mail address that could result in spam, such as an issue with e-receipts.

A digital receipt solution in the mPOS world would allow customers the option to have their receipts securely saved on their mobile device at all times.  AllReceipts™ not only enhances the shopping experience for the customers, but provides retailers real-time printer status, operational notifications, and customer survey results through a comprehensive dashboard.  This technology will help increase customer engagement between the store clerks and provide retailers a mPOS solution that eliminates cluttered wallets.

‘Always Leading-Always Innovating’

The face of retail will continue to change rapidly with new and advance mPOS technology. Leading the transition to the mobile world, Star Micronics’ hardware and software solutions help solve the challenges presented by the implementation of mPOS at a large scale.