Technology company NCR has marked a significant change in its retail strategy, as it looks to set up its business solutions to serve the future needs of the industry.

Known for its ATMs and self-service checkouts, the vendor – which counts UK retailers such as Tesco, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer as customers – is repackaging its capabilities in line with the increased connectivity of modern businesses.

It comes after a period of acquisition activity for NCR, with the 2013 $650 million takeover of software firm Retalix coming just two years after it completed a $1 billion purchase of Radiant Systems – a move that considerably expanded its presence in the hospitality and speciality retail spaces, but also contributed to duplication of NCR's capabilities.

"If you look at what NCR has been doing over the last few years, it has acquired some fantastic software companies," he explained.

"As a result of those acquisitions we have a huge amount of software intellectual property, which is only as good when you bring it all together. In order to bring together all of the competence we have gained from those acquisitions we needed to take a step back and really evaluate our offering."

Future-proofing is also on the agenda, with NCR's new concepts and solutions devised on open frameworks that can evolve over time. Many of today's retailers are finding they are hampered by inflexible legacy systems as they look to introduce new systems that will aid customer experience (CX), and NCR is keen to help.

Stretton added: "We hadn't really considered what the shopping experience of 2018 was going to be like.

"Our efforts now are focused on journeys that customers will go on in 2018 and beyond."

At the heart of NCR's new approach is the launch of its new Retail One commerce hub, which has been developed to meet the needs of retailers as the Internet of Things era unfolds and businesses continue to demand system connectivity.

The suite of solutions, which is targeted at mid-tier retailers looking to update out-of-date store technology infrastructure, offers businesses an opportunity to implement new systems on top of existing hardware and software assets. Retail One is also supported by NCR's technology partners such as Microsoft, Cisco and Intel.

"Retail One is the bringing together of the best of the capabilities NCR now has, as a result of the acquisitions," said Stretton, who has taken on responsibility for NCR's retail partnerships following the departure of Helen Wilde, last year.

"It allows our customers to see the value of NCR but also to realise the value of their existing ecosystem. What we don't want our customers to have to do is throw out something they've done with us in the past or throw out something they have invested heavily in.

"The Retail One suite of products enables other parties to integrate in a predictable manner – almost like an app store for retailer third parties to connect to."

And the new Internet of Things focus does not mean that self checkouts have become less important to NCR. This division is still viewed as a growth area for the organisation, with much of its technology in this department currently being utilised by retailers across the UK.

"We have a good self-service proposition and we can grow it, but there are new markets that we're going to have to work our way into," Stretton explained.

"For example, the discounters have not had CX high on their agenda, so we have to think about the CX we can bring to help discounters. We continue to invest in new formats, and Asda in York has a concept store showcasing our new checkout."

The York store features various in-store technology from NCR, including hybrid tills that can be staffed or function as self-checkouts. The tech been installed to "provoke thinking" around new ways of developing CX, and the trial –  which began at the start of 2015 – will be monitored ahead of a potential UK-wide roll-out.

Stretton said that that retailers are increasingly looking to provide the best CX from the smallest square footage, with companies wanting to "return as much space as they can to retail space".

He added: "In general, I'm looking to enable retailers to give their customers an omnichannel experience, to provide great solutions and we're there to be our partners for the long term."

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