With all of the self-service options available these days, it takes an extra edge for businesses to maintain a relevant appeal. As the curators of convenience, the businesses themselves are increasingly becoming a one-stop-shop, able to deliver a complete solution to clients.
One example of this trend is with the recent merger in the European kiosk market that has brought together companies from both sides of the coin — hardware and software. The strategic combining of expertise of Retec Digital and NeoProducts U.K. allows for one entity to deliver solutions in industries like retail, transportation and the public sector.
Retec Digital is involved in the development and supply of multimedia marketing solutions, with deployments including projects for Morrisons, Boots, Sainsbury's and Tesco. NeoProducts is involved in the manufacture of interactive kiosks for self-service solutions, with clients including Jobcentres and Fuji Film.
A similar hardware/software combining of forces is exampled with the 2010 merger of Protouch and Data Vision Europe, which combined DVE's software services with the high-volume manufacturing ability at Protouch. According to Craig Keefner of KIOSK Information Systems, Europe is the big example for the trend toward such mergers.
"It's pretty safe to say that everyone is more solutions-oriented," Keefner said. "It is a fragmented market that used to be a lot more straightforward, so the merger makes a complete solutions provider."
The reason for the recent Retec/NeoProducts merger, according to Retec CEO Graeme Derby, was that even though Retec holds a strong presence in retail, NeoProducts operates in businesses that Retec was looking to grow.
"Neo was a big strategic move for us," Derby said. "It complements what we are currently doing and it means we will broaden our skill base and our customer base in terms of people we are trying to sell to."
Philip Lelliott, CEO of NeoProducts, agrees with Darby in regards to the mutual benefits of the merger.
"While we are both growing equally, the software [industry] tends to be a slightly steadier business, whereas hardware is lumpier," Lelliott said. "The two businesses together give you a slightly steadier business and a less lumpy one."
Darby explained that not only does the merger pave the way for the companies to grow, but it also provides for a unique combination of research and technology that is critical in today's marketplace.
"The good news is that the ideas we have about how people want to use technology apply in whatever sector you operate in," Darby said. "So a lot of the work we do is about understanding the consumer and shopper behavior and then using technology as an enabler to give them what they are looking to do."
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