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Extenda Retail – probably the boldest tier 1 POS vendor in the world

 

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I’ve been working as a product manager in the Point Of Sale (POS) domain for a little over a decade. In that time I have been involved in making many decisions around our product strategy. Some have been simple and some have been more bold. This year we made what I consider our boldest move to date. We launched a true cloud-native POS solution.

You may think – what rock have you been hiding under, every POS vendor has a cloud offering? And in a sense you’d be right. Many can offer a solution that can be labeled “cloud”. But most often it is an on-prem solution that they provide managed hosting for and potentially include a few upgrades per year in the subscription fee. Or it’s an app with a lot of business logic and data residing in the app and a few capabilities kept in the cloud. Unlike these offerings, our solution is cloud-native and has all data and business logic at one place, in the cloud. Gone are the days when data was replicated to thousands of devices where you cross your fingers and hope that they are all up to date. As a result, the POS is not offline-capable. Yes, you read that right. An online-only POS system offered to the world’s biggest retailers. That’s bold.

Why compromise and not have an offline-capable POS system?

We have recognised three drivers for this decision. Firstly, the world is moving away from cash, and consumers that only use digital payments (that rely on Internet connectivity) are becoming the norm. Yes, you can accept offline card payments up to a certain amount. But how many of your baskets/carts are actually below that amount and how much do those sales amount to? It’s difficult to admit but it is normally very very little. Secondly, with redundant networks (and with 5G around the corner… and Starlink around the next corner) the likelihood that a store would go offline is extremely low. Thirdly and most importantly, the demand for innovation and quickly releasing new capabilities is so high today that the benefit of a pure cloud deployment outweighs the risks.

Our solution is released to production about 100x more frequently than our on-prem solutions and these updates are applied completely without downtime. Think of what this means for your ability to try out new things and not having to think of every little detail that you need to squeeze into your, at best, quarterly release windows. Also imagine what it would mean if your POS solution wasn’t limited to cashier-operated checkouts.

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POS system or checkout platform?

If you were to ask an average consumer to draw a POS they would probably draw a PC with a 90’s look and a bunch of colorful buttons on either the keyboard or the touch screen. If you’re a progressive retailer you’d probably want to leave your customer with a better checkout impression than that. You would want to offer assistance on the floor through a mobile POS. You would also want to offer a self-checkout option for those that are in a rush and only have one or a few items. If you merge those two you would recognize that the consumer would probably be inclined to “self-checkout” by using their own smartphone. Or, you want to take on Amazon and go frictionless with sensors, computer vision and the whole shebang. This is all very achievable if you have a scalable checkout engine that has been built with an API-first approach.

Early feedback and experiences

So, we launched the product “Hii Checkout” in June this year. For my own part I was equally excited – and also a bit nervous about how it would be received. Since then (and to be honest, also prior) we have met with a number of prospective customers and we have even started implementation projects with a few of our existing customers. The feedback that we have gotten from the prospects has been very positive. We’re not expecting that all retailers will agree with us when we say that time-to-market and release frequency outweighs the risk of network outage. But if the prospects we have been talking to are representative, the majority of retailers are ready for this paradigm shift – a POS no longer needs to be offline capable.

As for our existing customers, we have some that are taking a step-by-step approach and introducing Hii Checkout in some of their checkout options while keeping on-prem in others. When we talk about future changes, big and small, we speak about MVPs (minimum viable product) and areas that we can look into later and evaluate after the release of the MVP as they, if needed, can be released shortly after. And then we start stressing about how to think about every detail that must make the release window for the parts that are still on-prem. That’s when it becomes evident that this will be a game-changer for our partnership with the client.

P.S.
To support retailers that operate in areas where network connectivity is just not reliable enough or those where the network latency imposed by the public Internet (however small it may be) is challenging – we are offering a solution where we can extend the cloud to the edge. This brings the checkout engine’s capability to the store’s network and thus eliminates the dependency of an Internet connection to process a transaction.

Author:
Jonas Bergström
Senior Product Manager
Extenda Retail

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