NRF 2018: Five Trends We Think Will Transform Brick and Mortar Again

Last year, our show theme at NRF 2017 was Know Your Customer. This year, we think it’s time to use that knowledge to transform brick-and-mortar retail once again, helping it compete with online retailers.

How can in-store retailers create a frictionless, more personalized experience for their customers, while still making their own in-store processes more efficient and cost effective? At NEC we believe it’s by applying key technologies to make the entire store more customer-aware.

Here are five of those technologies we expect to see on display at NRF 2018.

#1 Data and data analytics in full swing

Think about it. Big online retailers seem to know more about you than you do.
They know what to show you and recommend to you, what you’ve looked at, “liked” or bought before—even what you’re likely to want next. By crunching all that collected data with demographics, preferences and social media data, they can predict what shoppers will best respond to.

Why shouldn’t brick-and-mortar retailers collect, analyze and apply the data available to them to tailor the in-store customer experience, too? After all, everything else being the same, there’s still nothing quite like an in-person shopping experience. And analytics can help retailers better tailor their outreach—via emails, app notifications, even in-store messaging—to bring customers back into the store.

#2 Loyalty programs enhanced by facial recognition

Face it – technology can also help with building and retaining loyal customers, by making rewards program more effective and personal.

Using facial recognition technology, for example, a retailer can identify a frequent shopper or loyalty member as soon as they enter the store. Store clerks are able to greet them by name and make suggestions based on past purchases. And later, at checkout, you can automatically apply loyalty rewards and special savings, based on their status.

#3 In-store digital signage becomes customer aware

Digital signage is nothing new in retail, but when paired with facial recognition and big data analytics, it can become customer aware. That means shelf tags and screens can display messages or ads to the nearest customer, calling attention to nearby items or specials that past behavior indicates might appeal to that customer.

But smart signage can also utilize object recognition to enhance the customer experience. This technology can detect when the shopper picks up an item (or puts it back) and direct the signage to display personalized information. For example, more product information, available options, upsell ads, or even warning about potential allergic reactions—and make alternate recommendations.

#4 Chatbots with AI and AR help both customers and staff

What if a coffeemaker needs a filter change or a checkout printer needs the ink cartridge replaced? Little things like this can bring operations to a halt, and in turn affect how well associates take care of their customers.

Instead waiting on a repair, a store associate could quickly use a tablet at the malfunction to virtually chat with a robot (artificial intelligence) about how to fix the issue. Augmented reality (AR) can even show the associate how to get the device back up and running “live”—so they can get back to serving customers.
Shoppers could benefit directly from AI/AR chatbots, too. Pointing a smartphone at an item, the chatbot could answer questions, show the customer what’s size and colors are in stock, even show the shopper wearing the items before trying it on. Of course, a chatbot can also summon an associate over to help them personally.

#5 POS and check out becomes fast, easy and automatic

And let’s forget not the checkout experience. For single-item and multi-item purchases, using biometrics and object recognition-augmented POS systems allow for an efficient, frictionless checkout experience.

How would this work? Using both facial and object recognition, the POS solution identifies both the shopper and the items as she puts them on the counter. The system quickly totals the bill—applying the appropriate discounts and rewards based on the shopper’s loyalty status—and the customer pays with a mere glance at the camera. Now that’s convenient for the customer—and efficient for the store, too.

Which technology trend will be the winner this year?

Do you see five separate technologies in our NRF 2018 predictions—or one huge opportunity for transforming brick-and-mortar retail once again?
In each of our scenarios, it’s difficult to see these applications as separate technologies. At NEC, we think the key is unifying them to make the whole store customer-aware, from end-to-end.

At NRF 2018, you’ll see how our retail and advanced recognition solutions work together, to provide more efficient store operations, and for customers, a seamless, frictionless and more personalized experience.

True, technology helps retailers get shoppers in-and-out of the store more quickly—if that’s what they want. But more importantly, NEC retail solutions allow them to spend more time enjoying the actual shopping experience. And isn’t a personal, in-store experience what brick-and-mortar retail has that online shopping simply can’t provide?

Register today to receive a free pass to NRF 2018, Retail’s Big Event

Digitizing the Shopping Journey

When a consumer browses a product or online store, ads seemingly follow them around the internet, enticing them to come back, take another look, or buy. When the same consumer is in a physical store, the retailer still has options to bring the customer back to the product and encourage them to buy. The challenge is how to use the data – the demographics, shopper preferences, and previous physical browsing history – to build an in-store experience that’s similar to an online experience.

Data Rich, Information Poor

Download our white paper Digitizing the Shopping Journey: Building a Business Model on Never Saying “No”Today’s retailers have access to more personal customer data, including tracking online and mobile searches through browser cookies and location data, in-store facial recognition technology, NFC, e-wallet, RFID tags, beacons, or simply monitoring whether a customer opens the store’s emails.

The challenge is not necessarily obtaining the data. The trick for retailers is now to figure out how to use all the data they accumulate to create better in-store experiences and products. Retailers are data rich, information poor.

Download our whitepaper “Digitizing the Shopping Journey: Building a Business Model on Never saying “No” Intent of the Data

Random gathering of data, originally intended to move retail into the future, now challenges retailers to thoughtfully formulate its use.  Used properly, valuable customer information can personalize messages, customize preferences, appeal to each individual shopper in a social way, and digitize their shopping journey.

To help retailers employ the overwhelming mountain of data, NEC retail solutions go beyond “cool hype” to provide value and increase efficiency. As an example, Stanchion™ Store software from NEC offers real-time access to data, enabling stores to respond faster to customers, improve communications and increase in-store productivity.

Easily configurable and cross-platform agnostic, retailers can expect:

  • The ability to control point-of-sale (POS) specific tasks, including modifying the user interface, searching for products, checking prices and more.
  • Enterprise-level, back-office capabilities including managing all aspects of in-store operations and system administration.
  • Fast and flexible tools for managing shelf labels, reporting, producing promotional displays, activating campaigns on the fly, and managing data through all stores.
  • Customization based on local-level market demands and reporting to help increase sales.

 See how NEC is using data analytics to digitize the shopping journey

Data Security and Customer Loyalty

Retailers must also consider that customers will stay loyal if their data is accessible and secure. Consumers want to be able to easily obtain and opt out of stores’ access to their personal and financial information. Data breaches and hacking have made some shoppers wary of sharing or storing their data with online or traditional retailers.

As stores continue to amass customer data, their responsibility for its use becomes greater year after year. Retailers need to understand their options for using customer data and how it can create a stronger relationship between customers and stores. With technological advances and online retailers ambitiously considering the future of shopping, partnership and guidance is required instead impulsively purchasing disparate solutions.

How can #retailers create a stronger relationship between customers and stores using #data? #CX Click To Tweet

The bottom line is this: if a shopper continues to have a positive experience with the retailer and feels a sense of reward for remaining loyal and relinquishing their information, the retailer may have created a customer for life.

Use of Data for Cashless Payments

Amazon Go, the new “grab and go” concept uses current technologies, but employs the data like never before. Shoppers are encouraged to walk into a prototype store, pick up their items, and simply walk out, without any interaction with a cashier or checkout counter.

For retailers to consider a similar concept, solutions to manage mobile POS, supply chain and inventory, and biometrics or facial recognition for payment are helpful. While shoppers are looking for convenience, they may still need to interact with retail employees within the store. Inventory must also be managed and restocked as customers make purchases.

NEC’s NeoFace® facial recognition engine is recognized as providing the highest level of authentication accuracy and is currently deployed among law enforcement agencies around the world. After a series of trials with Japan’s SMBC and Sumitomo Mitsui Card in late 2016, NEC debuted NeoFace® as a facial payment solution at 2017’s NRF Retail’s Big Show.

The technology matches pre-registered customer images with those in the POS system. Customers are also given a PIN to secure their account and confirm their identity. As with the Amazon Go prototype, NEC is tracking the solution through its trials with SMBC and within the company’s headquarters in Japan.

Watch this quick video to learn more:

Take a look at how we’re transforming the customer experience through NEC’s Retail Solutions.

NEC Corporation of America

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Digitizing the Shopping Journey

Learn how you can level the playing field between brick and mortar commerce and ecommerce by filling out the form to download the white paper.

 



People. Patterns. Predictions. Meet the new NEC Advanced Recognition Systems.

This week I am celebrating my sixth anniversary with NEC. I recall that my original trip to visit the Headquarters in Tokyo was postponed by the unfortunate events of the 2011 Tsunami and earthquake.

Since then, we have established our Center of Excellence in North America and extended our offering to U.S. Federal clients. We also introduced a number of products and services, including ground breaking cloud-based Identity as a Service (IDaas), and we solidified our position as the premier provider to Law Enforcement and public safety clients in the United States.

These days, rather than thinking about the past I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future. A future where I see continued proliferation of biometrics use, increased emphasis on crime prevention and a convergence of “identity” with access management. Through advancements in data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), our biometrics technology can evolve from technology used to determine where people have been and what they may have done, to predict where people will go and what they will do.

In response to these emerging market trends, today I’m proud to announce that we have rebranded our former biometrics solutions division to NEC Advanced Recognition Systems. I believe that biometrics coupled with high-powered analytical engines can predict and positively alter our travel experiences providing easier access, shorter lines and improved utilization of resources; recognize patterns for real-time monitoring, threat assessment and escalation and through it all provide tools for improved planning and forecasting.

Want more information about a Safety and Security solution from NEC?
Want more information about a Safety and Security solution from NEC?

To underscore our mission and align our products and services the new Advanced Recognition Systems group will give emphasis to three key words: People, Patterns and Predictions.

People. Our primary mission is to serve citizens and the people who protect them. Whether keeping the public safe at home, supporting troops overseas, improving the experience of travelers, or providing the right identity at the right time, our advanced recognition systems supply trusted intelligence to help build safer and brighter communities.

Patterns. From fingerprint pattern recognition to arrangements of accessible data, sequences of critical information are everywhere—you just have to know where to look. Our cutting-edge advanced recognition systems can pinpoint valuable patterns for solving crime, strengthening national security, and identifying trends and efficiencies for tech-savvy businesses. All to help enable diverse missions and realize the possibilities.

Predictions. Our advanced recognition systems can transform the efficiency of your team. Instead of simply gathering and reporting data, our technologies analyze intelligence to predict public safety threats, alert agencies to emerging global concerns, pinpoint potential risks in high-traffic venues, and provide invaluable input to critical business decisions.

Our new name better aligns our extensive local and global capabilities in meeting the all-encompassing needs of our clients. Using our systems integration approach to the market we are committed to understanding our clients’ challenges first, and assist them with a full solution implementation in comparison to any specific biometric technology or tool.

While finding success in reaching these new markets, we remain committed to our roots and will continue to consistently provide high-quality, accurate solutions for government and public safety markets.


I’d like to thank everyone who has participated in NEC’s success in the past six years and who have also contributed to the study and launch of this new vision. I hope you’ll take a look around the new Web site and help us spread the word.

Here’s to the future!

Advanced Recognition Systems
People. Patterns. Predictions.
Raffie

Advanced Recognition Systems and Solutions

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Calling All SpiceHeads!

NEC Engages the SpiceWorks Community in 2016

With social media now a major part of our everyday lives, it is no surprise that groups with similar interests and experiences form almost instantaneously across the internet. Everyone knows the most popular social media applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter as well as a number of other applications and sites that cater to specific audiences.

For IT professionals, one of the major social media networking sites of choice is Spiceworks. The site connects IT pros with an online community of their peers from around the world. It also provides them with useful tools, for free, to help them do their jobs. Applications such as network inventory, network monitor, and help desk as well as rich APIs that developers and the world’s largest tech brands use to build applications and help IT pros solve their unique challenges.

It also provides a forum for IT pros to share experiences and expertise with millions of their peers, and they can reach thousands of vendors to troubleshoot, get product advice, keep up with tech trends, and even advance their careers. And most uniquely, it is a place where they can connect 1:1 and build real relationships with tech marketers.

NEC Corporation of America has its own Spiceworks vendor page with over 2,000 followers and regularly participates in the annual SpiceWorld IT Conference, with this year’s North American Conference held November 1-3 in Austin, Texas. There is also a European conference scheduled for May of next year to be held in the United Kingdom.

NEC sponsored a booth at the North American conference, where “SpiceHeads,” as they call themselves, from around the region were in attendance, many of whom learned that NEC is more than just projectors and LCDs. The interactive booth exposed them to the wide range of IT products and services XS that NEC has to offer. Subject matter experts (SMEs) were on hand to provide more in depth information about the solutions on display.

SpiceHeads have established SpiceCorps groups throughout the country that hold monthly meetings, often held at vendor locations. NEC sponsored a meeting of the Dallas/Ft. Worth SpiceCorps Group, with 24 members in attendance. The event provided an opportunity for the DFW SpiceCorps group to tour our Executive Briefing Center, where they learned that NEC is much more than display screens, we provide products and services that empower the Smart Enterprise.

Prior to the meeting, NEC sent out a survey to the members and asked them what topics they would like covered. This was an effective way of ensuring that the presentations focused on the topics they wanted to hear about, as well as provide an opportunity to discuss how NEC solutions can help tackle their most challenging IT issues. Members noted that NEC was the first vendor to use this approach and they were appreciative and impressed.

NEC executives Larry Levenberg, Vice President – Sales & Channel Marketing, and Ram Menghani, Vice President – UC Products & Support, were on hand as well as SMEs from every NEC business unit. Topics during the highly interactive and informative presentations during the meeting ranged from Software Defined Networking (SDN), business continuity, data storage solutions, and a preview of NEC’s cloud-based solutions. NEC’s Sam Safa presented Simplifying the Network with Software Defined Networking, which was especially popular, with members engaging with him during and after the meeting ended. Some fun was mixed in, with prize giveaways of NEC branded items and other promotional gifts, as well as the big prize of a drone. Congratulations to Aaron Siegal of TXI Corporation, winner of the drone!

NEC plans to host more SpiceCorps meetings around the country several times a year. Be sure to subscribe to the NEC Today blog or follow us on Spiceworks for insightful posts on IT and Communications industry topics, updates on NEC products and services, and dates, times and locations of upcoming NEC sponsored SpiceCorps meetings.

 

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Can You Really Predict Technology Trends?

Every year there are always plenty of fresh predictions and industry trends brought forward and discussed. They make for interesting reading, and beg the question – are they really predictions or are we just susceptible to the power of suggestion?

Many predictions have solid backing, such as Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends, announced at the Gartner Symposium / ITXpo. Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with the potential for significant impact on the organization, including a high potential for disruption to the business, end users, or IT; the need for a major investment; or the risk of being late to adopt. They look at trends that will impact an organization’s long-term plans, programs, and initiatives.

For 2016, Gartner predicted the following trends:

  • The Device Mesh
  • Ambient User Experience
  • 3D Printing Materials
  • Information of Everything
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Autonomous Agents and Things
  • Adaptive Security Architecture
  • Mesh App and Service Architecture
  • Internet of Things Platforms

In another set of predictions, No Jitter showcased the top four UC predictions for 2016. These included:

What Do They Have In Common?

When we read some of the trends and predictions, they almost seem too good to be true. It would appear that technology is moving toward almost an AI state where we can rely on it for everything. Science fiction aside, the one constant we do see is how technology improves the lives of those in business, communities, government entities, law enforcement, and individually at home and school. What we see is that all these trends have a common thread, one that we believe is critical to consider with every innovation we create at NEC – effective communication, collaboration, and orchestration of lives using Smart Solutions to improve and enhance every aspect of our lives.

For example, when adding UC to Workforce Management, contact centers are even more empowered to provide excellent customer service. If you combine Unified Communications with SDN, you have a powerful system that not only ensures your employees are communicating in a more efficient manner, but the system is now able to align itself with any traffic, making disaster recovery or even challenging inclement weather much easier to overcome.

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Biometrics is another solution that has so many applications to positively impact our lives. Whether it’s the ability for law enforcement to rapidly and correctly identify a bad guy on the spot, or retail establishments to provide their customers with an amazing experience, biometrics will impact a multitude of industries, improving customer experiences and empowering the forward momentum of the Internet of Things.

Information is at an all-time premium, as businesses move toward more efficient and effective operations. When combining SDN with our server technology, our clients now can focus on their business needs and let the technology support the flow of data in an efficient manner to ensure constant access and improved uptime.

Of course, when you think about the Information of Everything, it is important to include data analytics as a foundational element. According to Gartner, by 2020, 25 billion devices will be generating data about almost every topic imaginable. There will be an abundance of data, but how do you make sense of it? Data analytics is no longer a single solution to consider, but a necessary component to capture data and provide appropriate information to create actionable results. Those companies that harness the power this data provides will have a competitive advantage.

Speaking of data, companies are not the only ones who have a significant need for big data, analytics, and positive user experiences. NEC focuses on various solutions, such as water leak detection systems; integration support for semantic interoperability into the NEC Internet of Things and Smart City Platforms; and integrated platforms for distribution of grid management, energy efficiency, distributed generation, and energy storage, just to name a few.

Just like Gartner and No Jitter, NEC invests significant effort and resources into research to ensure that solutions we develop will not only meet the needs of our clients today, but also their upcoming needs tomorrow. This serious focus on research and development has been part of the core philosophy of NEC since our inception. We believe that as recognized innovation leaders we can ensure our solutions truly meet the needs of our clients while continuing to keep pace with emerging trends and the expanding capabilities technology affords for the future.

Can you predict technology trends? We believe so—but only by keeping your finger on the pulse of business and societal needs.  NEC’s focus on solutions perfectly aligns with the trends we see, combining powerful technology to empower our clients and enhance their lives. Whether  providing platforms for significantly improved communication, ensuring improved flow of information through powerful data analytics, or inventing new solutions for society that support a better life, NEC will continue to focus on improving our lives through technology.