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The Green Sheet Online Edition

July 26, 2021 • Issue 21:07:02

Principled disruption

By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC

Like countless others, I spent more time at home during the pandemic. As I moved from desk to deck to kitchen table, I noticed geologic layers from other places, other times. Things I had ignored when on the run—outgrown clothes in the closet, old tech in the garage, food containers threatening to take over the kitchen—were thrown into sharp relief. I decided to reboot my house, beginning with the closets.

The first consultant who visited my house had designed closets for the same company for over 20 years. Her system would be permanently installed and built to last, she stated, with beautiful wood-finished drawers and shelving. It would also cost a fortune.

The next specialist worked at a retail store that sold a variety of closet systems, ranging from utilitarian to luxurious. After reviewing my closet photos and requirements, she designed a plan that met my needs without exceeding my budget. Happily, materials were in stock, enabling me to swiftly complete the project. Throughout my closet transformation experience, I found the same foundational principles apply to good design, whether physical or digital. For example, the best designs are:

  • Multipurpose, customizable: A closet adjacent to the kitchen is now a multipurpose pantry for storing heavy appliances and paper supplies, with a separate area for coats and jackets. Our industry has undergone a similar transformation from single-purpose POS devices to platforms that support a range of business management activities. These systems can be customized according to each merchant's unique needs.
  • Affordable, flexible: My chosen solution cost less than comparable closet systems. Its modular shelves, brackets and drawers can be easily added, removed or repositioned, making the system easy to adjust as needs change. Modern POS systems also have flexible frameworks with ancillary features, apps and cloud-based software services that can be changed on the fly.
  • Agile, portable: Components for all three closets I redesigned were so lightweight and compact that I double-checked my receipt to make sure nothing was missing. Installation took a half day, with the help of a professional installer and only the top rail of each closet attached to the wall. Payments technology has similarly evolved from complex, heavy systems to lighter cloud-based solutions.
  • Secure, transparent: In addition to high weight-bearing capabilities that can support up to 500 pounds, my closet system has accessible, open shelving and display cases that clearly show everything inside. Modern POS systems also provide transparent, single-access views, enabling users to track transaction flows in real time and react quickly to issues or anomalies.
  • Unified, efficient: The system's efficient, consolidated design gave my husband a closet that had formerly been his in name only. Our customized side-by-side closets put my shoes and his baseball hats within easy reach, with room left over for new purchases. Upgrading a payment system can also improve efficiencies while opening new, expanded possibilities to merchants, customers and service providers.

Design inspiration

After a year of living virtually, it was a treat to embark on a physical project enhanced by digital commerce. Loyalty rewards, curbside pickup and online reviews were all part of the experience and inspired me to learn more about the retailer I ultimately used. I listened to the audiobook Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives by Kip Tindell, founder and chief executive officer of The Container Store.

Tindell used seven foundation principles to build his business, believing that if business is fun and sustainable, profit will inevitably follow. These principles, also summarized on the company's website, are designed to reward all stakeholders, from employees and vendors to customers and shareholders, he stated.

"Retail is far, far too situational to attempt to achieve anything through inflexible rules and policies," states The Container Store's website. "So, instead of using the typical phone-book-sized retail procedural manual to guide our decision making, we use these Foundation Principles to keep us on track, focused and fulfilled as employees."

Seven foundation principles

Following is a list of The Container Store's seven Foundation Principles:

  1. One great person equals three good people.
  2. Communication is leadership.
  3. Fill the other guy's basket to the brim. Making money then becomes an easy proposition.
  4. Provide the best selection, service and price.
  5. Intuition does not come to an unprepared mind. You need to train before it happens.
  6. Use Man in the Desert Selling, a philosophy designed to anticipate customer needs and exceed expectations.
  7. Create an air of excitement. Customers can feel this excitement when they enter a store. "Three steps in the door, you know if the place has it," the company wrote.

I've seen the same principles at play at leading retailers and financial service providers, especially during the recent pandemic, when people put aside their differences to help each other. In interviewing payments industry leaders, I found numerous examples of payments industry professionals helping retailers, restaurateurs and hoteliers survive a global business shutdown.

Future looking bright

The pandemic provided a proving ground for payment technologies originally designed to be fun and convenient that were hastily deployed to meet essential needs. A June 2021 study by JPMorgan and FreedomPay, titled Preparing for the Return of Demand: How America's Retail & Hospitality Elite Tackle Disruption with New Commerce Investment, surveyed 50 senior executives to understand how the pandemic impacted technology investments and infrastructure.

Survey respondents became more willing to take risks during the crisis, according to the report, and rewarded companies that stepped in to help them. Executives surveyed plan to focus on "multi-dimensional, interconnected needs" in future technology investments, researchers found.

"COVID-19 has moved the vendor relationship from supplier to partner," researchers wrote. "At the same time, it has increased stakeholder appetite for rapid innovation, creating new openings for niche suppliers and startups." Software and hardware partners helped in-house teams with design, project management, training and compliance, they added.

Going forward, payments industry partners will continue to shape our collective future, helping retailers make commerce more flexible, connected, interactive and secure. As a journalist who will never run out of stories and a consumer who will happily engage with cool new products for years to come, I eagerly await more principled disruptions. end of article

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. She can be reached at dale@dsldirectllc.com and on Twitter at @DSLdirect.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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