Smarter retail: Advantech's vertical focus

We speak with Allen Tsai, Regional Sales Manager at Advantech, about the hardware vendor’s push into the regional retail sector

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Smarter retail: Advantech's vertical focus Tsai: Each and every retailer wants something different
By  Tom Paye Published  November 11, 2015

Advantech, a Taiwan-based multinational provider of certified computing systems and services, aims to drive the development of intelligent retail in the Middle East and drive the online shopping market to the next level by offering cutting-edge intelligent retail solutions.

Allen Tsai, Senior Regional Sales Manager of Intelligent Retail at Advantech, said, "We see a lot of potential in the current retail market, which is why we're tapping into it. Our aim is to provide as much convenience as possible to customers further down the value chain, for example, system integrators, software providers, software partners, and value-added resellers. Advantech's hardware technologies can benefit these customers by enabling them to provide more options to end users."

Addressing Industry Challenges

However, with the sudden groundswell in online retail, manufacturers like Advantech are faced with new challenges. Tsai commented, "The main challenge we're seeing in retail is that every retailer wants something different. They don't want to copy someone else's solution and put it inside their store - they want something unique. The challenge for us is to identify what they need and help them understand what we can provide. Fortunately, as a global business, we can draw on resources from around the world. We can tell them what someone is doing in the U.S., we can tell them what someone is doing in Europe, and we can try to adopt it in the Middle East."

As a pioneer of the Smart City concept, Advantech understand that there are many aspects to gaining a foothold in the region's retail industry. Indeed, Advantech's solutions are aimed not only at retail, but also healthcare and intelligent hospitals, as well as logistics and fleet management. In terms of local successes in the retail sector, Advantech has partnered with Ferrari World to provide digital signage. Located in the Footware Department at The Dubai Mall is a video wall powered by an Advantech system. At the Abu Dhabi International Airport, Advantech's presence can be seen in the flight information display systems. Several airports in Riyadh have adopted Advantech kiosks and feedback terminals. "Retail technology and solutions are not only for restaurants and digital signage systems - they provide a complete solution," asserted Tsai.

Regarding Advantech's market strategy, Tsai revealed, "We don't usually go directly to the end users; we do our business through the channel, or system integrators. In a few rare cases, we can go directly to end users if necessary. In such situations though, we still engage our partners. Ultimately, we cannot provide every component. So we function as the window to the end user, but still ask our partners to collaborate."

The success of Advantech can arguably be attributed to its consultative approach. With the commoditised nature of hardware and software, how exactly does Advantech differentiate itself from the competition? Tsai explained, "Firstly, we differentiate ourselves with the range of products we provide, as well as our focus on customer consultations. As a multination company, we have numerous references and resources to draw from. This is how we can provide such a responsive consultation service. Additionally, we have dedicated solution architects who help customers directly implement technologies. Instead of telling them what to do, we show them what is possible. We also emphasise the ROI for customers during consultations."

With every retailer having the potential to reach every consumer, re-inventing and re-strategising with the latest technologies is the only way to ensure continuing business success and customer appeal. There is no doubt technology will remain the most powerful force carving out the future of the retail industry. For Advantech, the company aims to establish a solid local customer base while securing cooperation from partners and third-party players, because alliances and integration are the best strategies for growing an industry ecosystem and developing advanced market solutions.

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