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

Congratulations to Irving’s New Chief of Police

NEC has been a part of the Irving community for over 30 years, and in that time we have seen many positive changes and been a part of the city’s growth and development. We also have a long standing relationship with the Irving Police Department and its former police chief, Larry Boyd, who retired last year. We are thankful for his leadership of the department for the last 12 years and his contributions to the community. It was a pleasure working with him and we wish him well in this new chapter of life.

Irving new police chief Accompanying former Chief Boyd on many of his visits to NECAM was Assistant Police Chief Jeff Spivey. Like Chief Boyd, Chief Spivey has a dedication to his profession and to the people of Irving that is admirable. He is also a strong supporter of the Irving Advocacy Center, awarded a grant from the NEC Foundation last year.

We are pleased that after conducting an extensive search, Irving City Manager Chris Hillman recommended Chief Jeff Spivey as the new Irving Chief of Police. He was confirmed March 23, 2017 by the Irving City Council. Join me in congratulating Irving’s new Chief of Police! We look forward to many more years of collaboration in serving the local community.

*Photo Credit – City of Irving Police Department

NEC’s 30th AFIS Internet User Conference

Having been at NEC for the last five years, I can honestly say – what an exhilarating ride! We just celebrated the 30th anniversary of NEC’s AFIS Internet User Group conference, held this year at the Omni Atlanta CNN Center.

I wish to express my highest gratitude to the AFIS Internet Board, the organizers of this conference and for the special efforts and leadership of Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Atlanta Police Department, our host agencies.

The AFIS Internet Conference leads the way for the professional forensic community, and highlights the latest NEC developments that are impacting the law enforcement industry.  This year’s event drew our largest international attendance to-date, with attendees from Australia, Greece, Mexico, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and Saudi Arabia.

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As expected, the event did not disappoint. Below are a few of my favorite take-away thoughts and ideas from AFIS 2016.

  1. Body language matters!  Word choices and how our body moves as we talk can tell people a lot about us. Our keynote speaker was Janine Driver, CEO of the Body Language Institute and a former trainer for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Janine’s talk helped me understand the impact that my non-verbal communication has on others’ perceptions of me. She also showed our audience a few cutting edge body language secrets to help us develop better relationships in both our work and personal lives.
  2. Georgia is a hotbed of law enforcement leadership and talent.  With this year’s event being in Atlanta, we had access to some fantastic talent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.  We heard from Vernon Keenan, director of the GBI, who spoke about leadership in law enforcement and how to transition your career out of “survival” mode and into a strong position of leadership.  Mr. Keenan should know, as he has been promoted to every sworn rank in the agency since joining law enforcement in 1972.  We also learned the GBI has ties to the very roots of AFIS Internet, as we heard from Debra Brown, who retired from that agency in 2014.  She gave is an excellent history of AFIS Internet and certainly taught me things I didn’t know about this very special group of people.
  3. All hail the Federal Bureau of Investigations!  Rachel Pastorial from the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems division has probably forgotten more about the use of facial comparison technology than I will learn in a lifetime.  She provided us with a highly useful overview of the face comparison discipline, which should come in handy for many AFIS Internet members as they transition into additional biometrics disciplines outside of fingerprint and ten print identification.
  4. The greatness of The First 48. We had the absolute pleasure of hearing from John X. Kim, senior executive producer and co-creator of “The First 48,” who is also the brain behind a laundry list of popular real-life crime shows, such as “Crime Scenes Uncovered,” “Steven Segal Lawman,” “Dallas SWAT,” “Detroit SWAT,” and much more. “The First 48” is a highly acclaimed real-life homicide investigation series now in its 16th season on A&E.  Mr. Kim gave us the inside scoop on how that TV series came to be created, plus he provided some fascinating anecdotes about some of their most popular cases.

Of course, NEC also showcased its latest identification technologies, including our newest innovation, Multi-Modal Integrated Biometric Workstation (IBW), which is NEC’s latest MBIS platform.  Watch Kris Ranganath from NEC provide the newest advancements in ID technology in this video.

Also, one of the more popular attractions was the demo of SmartScan, our next-generation livescan solution launched earlier this year.  John Dowden, senior product manager for NEC’s biometrics business, wowed audiences with the capabilities of a livescan station designed with a sleek footprint, intuitive Windows 10 user interface and high-horsepower capabilities for a variety of applications both in-house and out in the field.

So that’s it – if you missed AFIS Internet this year in Atlanta, you missed out! Of course, you can catch a glimpse or relive the excitement by checking out our photo library.

 

2016 Annual AFIS Internet User Conference

2016 Annual AFIS Internet User Conference

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Supporting STEM with Dallas ISD at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School

Previously in this blog we’ve covered all of the work that NEC Foundation of America does to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning in the communities where we live and work.

Last week, NEC witnessed first-hand how the foundation’s hard work in the STEM arena is paying off when a delegation attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of the computer lab at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School in Dallas.

Among the delegates and speakers at the event were Dallas ISD Superintendent, Michael Hinojosa, Young Women’s Preparatory Network CEO, Lynn McBee, NEC Corporation of America CIO, Juan Fontanes and Lesly Zamora, an Irma Rangel student who interned in the IT department at NEC Corporation of America this past summer.

Dr. Hinojosa stressed the importance of Irma Rangel and applauded Principal Lisa Curry for her role in helping fill the jobs pipeline for young women in STEM careers. He also noted the fact that the school’s success is made possible by the Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and community support from donor organizations like NEC Foundation of America.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fontanes outlined a brief history of NEC’s relationship with Irma Rangel and the Young Women’s Preparatory Network. After a tour of the campus earlier this year, NEC donated dollars, employee time and IT expertise to redesign and procure new equipment for the Irma Rangel computer lab.  The new lab sports 26 new Dell computers, updated furniture and an interactive projector at the front of the lab.

Event attendees, including local dignitaries and media, were also treated to a demonstration by Ms. Zamora, who showcased her ability to tear down and rebuild a computer in just six minutes.  The Dallas Morning News has posted a time-lapse video of the impressive demo on their blog.

Check out more photos, videos and media coverage from the event on our Facebook page.

At Advantage 2016— We Discovered the Power of the Smart Enterprise

More than 400 attendees from the NEC community – top channel partners, consultants, analysts, sponsors, and staff from North America and South America, all met this last month in Ponte Vedra, Florida,near Jacksonville, to “Discover the Power of the Smart Enterprise.” This was the overarching theme of NEC’s 2016 Advantage Executive Conference (Advantage).

Advantage is a highly anticipated annual 3-day conference event where NEC’s key players, dealers, sponsors, vendors, guests and top industry consultants get together to learn and share their interest in business enterprise technology.  Hands-on demonstrations of the latest product and service developments are available, along with opportunities to participate in informational and inspiring sessions led by the “best of the best” in the industry.

NEC’s Smart Enterprise

This year, the spotlight was on Smart Enterprise communications and IT Infrastructures, with a range of sessions focusing on current workforce environment trends, the latest in NEC unified communications solutions, the stability of NEC’s high availability servers, Contact Center challenges being met, and presentations on the importance of real relationships with our customers and why Smart Enterprise solutions make sense for them.

NEC’s Smart Enterprise is best described as a platform of solutions focused on improving safety, security and operational efficiency for our customers.  In the UC and IT space, it’s a broad set of technologies, products and solutions that are truly empowering for our enterprise customers. Smart Enterprise provides an IT communications infrastructure and application layer that allows a more predictive business that customers can also operate at a lower cost, and so empowers them to be more competitive.

Smart Enterprise solutions help our customers solve their real-world business issues, and will streamline and even innovate business processes. Basically, Smart Enterprise delivers a stable and reliable ICT solution, freeing our customers to focus on their productivity and on meeting and exceeding their business goals.

And the Winner Is…

Advantage is a multi-purpose event for learning, experiencing, sharing, socializing, and recognizing extraordinary partners, so always climaxes with NEC’s Sales and Marketing Leadership Awards, presented to the Top Ten Channel Partners.  This recognition is not only for outstanding business performance, but also their relationship and involvement level within their local communities. The Awards are an important part of NEC’s “Orchestrating a Brighter World” mission, honoring successful partners who have achieved a high level of customer satisfaction and are making a notable difference in the lives of those around them.

Once more, we’d like to applaud this year’s NEC SML Award honorees:

  • Advanced Communication Solutions (ACS)
  • Arrow SI
  • Business Communications Systems, Inc.
  • Epitome Networks
  • Forerunner Technologies
  • Hawaiian Telcom
  • nDataStor
  • NetServe365
  • Okanagan Telephone Company
  • Positive Business Solutions, Inc. (PBSI)
  • Scharfstein, South America

 

In Conclusion

NEC’s 2016 Advantage Executive Conference was an uplifting time of learning, fun, and inspiration, an opportunity to concentrate on the latest technology for business communication, workforce productivity, and reliable business continuity, with a successful blending of education on customer needs and NEC solutions, great social interaction, and receiving the positive messaging of NEC’s Smart Enterprise.

Essentially, the message is that Smart Enterprise brings together and orchestrates the best, specifically tailored solutions, to meet our customer’s individual business needs, and, ultimately, to help brighten their world. And that’s the real NEC mission.

If you want to hear more on the conference, many of the consultants and analysts who were in attendance – including Dave Michels, Jon Arnold, Steve Leaden, and more – gathered for a UC Strategies podcast