The iPad — An End-To-End Solution For Retailers?
By Bob Johns, associate editor
Revel Systems’ application uses the Apple iPad to replace many legacy systems at once
The retail point of sale (POS) is undergoing a massive transformation, due in part to the rise of the tablet. Specifically, the iPad has made its way into the retail POS at check-out counters, self-checkout kiosks, and as a mobile solution. One company that has leveraged this technology is Revel Systems, Inc. I recently spoke with Revel Systems’ founders, CEO Lisa Falzone and CTO Chris Ciabarra, about how they are using the iPad in the retail space.
Falzone is a Stanford graduate whose background is in venture capital, and Ciabarra’s background is in security and PCI compliance. The two came together to create a new sales system. Falzone said, “We just realized the huge pain-point of the legacy cash register that connect to back-office servers and big, bulky systems.” Often, the security on these legacy systems is antiquated and is vulnerable to attack. As PCI compliance becomes a huge issue in retail, it becomes crucial for retailers to maintain compliance and protect data.
The two set out to create a complete enterprise solution that could be coordinated completely in the cloud using iPads. The application covers everything from employee tracking to real-time inventory control. By moving all of these applications to secure servers in the cloud, retailers can save considerably on hardware and maintenance costs. Also, for multiple-location enterprises and chains, all of the data is available in real-time, no matter where the user is located. No more downloads or batching of data that the user has to wait for. Up to date reports can be run at the user’s convenience when the data is needed.
“For the associate, the interaction with the application is similar to how they interact with apps on their personal tablets and phones, so training is relatively simple,” Falzone pointed out. Using the familiarity of a touch screen with icons allows the associate to seamlessly transition between product lookup/ information and the POS terminal application. Associates can search for items by description, SKU, or a barcode scan. The associate can view the inventory, pricing and discounts, and product information to be able to relay to the customer. “Having all of this information at the associate’s fingertips helps to keep the customer engaged, rather than waiting for someone to go get the info,” Ciabarra said.
With this system, managers have access to the financials, can create bank drops, monitor timesheets and maintain payroll, view inventory, and access the CRM system, which the associates also have access to. The timesheets keep track of all logins and logouts, which are done directly on the iPad. Additionally, in order to maintain integrity, the iPad snaps a picture of the associate as they complete these functions — thereby eliminating “buddy punching.”
Falzone and Ciabarra chose to feature their solution on the iPad for many reasons. “First of all, the Apple iOS is very secure. There is less risk of hacking and viruses. Second, Apple has the image of being cutting edge, which is what we wanted to represent the solution as. Third, the screen size and resolution are amazing. The associates enjoy using them, and the products and reports show up brilliantly,” Ciabarra noted. Credit card data is encrypted right from the swipe, and again as it passes through the iPad to the third-party processor. Revel’s iPad solution basically operates as a pass-through system that never houses any critical data. This helps shield the retailer from data security liability as it moves to a mobile solution.
As mobility is taking a greater foothold in retail, having systems like this that can move with the associate are gaining ground on legacy systems. Retailers need to evaluate how they are interacting with the customer from the time they walk in the door to the point of purchase. The customer has become more mobile, and better informed. The associate needs to be armed with the same or better data, and needs to be able to work with that customer end-to-end through the transaction.