If your childhood memories include playing behind the retail counter of a family business, and a giant of cash register with the letters NCR cast in steel on the front and back of that behemoth, you might still think that NCR is all about large electro-mechanical machines and big footprint electronic cash terminals in department stores. Well, it's time for another look!
The NCR Silver product, launched this year, is a software offering bundled with some hardware options like a cash drawer, receipt printer and iPad stand - all geared to the very small business.
We spoke with Christian Nahas, VP of the Small Business Group, about the product and the direction that NCR Silver was headed. "The plan", according to Nahas, "is to be where small business owners are". The product is available both through the Value Added Reseller channel (VAR) and also direct at business retailer Staples. The basic package is priced at $499 MSRP, which includes the cash drawer, receipt printer, iPad stand and credit card swipe - basically everything you need except the iPad. The per station fee for the software is $79 per month. There is no difference in price whether it is purchased from a VAR or from Staples, although VARs offer a variety of services including training, set up, and support - all of which of course, are above and beyond the basic price. The iPad stand, engineered by NCR, is built for POS tapping, is mountable, rugged and lockable.
"The micro-merchant is now an addressable market" stated Nahas. Whereas previously many merchants this size were using a shoebox or a simple cash register, and the jump to a real POS system was thousands of dollars, now an entire package can be had for about $1,000."
Other details: The iPad software is the front-end and operates as an app. The back end is accessed through a browser. Each additional POS station requires a $29 monthly fee, which includes software upgrades and back up. There is no charge for the back end of the software, which has inventory management and customer marketing component. A business owner can view sales by station, or by store, all consolidated into one back end screen. Throughout the whole digital world, micro-payments and subscriptions have been the emerging model for the last decade, and now, more than ever, this is extending to the point of sale system.
For the reseller, handling this product could represent a welcome shift. A system that is much simpler and easier to install than ever before. A small battery backup - no monitor, no desktop or tower CPU and no having to run cables through floors or ceilings. Just a wireless router if the store does not already have one. The relationship with the customer could be easier as well. Although the payout for the VAR is less initially, an excellent long term relationship with the end-user could result. This is likely to require most VARs to redefine their business model, including their compensation plans. Nahas told us that the product was presently being offered by over 1,800 salespeople representing 162 VAR organizations.
NCR Silver also has a Vend ease - which allows business owners to consolidate all costs including hardware , software and support into one monthly payment. Nahas reported that VARs were enthusiastic about the ability of program to simplify things for the retailer.
NCR has made several major acquisitions in the last 18 months, including Retalix ($650 million) and Radiant ($1.13 billion), clearly expanding its footprint in the point of sale (POS) transaction business. NCR Silver is another step in re-asserting its dominion over POS and the retail counter.
In summary, NCR seems to be several steps ahead of other major POS systems companies and it will be interesting to see which come out with competitive offerings, or abandon the space completely. (IBM sold its Retail Store Solution division to Toshiba Tec earlier this year for $850 million.) The NCR Silver package is a progressive offering geared to very small business owners - ones that big point of sale companies have long ignored because of cost inefficiencies. Should the product firmly take hold, it would be yet another significant shift for the POS software world. We'll be watching!
Written by Craig Aberle