Software tool a boon for retail

TD Bank Financial Group and Microsoft Canada have teamed-up to bring an offering to market that promises retailers quicker transactions by streamlining credit and debit processing and eliminating the need for a standalone point of sale (POS) device.

The new feature is targeted at users of Microsoft’s Retail Management System (RMS), which replaces the traditional till with a PC running the Microsoft software.

In addition to the usual cashier functions, Krista Kuehnbaum, CRM and RMS product manager for Microsoft Canada, said it also lets retailers manage the entire POS process, from pricing, marketing and the performance of products to staff productivity.

Kuehnbaum said Microsoft needed to give its RMS customers a way to integrate debit and credit functionality. Previously, retailers had to use a POS device with attached keypad separate from their PC running RMS for debit and credit transactions, which took more time and could lead to data entry errors.

Working with Tri-City Retail Systems, a Kitchener, Ont.-based vendor that specializes in RMS and POS, Microsoft turned to TD Merchant Services, the bank’s divison dedicated to retailers, to partner on an offering and get it certified to interface with TD’s payment processing engine.

Now, with a software update to RMS downloaded from Microsoft and a keypad connected to the PC supplied by TD, payment processing has been integrated with the till, eliminating the standalone device.

Retailers will also save money by eliminating the need for a separate phone line for the POS device, and the broadband connection to TD’s payment processing engine will also make for faster transactions.

Carrie Russell, vice-president of TD Merchant Services, said this is an example of process improvement to what has become one of the cornerstones of modern retailing.

“It’s integrating the point of sale processing solution with the computer software management solution within a retailer,” said Russell. “We’ve taken those two pieces of technology and made them one through software integration.”

While they originally saw the offering appealing to smaller retailers, Russell said larger retailers with multiple locations are also expressing interest.

“We believe the integrated (offering) will save small to mid-sized retailers both time and money, as well as provide them with access to information to enhance their business performance,” said Russell.

One of the early customers to come on board was Lululemon Athletica, a Vancouver-based retailer of yoga clothing and products with 20 Canadian locations, plus six more stores in the U.S., Japan and Australia.

Kim DuBois, Lululemon’s technology manager, said due to integrity issues with their Raymark POS product they were looking for a new system, and had demonstrations from a number of competing vendors before settling on Microsoft’s RMS.

“It appeared easy to use, and we knew all our users at the store level would be familiar with Microsoft products, so it was pretty intuitive,” said DuBois. She added the option with TD to integrate debit and credit with the till was the major selling point for them.

Through integration, DuBois said credit authorizations are now done in two to four seconds, and debit transactions can happen just as fast as customers can key in their information. She said the set-up and installation was also fairly speedy.

“The software add-on is a very simple executable file that needs to be run and we actually remotely connected into all of our stores to install that software,” said DuBois.

Technicians from TD Merchant Services went to each site to do the pin pad installation, and Lululemon’s IT staff spoke with the technicians by phone while they were in store to test the system and make sure it was working properly.

“(For our staff) it was pretty much a 15 minute training process to get everyone up to speed,” said DuBois.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
As an assistant editor at IT World Canada, Jeff Jedras contributes primarily to CDN and, covering the reseller channel and the small and medium-sized business space.

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