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Toshiba Connects With SAS

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At the Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions’ Connect conference held last week in Nashville, TN, attendees were led through a morning wake-up cheer: “Commerce… Together!” Commerce is certainly what Toshiba is all about – especially that part of commerce when the consumer exchanges money for goods at the checkout stand. The company is the outcome of the joining of hands between Toshiba TEC and IBM Retail Store Systems (RSS) in April 2012. With that agreement, Toshiba got all of IBM’s legacy point of sale portfolio and the IBM personnel that supported it.

Prior to the birth of Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, many questioned what it meant for legacy customers, especially grocery customers, who for years had favored IBM’s 4680/90 solutions. IBM’s RSS division had been relatively quiet for a long time, seemingly content to support 4690 customers and maintain its network of partners. But arguably, its days as a leader in the POS space were over. Toshiba quickly alleviated those concerns with the announcement of its TCxWave hardware and the TCxGravity cross-channel solution at the NRF event in January 2013 (in collaboration with IBM). The company expanded the TCx line with the announcement of its TCxFlight mobile hardware at the January 2014 event, and at the 2015 NRF event, it announced a strategic agreement with Microsoft to support the Redmond, Washington’s Dynamics omni-channel platform.

Fast forward to Nashville in April 2015, and Toshiba demonstrated its intention to expand its offering with a new collaboration with SAS to deliver predictive analytics to the Toshiba portfolio. It looks like a win for both companies. Toshiba’s solutions focus on execution while SAS is all about analytics. SAS of course gains greater access to the grocery sector.

Inside The Toshiba/SAS Agreement

At RSR, we’ve talked a lot about the Five C’s of the new retail model; Customer, Context, Content, Community, and Commerce. While Toshiba has demonstrated the ability to automate the “commerce” part of that model, the SAS solution arguably helps automate elements of the other four C’s.

To understand a little more about SAS’s rationale for the partnership, I reached out to long-time industry colleague Alan Lipson, SAS Global Retail Industry Marketing Manager. I’ve known Alan for a long time as we have followed each other through our careers. Alan’s pedigree includes (guess what?) years with IBM’s RSS group at the Raleigh Research Triangle. The Research Triangle connection remains strong; although its been many years since IBM’s Magic Team developed the original IBM POS solution, many of those involved are still active in the industry with Toshiba and its many partners – working in or near Raleigh. SAS itself is just 10 miles away in the town of Cary (once jokingly described as Raleigh’s “Containment Area for Relocated Yanks” – a reference to the number of out-of-towners who had come to work at the Research Triangle).

Alan explained to me that Toshiba has had its Promotions & Loyalty Management (PLMS) for some time, and it helps retailers to design and execute promotions. The solution goes back to the IBM days, and while Toshiba has continued to enhance its capabilities, the focus has been on execution (there’s that commerce focus again!). The Toshiba solution that is enhanced by SAS analytics is called TCxVector. The SAS technology will be embedded into it, and the total solution will integrate with TCxGravity or other commerce solutions. The benefit for SAS of course is that wherever Toshiba can taker Vector, SAS will go too.

“What Toshiba hasn’t had”, said the industry veteran, “is the analytics – all the ‘who, what, when, where’ pieces of promotions management. So what this does is deliver those analytics that answer the questions to go with the ‘execution’ pieces.” Alan described a “virtuous cycle” of continuous improvement (plan, execute, observe, improve); “Our visual analytics look at what is going on in promotions to analyze and understand what is working best, and that becomes an input into promotions execution.” Depending on how often a retailer looks at in-flight promotions, SAS analytics enables promotion managers to update promotions while they are still active, to achieve better results.

The question is, why did Toshiba decide to turn to SAS? After all, the company has agreements in place with Microsoft and its parent, IBM. Said Alan, “they’re the leader in point of sale, we’re the leader in analytics – it’s a natural fit!” But the industry veteran conceded that while SAS is “big” in fashion, the “grocery” leadership that Toshiba enjoys is compelling. Also, “this is the first OEM relationship that SAS has announced. To grow our business, we are building out a better alliance go-to-market model. And although SAS has focused on merchandise optimization, the arrangement with Toshiba expands our footprint.”

It should be noted again that the Research Triangle connection is a strong one. At RSR, we’ve commented that while Retail may be a huge global industry, many of the same players keep showing up, albeit with different companies. So the fact that many of the same people who used to work together at IBM now find themselves collaborating in an open marketplace to help retailers meet today’s challenges and opportunities, certainly doesn’t hurt.

Together

Collaborate… together!” seems to be the go-forward message for Toshiba and SAS – and potentially many other companies to come. Rather than owning the portfolio, many companies are choosing to integrate their proprietary components together with the expectation that the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. Although strategic relationships are by no means new, they have gained momentum as a way to bring more fully-featured solutions to the market quickly. That is precisely what Silicon Valley companies like Salesforce do to enhance their brands. The good news for retailers (aside from the obvious greater functionality) is that the technology partners also resolve the integration challenges that inevitably come up.

So Together, Toshiba and SAS bring more of the customer to the commerce engine.

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Articles & Opinions May 5, 2015
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