I love a good puzzle. Not the dreadful kind with 1,000 pieces of the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon. I like the tougher ones – in business – where you’ve got to solve a problem that is changing right before your eyes. We’ve got to hit a moving target, and somehow make customers happy, while delighting consumers, delivering career growth for NCR’s team, and profits all at once. That’s where you’ll find me!
A puzzle that I’ve been considering lately starts with a paradox. We’ve all heard that history repeats itself, but the future is hard to predict! How can those two things be true at once? I hope you appreciate the irony, and cherish the challenge like I do.
Take the cash register for example. We’ve been the best in the world since the concept was even conceived. We stand on the shoulders of giants who changed history, with millions of machines created and installed generation after generation since the late 1800’s! If history repeats, then we’ll do it again. But how can you and I be part of the future of the cash register? What’s over the horizon that will let our accomplishments rival or even beat the great women and men of the NCR of old?
I have an observation – a prediction, maybe. One of those heroes of our past expanded “Cash Register” to make it “Point of Sale” because NCR systems do so much more than just handle cash. That was a brilliant move and it serves us well. But where is the Point of Sale going, and will NCR be there? You see, my prediction is that “Point of Sale” is too small to describe the future. A “sale” no longer takes place at a “point”. The future of NCR is helping our customers engage their consumers throughout a purchasing journey.
A sale starts when a consumer has the intent to make a purchase. It continues through a series of choices. It includes a transaction, but it does not end there. Every consumer action influences many people and many future events. Social media, loyalty programs, automated supply chains, online reviews and other parts of our connected society all create a network of cascading events, starting with a single consumer’s action. “Point of sale” is an anachronism! The effects of a sale never end.
Smart phones are the quiet protagonists of this new reality. They are the center of the consumer’s network. If we can link our customer’s NCR solutions to their consumer’s mobile devices, we can unlock a treasure trove of advantages for all. We can connect what consumers want with what merchants have to offer, all in the context of who/when/where/what is needed to close a sale. We can anticipate a need, incent the consumer, suggest purchases, close the sale and learn from the process to create future demand. That’s what’s over the horizon, and we’re going there, fast.
The NCR Hospitality team in Midtown Atlanta has been working all year on a solution called NCR Mobile Pay. Of course you can pay with it, but it’s much bigger than that. NCR Mobile Pay is a personal concierge that lets a restaurant guest get what they want without waiting for someone to ask. The technology has not been easy but when you see it in action, it’s fantastic. Mobile Pay is the first technology that fully embraces the consumer-centric nature of restaurant transactions. But will my prediction come true? We’re telling the world about NCR Mobile Pay and the consumer’s dining journey this week.
The future will repeat, but which parts repeat and which don’t is the heart of the puzzle. I believe in the purchasing journey and that mobile is broader than the transition from Cash Register to Point of Sale. It’s bigger than the introduction of credit cards. It’s self-service on steroids. It’s our revolution.
Written by: Michael Finley, CTO, Hospitality Hosted Solutions at NCR Corporation
Michael Finley is a 20 year veteran of the retail technology industry at NCR, where he now serves as CTO for the Hospitality Hosted Solutions business. A celebrated speaker and writer, Finley is co-author of You.Next(), a book that aims to build leadership skills among technologists. A passion to explore and apply technology led Finley to complete extensive work in Artificial Intelligence for Qualia Labs and in video game development for HiRezStudios. Finley holds several patents for retail technologies such as payment encryption and forecourt networking and has published a set of popular apps on the Apple AppStore.