Even we were surprised at the extensive offerings that fall under NCR’s C-tailing offerings alone and, specifically, those of NCR Netkey solutions, about which we spoke specifically to Dusty Lutz, general manager, NCR Retail Self-Service Solutions, yesterday, from his office at NCR’s corporate headquarters in Duluth, Georgia. Lutz is responsible for NCR Netkey kiosk and digital signage software, self checkout, and kiosk solutions.
And yes, to answer a question we had: is Dusty his real name?
“That’s what it says on my birth certificate,” he says. “My parents must have had a sense of humour.”
However, Lutz himself, by training an electrical engineer, is all business when he discusses NCR and specifically NCR Netkey, provider of kiosk and digital signage software used by leading companies for the development, deployment, management and security of self-service kiosk and digital signage applications, content and devices.
Combined with other solutions under the C-tailing division – which altogether probably totals about one-third of NCR’s total business – the company offers a full one-stop shop for the financial, retail, healthcare and travel-and-entertainment sector.
“Our solutions can take the customer from the converged retailing solution on the web and smart phone at home through to digital signage at the store and then ecommerce at the self-service kiosk,” says Lutz, who talks a mile-a-minute with enthusiasm about Netkey’s and the overall C-tailing offerings.
Thinking of how to scan a barcode on a mobile phone? NCR created a scanner for reading a bar code not only on products but also for imaging on a mobile phone. (Think of your airline pass barcode on your mobile phone – and yes, it’s NCR.) Considering putting in a self-serve kiosk and digital screens? Yes, NCR not only provides the management software but also its own hardware. Need a mobile app to round out your offering? NCR’s C-tailing division has staff to provide that.
“We truly are a one-stop shop, with everything to win the customer, create sales and build loyalty,” says Lutz. “Our software can also be used with other existing hardware – and we do sometimes partner with other companies for some back-end solutions.”As Lutz pictures the customer in a retail store: she can be motivated to look at certain merchandise by the digital wall screens (and/or digital screens on a kiosk), then look at the merchandise. Say she finds the sweater she likes but not in her colour or size. She can use NCR Netkey’s ‘Endless Aisle’ ecommerce kiosks to perhaps order it – and have it delivered to her home.
“’Endless Aisle’ is a way to bring the dot-com experience into the store,” he says. “It allows the retailer to make sales when the store itself is out of stock and perhaps doesn’t carry the full line. This is a popular solution in the U.S. and U.K.. We’ve found that it can lift retail sales between 1% and 3%.” (‘Endless Aisle’, introduced about four years ago, is currently also in a pilot test with an Australian retailer.)
But Endless Aisle is only one of many NCR Netkey solutions being used to engage customers, whose behaviour today is one of wanting “convenience and control,” says Lutz, who has held various positions at NCR over 20 years.
NCR is historically a company of innovation, from Patterson’s first mechanical cash registers, through the first ATM machines, carbon paper, liquid crystal displays, bar code scanners and much more, so it’s not surprising that the company has developed offers for just about everything – except Near Field Communications. “And we’re on the leading edge, just waiting until there’s more infrastructure available and users,” he says.
While, ideally, a full NCR Netkey digital signage and kiosk solution can be developed for a new store, it is also very much being used by stores undergoing remodeling. That’s currently the case with a major U.K. (unnamed) department store.
In the U.S., stores like those of the Hot Topic chain, a mall and web-based specialty retailer of music, apparel and accessories, have implemented NCR Netkey self-service kiosk and digital signage applications, for both sales and to build its loyalty program. Hot Topic has approximately 1,500 NCR Netkey self-service kiosks and digital signs in use in its retail stores.
Another major users of NCR Netkey solutions are the approximately 10,000 Blockbuster kiosks across the U.S.. Blockbuster kiosks are a licenced brand wholly owned by NCR.But retail is only one sector of the business. NCR claims position as the number one provider of ATM machines, the number one provider of point-of-sale cash registers and the number one provider of self-checkout units. NCR SelfServ Checkout is a global solution deployed by more than 150 customers in 20 countries. Lutz himself was a founding member of the development team that launched NCR’s first self-checkout solution. (He holds 13 patents for his technical work on self-checkout, retail point-of-sale terminals and financial teller terminals.)
He also led the development team that created the world’s first integrated open-systems bank teller terminal and he was product manager for the creation of NCR’s first 100% open-systems retail POS terminal.
NCR is everywhere with its kiosks and digital signage. In fact, when not in use interactively, the screens on the kiosks also act as digital screens to help market and give added value. And its solutions are not only in retail. In the healthcare sector, NCR Netkey provides Healthy Advice Networks with a centralized, web-based digital content management solution that uses administration tools to schedule and deliver highly-customized educational material directly to physicians. NCR Netkey powers its PracticeWire service, which delivers real-time health content to physicians throughout the U.S., via wall-mounted digital screens through wireless broadband.
You’ll find NCR Netkey behind the healthcare insurance business in Germany, banking in Belgium, and in countries worldwide.
While the Netkey sector consists of about 100 people, all NCR sales staff across the globe can sell the company’s NCR Netkey solutions. It means considerable training, done regularly either where they are located or brought together in groups of about 30.
What will they be concentrating on in 2012?
“Endless aisles, loyalty kiosks, digital signage and the deli sector – a new interest for NCR Netkey – where kiosks can be used for ordering, and more,” says Lutz.
In short, anything and anywhere to help engage the consumer.