By Dale S. Laszig
Years ago, Fred DeLuca made a great sandwich, and Subway was born. Stores opened from Connecticut to California, serving fast, made-to-order meals. After saturating North America, Subway moved on to Bolivia, Luxembourg and the Philippines. Today, more Subway shops are serving customers than any other restaurant in the world, according to the company's website.
When you have more than 42,000 locations in 100 countries, updating your POS is not easy. But thousands of independently minded franchisees liked the idea of a standardized POS system, so Subway sought advice from payments experts. Worldline brought flexible technology; Amadis brought a global standard called nexo; together they created a perfect recipe for global deployment. When covering this story in "Age-defying secrets of retail tech leaders," The Green Sheet, issue 21:03:01, I saw how easy it would be to get caught up in the details and magnitude of this project—but the real magic was that it just worked. Participants understood the goal and their respective roles and created a frictionless experience for franchisees and their customers.
When the first Subway store opened in 1965, it probably had a cash register, maybe one made by NCR Corp., an iconic brand founded in 1884. Companies like Subway and NCR, which have been innovating for long periods, show how far we can go with a bit of daring, teamwork and technology.
If DeLuca were to open his first Subway store this week, he might employ an NCR system, but he would also have a mobile app, website and Instagram page. His technology stack would simplify bookkeeping, inventory management and data analytics to help attract and retain customers with personalized offers. That's what we're selling today.
We're no longer just selling equipment; we're selling an uninterrupted experience for consumers and business owners alike. Today's Subway franchisees can set up shop in diverse countries throughout the world, and it is basically the same show—everywhere. So why are some merchants acting like it's 1965, remaining stuck within the confines of analog technology?
Maybe it's time to change the way we're selling. Let's face it: "omnichannel commerce" and "integrated POS systems" are a big yawn for most small and midsize merchants. Those are our terms and we're even getting tired of them. But if we talk about meeting customers wherever they shop, being discoverable and providing a secure, enjoyable experience, we're speaking their language.
In the old days, being "on the network" meant connecting to card rails and secure methods of transport. Today's rails and communications protocols are flexible, scalable and interoperable; their frameworks make it possible for consumers to transact anywhere and everywhere in the world: in stores, online, in the cloud and on mobile apps. Managed services facilitate remote diagnostics and updates, making countertop terminals easier to maintain and conversant with other commerce methods. These capabilities enable merchants to send personalized offers to customers across all channels.
Shaun Donaghey, senior vice president and managing director, payments market, North America at Transaction Network Services, observed that retail's transformational shift was in motion for years before COVID's accelerating factor.
"People refer to the pandemic as a catalyst around technology adoption or change, but I think the transformation journey has been underway for a number of years, borne by retailers' need for wallet share and staying relevant in an era of online and ecommerce," he said. "What does that mean for retailers with physical stores and how can technology improve their business and make things easier?"
Donaghey noted that managed network solutions used to be difficult, specialized and inflexible, but TNS has been evolving its technology for 30 years. Network services have come of age, he added, decreasing compliance burdens and supporting all points of interaction, even terminals. He believes TNS's SD-WAN is a perfect example because it's transport agnostic. "It's the United Nations from a connectivity perspective," he said. "You can manage different circuits and connectivity points and deploy other services as needed, with this flexible solution."
Dale S. Laszig, senior staff writer at The Green Sheet and managing director at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content strategist. Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dalelaszig/ and Twitter at https://twitter.com/DSLdirect.
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