The 2014 Innovative Solution Awards

By Lisa Terry — August 05, 2014

Solving a problem. Driving innovation. Delivering ROI. Creating something unique and cool. Accomplishing just one of these is great. Doing all four at the same time is downright difficult. But that’s just what the winners of the annual Innovative Solutions Awards—a collaboration between VSR Magazine and the Retail Solutions Providers Association—have accomplished. Our judges—writers, editors and industry leaders—considered a boatload of entries from vendors, consultants, solution providers and end users, ultimately selecting six as winners of the 2014 Innovative Solution Awards.

VSR Magazine and the RSPA would like to congratulate the recipients of this year’s awards, which were presented at the RSPA’s RetailNOW Convention and Expo during the show’s awards banquet on August 5 in Orlando.

Payment Processing
iDriveThru
By iDriveThru

If the best things come to those who wait, it stands to reason they can come while waiting to pay at the Dunkin Donuts drive-through—from an eight-year-old.

That was the genesis of iDriveThru, conceived by Eli Grinvald’s daughter while getting breakfast at DD while on vacation. Why can’t the RFID toll tag be used to pay for their meal, Grinvald wondered, and why don’t they know who we are and what we want by now?

He soon discovered the RFID toll tag would really be the best way to recognize customers and transact payment. The northeast’s EZPass toll system doesn’t lend itself to commercial transactions, but the tag does, and there are 110 million parking or toll tags out there. He and three partners founded iDriveThru
(idrivethru.com) and designed a system that overcomes the problems that doomed previous toll tag payment systems.

Where the solution really delivers value is in places where you stop, order, fumble for a wallet and pay, like quick service, parking, car washes, pharmacies and amusement parks.

Consumers opt in by linking a payment card to the device ID on their existing transponder (EZ-Pass, Sun­Pass, etc.). An RFID reader above the ordering intercom reads the toll tag and a customer-facing monitor welcomes the user by name, displays reward points and notifies the cashier. Complete POS integration, using Datacaps NETePayintegrated payments software, allows for an intuitive ordering process, then the consumer is invited to pay with iDriveThru. The cashier taps a button on the POS and the transaction is complete. NETePay communicates with iDriveThru servers to obtain the user’s tokenized card data and forwards it to the merchant’s payment processor.

Speed is critical in quick service and long lines drive consumers away. iDriveThru solves this by removing payment, building customer loyalty and retention and delivering in-depth customer analytics. A five-unit Wendy’s franchise in Staten Island is an early adopter.

The solution is flexible to switch payment mechanisms and to expand to solve more merchant problems, says Grinvald. “We’re all about integration, adding value and enhancing experience and merchant revenue.”

Customer Engagement Technology
OPI Consumer Price Scanner
By Optical Phusion

Laws can definitely drive markets, for example, the item pricing law in Massachusetts that says for every 5,000 square feet, retailers need to offer a price checker with printing capability. But Optical Phusion (opticalphusion.com) wanted to deliver much more value than simple price checkers.

OPI did extensive research on retailers’ needs and discovered that they preferred to invest in a solution that not only complies with the law, but offers a return on investment. So OPI developed and beta tested solutions until they arrived at a flexible kiosk design that not only allows consumers to scan UPC to view and/or print item prices via a Motorola scanner, but can also be configured to check inventory at any of the retailer’s stores, interact with loyalty programs and print custom coupons based on past purchases via a Zebra printer mechanism. Consumers can also summon a store attendant from a kiosk.

Extensive research led to a highly refined final configuration, such as encasing the printer to prevent customers from pulling labels before printing was complete.

They also developed a “Video 6” option to work in tandem with the OPI price checker. Video 6 is a video content management tool application that features a management console that enables store managers to customize a promotional message by department or location within the store to alert customers to outstanding deals. Video 6 is also a real-time management tool for the distribution and version control of HD videos to the reseller’s OPI price checkers and electronic signage. In addition, Video 6 enables a tablet to perform multiple functions such as promotional videos, price checking, gift registry and loyalty functions on the same device.

OPI price scanner is installed in several major name brand supermarket and smaller chains, well beyond Massachusetts.

“This has helped us attract new customers not based in Massachusetts,” says Scott Arnold, president of OPI. “We’ve been able to land three to four national accounts and broaden our geography.” Clients can expand their relationship with Video 6 and install a RFID portal reader solution to identify loyalty customers via RFID card as they arrive in store.

POS Solution
Solution for Salon Centric
By Essential Systems Solutions

Salon trade shows are big business for L’Oreal’s Salon Centric professional haircare products division, as much as $1 million for a three-day show. But a cash register system with separate credit card processing, set up and torn down for every event, was leading to entry errors, long training times, weeklong delays in sales reporting and inventory management based on shipment, not sales. Set-up and breakdown was time-consuming for Essential Systems Solutions (esspos.com), entailing complex cable management.

Salon Centric asked for a mobile tablet solution, but a test showed it was unworkable due to high cash volume and the need to use costly on-site Wi-Fi. L’Oreal wanted a small footprint and integration with a back office SAP system to get better visibility into sales and inventory.

ESS POS delivered and then some. Its solution uses Par EverServ 500 terminals with PixelPoint POS, Honeywell barcode scanner and APG 1416 cash drawer that integrate into a neat, 13” by 13” Touch Dynamic all-in-one printer base with Epson TM-T70 printer. ESS POS also designed a wooden shipping container that securely houses 16 terminals staged and ready to go, without the need for time-consuming shrink wrap.

L’Oreal Salon Centric purchased 50 terminals and licenses, and contracts ESS POS for set-up, support and tear down at 18 annual events. Now payment processing is reduced from 25 seconds to three, sales are up 50%, inventory data is available instantly, lines move faster and integrated processing lowered fees. Training is much faster, and Salon Centric can easily bundle products and create new UPCs to drive sales. The system also enables commissions, so the professional salesforce now has reason to drive traffic to shows, says Jason Thompson, president of ESS.

The solution is delivering better performance and is easier to use, says Michael Tash, VP of ESS POS. “The client is extremely happy.” That’s great, because Salon Centric also has 450 stores whose staff also work the shows, creating demand and opportunity for the solution in those stores. It has also opened up a new market opportunity in trade show POS solutions; ESS POS has already added a BBQ festival.

Software Application
ScanItAll
By StopLift Checkout Vision Systems

POS-video integration has made identifying and analyzing fraudulent transactions a lot easier. But its Achilles heel is sweethearting, because there is no data for something that was never scanned.

As he worked on an MBA field study on preventing retail shrinkage, Malay Kundu learned that most of the $10 billion in shrinkage is internal and happens at checkout, and as a result many retailers use video surveillance there. “I had that aha moment,” says Kundu, founder and CEO.

Knowing retailers are cost-conscious, with tight margins, he and his development team formed StopLift Checkout Vision Systems (stoplift.com) and designed a solution that uses already installed POS and over-checkout CCTV equipment—analog or IP. Using real video from retailers’ checkouts, they developed ScanItAll, a solution that uses computer vision technology to interpret cashier and customer body motions at checkout. The system analyzes pixels in real time to identify fraudulent behavior, such as failing to scan or covering a barcode, as well as items remaining anywhere in the cart.

The solution includes a secure Web 2.0 interface to view and analyze actionable incidents detected by StopLift. By combining state-of-the-art web video streaming technology with video-to-transaction log synchronization, the ScanItAll web application allows an advanced, intuitive and easy-to-use access to actionable incidents on any of the major web browsers without the need to install additional software.

Retailers can be alerted the first time a fraudulent incident occurs, significantly reducing shrinkage, deterring future theft, and boosting profitability. Retailers often use it to improve training or start building a case, Kundu says.

The SaaS-based system runs on an in-store server running video analytics, and uses existing POS and cameras. “Resellers can resell our hardware or build their own servers: We’re about the software,” says Kundu. ScanItAll is already installed in stores across the globe, where it reduces inventory shrinkage by 10% to 15%, and returns on investment in six to nine months. StopLift is working on a mobile checkout version.

The most recent enhancement is a self-checkout version, the Self Checkout Accelerator, which uses similar technology to improve the self-checkout experience by identifying legitimate behavior that would otherwise cause a system disruption, such as a purse on the scale.
 
Partnership
One Step Retail Solutions POS with Genius Customer Engagement Platform
By One Step Retail Solutions and Merchant Warehouse

“Gaze into your crystal ball and tell me what new payment paradigms will win so I know what to buy.” That’s a request heard every day by POS solution providers, including One Step Retail Solutions (onestepretail.com). Keeping merchants up to date on PCI requirements and card association mandates is tough when you know the latest solution may soon need to be upgraded or replaced yet again.

One Step, which serves SMBs of five to 100 stores, approached POS software developer Retail Pro International to find a solution. That ultimately led to Merchant Warehouse and its Genius Customer Engagement Platform: a flexible, user-friendly, hardware-agnostic software platform to accommodate current and future payment paradigms so customers can pay how they want. It also shields POS from sensitive card data through tokenization and offers loyalty and marketing capabilities.

Options include traditional, chip and PIN, mobile wallets or other mobile payment technologies, including NFC, EMV and QR/2D bar codes, as well as integration with retailer loyalty and reward programs. Payment hardware companies now offer products with all of these options; Genius replaces the OS on that hardware and is remote-upgradeable. “It’s like an app store, where you click on an app and add it to your phone,” says Scott Kreisberg, CEO/founder of One Step Retail Solutions. “The usability is something everyone understands.”

After a six-month integration and testing process between Retail Pro and Merchant Warehouse, One Step provided a pilot customer for testing and customer feedback.

Genius is “a great asset for us,” says Kreisberg. For retailers, he says, flexible payment options help SMBs level the playing field with larger chains. That capability is a selling point, and One Step now offers it in LightSpeed and Teamwork Retail POS applications too. But in addition, “the people who have bought it are finding the user interface easy to handle, so they’re not having to call us with a bunch of questions,” Kreisberg says. “It also helps us with PCI compliance by lowering the risk of exposure. We’re number two in line for lawsuits after the manufacturer. We’re really confident in that aspect.”

Mobile Solution
DeliveryIQ
By FoodTec Solutions

Managing food delivery services has long been a seat-of-your-pants operation; even years of experience could be thwarted by kitchen or traffic delays. Previous attempts to solve the problem with dedicated mobile devices and data plans were too costly. As smartphones and cheap data became pervasive, FoodTec Solutions (foodtecsolutions.com) saw the chance to develop a highly impactful solution for current and future customers.

The result was DeliveryIQ, an integrated native Apple and Android solution that tracks food orders and drivers while providing management and consumers with real­time updates, order status and driver location information. The solution leverages GPS sensors, phone-based and in-house mapping capabilities and ping messaging to FoodTec’s cloud to maintain communication among drivers’ phones and the restaurant. DeliveryIQ integrates with POS and kitchen systems.

Using this data, kitchen orders can sync with current demand and delivery promises. Dispatchers or drivers themselves can make intelligent decisions about timing and grouping orders. Drivers can communicate en route with customers—who can track the driver’s progress—and upon arrival, hand the phone to the customer for coupon redemption, payment and gratuity. Order-takers can confidently deliver accurate delivery times to customers at the time or order and via delivery confirmations, increasing customer satisfaction and driver tips. Owners know exactly where their drivers are, increasing their sense of safety and control.

“Restaurants gain the ability to deliver more orders in less time, and do so with fewer drivers,” says Andrew Bounas, president of FoodTec. “Costs are reduced and customer satisfaction increases.”

Early adopters have seen their number of deliveries increase more than 20% with the same number of drivers, fees to drivers increase more than 20%, tips to drivers rise by 10% or more, and average minutes per delivery drop from 24.43 minutes to 21.87 minutes.

DeliveryIQ is the first FoodTec product that can be integrated with other POS systems, opening up a larger market opportunity. That’s particularly attractive as more restaurants add delivery services. “We estimate 20% of restaurants in the country will do delivery in the next couple of years,” says Alan Hayman of Hayman Consulting Group, who is working with FoodTec on marketing and development. VSR

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