Understanding Purpose Over Place in Retail

Choice is a good thing—especially if you’re a shopper. Today’s consumer seamlessly moves from online, in-store or a combination of the two when making purchases. For the traditional retailer, shopping options beyond the bricks-and-mortar store can feel intimidating.

Want advice on how to enrich your customer experience?To survive and thrive in this environment, in-store retailers must provide an experience that is different from the traditional, staid and disengaged experiences of the past. To bring shopping into the 21st century, retailers can take advantage of the latest technology to make shopping more convenient, secure and enjoyable for customers.

Changing the In-store Experience

To create a unique in-store experience, retail has become more niche and product-focused. Technology continues to play a big role in retail success by providing real value, not just cool hype.

Data visibility in the store also helps retailers dive deeper into captured data to uncover buying intentions. Stanchion™ Store software from NEC strives to help retailers better Know Your Customer to understand their objectives — or their purpose for being in the store — to make it easier for retailers to meet their needs and provide unique shopping experiences. Based on previous in-store shopping behavior or experiences, retailers can predict a shopper’s intentions.

Combining a 360-degree camera to monitor shoppers’ movements with video analytics helps retailers track gender, ages and number of visitors in their locations. This data enables stores to manage staff better, making sure the proper number of associates are on hand during peak traffic times.. Checkout how we enabled Becker’s Central Canada (Couche-Tard, Inc.) store owners to see up to-the-minute sales information for smarter product ordering and overall improved store efficiency.

NEC is working on a solutions to take store analystics a step further, by tyingdemographic data to POS transactions to allow retailers to better understand the kinds of customers they’re serving and what products are purchased. This information improves merchandising, store operations and customer interactions, such as determining which product displays appear to be most effective and which areas of the store experience the most traffic.Retailers can also use heat mapping to track a customer’s product engagement and “dwell times” at a particular display or locations in the store.

Improving the Omnichannel Experience

Consumers tend to want a combination of technology and human interaction while shopping. Research shows that many purchases begin with online browsing, followed by an in-store interaction. Improving a seamless omnichannel purchasing experience is one way traditional retailers can connect with their customers. In-store associates can provide more personalized service by knowing preferences through browsing history and offering convenient payment options.

Get a closer look at the Connected Consumer with this Infographic:

Cashless AND Card-less Payment Options

Easier payment processes are another important component of a seamless customer experience. One of the advantages of online shopping is easy check-out. As retailers turn to new methods of accepting and processing payments, the concept of waiting in a check-out line to pay may become obsolete.

Check out NEC’s mobile POS solutions

NEC’s facial recognition technology, can take it a step further toward eliminating not only cash payments, but even credit cards. Your own face becomes your currency. Payment through facial recognition offers several advantages. Authentication using facial images helps reduce potential fraudulent payments (added security) and eliminates the need to carry multiple forms of ID (more convenience). Since facial data is stored in numerical data, it’s difficult or even impossible for a data thief to actually the identify the faces. Additionally, facial recognition information can be stored in a way to make it accessible at a retailer’s multiple locations around the country.

Another shopping option uses an interactive projection system to enabling ordering, research or payment without a physical device being present. This is a perfect solution for restaurant tabletops or counters in hotel lobbies.

Future of Retailing

With increased consumer confidence, shoppers will continue to spend, both online and in store. In the near term, high-tech solutions will improve supply chain efficiency. Artificial-intelligence-powered chatbots and faster checkout through improved POS and other mobile devices will continue to improve the shopping experience.

To remain a viable option for shoppers, traditional retailers must continue to use technology to gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ preferences and shopping habits to provide a seamless, enjoyable in-store experience for their customers.

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Enriching the Customer Experience

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Retailers Need to Focus on Point-of-Service over Point-of-Sale for More Personalized Shopping Experiences

Online retailers are offering consumers a personalized shopping experience. As Americans desire fast turnaround and convenience, traditional retailers have an opportunity to beat out digital retail stores that require a day or two for delivery. If the in-person experience can fulfill the same needs, and the physical reward is instant, will a reinvention of the in-store concept lead to less empty stores?

Find out about how we see The New Era of Customer Service and Convenience.

Is it possible to offer a personalized shopping experience with point-of-service over point-of-sale?

75% of consumers prefer shopping in person. #cx Click To Tweet

Traditional Retailers Are Feeling the Pain

Daily news mentions of brick and mortar retailer layoffs or store closings are not uncommon these days. Bloomberg estimates that traditional retailers are on a record pace for closings or bankruptcy in 2017. Shopping malls across the nation are left with empty storefronts and soon-to-be-empty halls if they are unable to convert the space to other uses.

Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales continue to rise and consumer spending is expected to grow, as gas prices remain relatively low. Cowen and Company retail research shows that high-end malls are still faring well and 75% of consumers prefer shopping in person. The key is to create an experience that is much like online retailers: personal and customer-focused.

Learn more about Retail Solutions from NEC.

Explore NEC Smart Retail Solutions.

Clicks and Bricks

Online and omnichannel innovator, Amazon, ensures a hyper-personalized shopping experience and customer journey. For each loyal customer, Amazon knows what kind of computer the shopper owns, which hobbies, music, and books have been enjoyed on past visits.

NEC empowers retailers to “Know Your Customer” similar to Amazon. At NRF this year, we debuted our facial payment solution, which allows registered shoppers to pay for their products with their face. No cash, checks or cards are necessary!

Reinventing the In-Store Experience

Brick and mortar retailers have another opportunity to attract consumers with the same personalized shopping experience offered by online retailers, including instant gratification rather than the delay that comes with shipping.

POS systems, once the only interaction when making a purchase, must now be modernized to enhance in-store customer encounters with the business. Inventory must be instantly tracked and replenished and the supply chain must be efficient to keep up. Infrastructure and applications need to be agile enough to withstand changes, updates all while the company stays up, and running 24 hours a day.

Learn about NEC’s POS Hardware and POS Software solutions to boost productivity and enhance customer service.

Point-of-Service in Action

By analyzing shopper preferences, a store suggesting complementary items through digital signage could increase sales during the customer visit. NEC has collaborated with Brierley+Partners to provide seamless loyalty and CRM capabilities using NEC’s facial recognition technology and Brierley’s robust CRM platform hosted Microsoft Azure Cloud.

Before arriving in the store, it’s likely that the customer may have already shopped for an item online. If the retailer has this information, the store can offer loyalty points, highlight coupons, offer education or entertainment around the item or similar items so the customer is drawn back and stays longer. Staying “in store” is just as important as staying “on page” on a website.

In-Store Shopping Isn’t Dead

While online shopping is increasing, a majority of shoppers are still walking into brick and mortar retailers. The challenge facing retailers is that shoppers are expecting a different experience. If retailers already have the data and the POS hardware, the next step is reinvention. Analyze the data. Make the information usable to create customized, personal, and creative experiences for the customer. Customers want to be loyal. Shouldn’t retailers make it easier for them?

To stay in the know about the latest advancements for retailers, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and check out Keeping Pace with the Retail Revolution Using Integrated Solutions.

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Diving Deep: How Advantages of Infrastructure as a Service Solutions Spread through the Enterprise

As cloud computing has rapidly become mainstream, more and more companies understand the value that it brings to their organizations overall. Even the most cautious and conservative of companies are turning toward cloud computing, particularly private clouds, which address potential security risks, lack of control issues, and offer an alternative to the public cloud.

Private cloud solutions such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provide the elasticity, flexibility and scalability of a public cloud, but can be dedicated to one account, thus providing greater peace of mind. IaaS solutions offer the enterprise advantages such as cost savings, compliance, seamless technology upgrades and more control. So, can these benefits trickle down to the individual job level? Can IaaS solutions make life easier for the various departments throughout your organization?

Check out Data Center Basics, Comparing Costs and Security.

A Trusted Resource for Your IT Department

The office of the CIO and the IT department are probably the most visible areas of the company to be impacted immediately with an IaaS solution. No longer will the IT staff handle repairs, upgrades and replacements of hardware devices. These functions are now delivered by the cloud provider, freeing time from routine IT activities so company engineers can focus instead on more value-added efforts, such as creating new applications for greater mobility or developing data analytics for better insight into business operations. As a bonus, the IT department immediately sees the benefits of the latest and greatest hardware and software through regular technology refresh, rather than waiting for budget that may not come until “next year” or even later.

Check out this free resource guide to Private Cloud.

For the CFO, it’s all about the bottom line

Maintaining your own data center comes with a hefty price tag. Ongoing costs include staffing, real estate and facilities, utilities, hardware and networking equipment, and software. Additional costs include providing for redundancy and business continuity. If there is a need to expand due to new business, continue adding a few more zeros to the costs.

Free Ebook 5 Reasons You Can’t Ignore the Private Cloud Anymore

With an IaaS solution, these ongoing functions are handled by the cloud provider. The flexibility of IaaS lets your company scale up or scale down immediately as business conditions change. In addition, financing options can help the CFO support an organization’s important investment in IaaS solutions to enable business continuity and growth.

Put compliance concerns to rest

Compliance and regulatory requirements keep legal and risk teams up at night. Managing and securing data requires meeting regulations such as PCI and HIPAA. A public cloud requires sharing servers, storage and network access, making compliance nearly impossible. On the other hand, a private cloud IaaS solution means dedicated hardware for your company, making compliance much easier and less expensive to manage.

Make doing business with you easier for customers and employees

Instead of your IT staff configuring and managing servers, team members could be building mobile apps or other options for customers to easily engage with your company. Self-service options in turn reduce the workload of your customer service reps, decreasing staffing costs. Cloud-enabled mobility allows your service teams to be on the ground to help customers in person, improving customer service as well.

Creating sales Super Stars

IaaS also puts customer data immediately into the hands of your sales teams. A salesperson will have simplified access to the data he or she requires to tailor conversations with customers, enabling a more effective sales process.

Turning over the administrative tasks and staffing needed in maintaining a data center to a cloud provider can produce a positive effect throughout an organization. Your best IT engineers are free to focus on the unique aspects of your business. Fewer capital expenditures and a more predictable monthly operating cost helps the CFO manage the bottom line. Private cloud services give the enterprise better security and control and instant access to the latest technology. IT staff is free to focus on value-added services—such as greater mobility and improved business insights through data analytics—which benefit departments throughout the organization.

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Ready to “face” the latest technology for shoppers?

At NRF17, we debuted our new facial payment solution, which allows registered shoppers to pay for their products with their face. No cash, checks or cards are necessary, you just use your good looks to save time and money.

You might have heard about the Amazon Go store prototype in Seattle, in which customers simply walk in, select their products, and walk out. With NEC’s NeoFace® facial recognition technology, which by-the-way has one of the world’s highest level of authentication accuracy, you can give your customers a similar experience.

How does it work?

Our technology matches pre-registered facial images against images taken and stored in the NeoFace® database by the POS (point of sale).  All a customer needs to do is opt-in to use the solution by submitting their photo and entering a PIN to keep their account secure. The PIN is entered at time of payment to confirm the person’s identity and account information.

Pretty cool! Watch our NRF video to see how it can work with you existing POS and how it can be deployed in your store.

Has it been tested?

Right now, NEC is testing the solution in Japan in cooperation with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Inc. (SMFG), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC). In the trials, NEC, SMBC and Sumitomo Mitsui Card are testing the recognition performance, employee receptivity to biometric authentication, and functionality of the service. During the trial the goal is to gain the experience and know-how to provide a safe, secure, convenient cashless (and card-less) payment service utilizing facial recognition technology at other branches in the future.

We are also testing this solution in small shops in our headquarters building in Japan. Our trials are measuring authentication performance and accuracy, specifically when dealing with multiple conditions inside stores, such as, the types of cameras in use, camera positioning, installation, lighting and security.

Where can I learn more?

Retail solutions from NEC aim to help you “Know Your Customer” better. We work closely with our customers to develop a deep understanding of business needs to provide the best retail solutions possible and our facial payment product is just one of the innovative ways we can help retailers get things moving better — and faster — right in your own stores.

Check out NEC’s full retail suite by visiting www.necam.com/smartretail or let us know if you want more information by filling out the form below.

Learn More About NEC Retail Solutions

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Data Centers or Infrastructure as a Service: Comparing Cost and Security

Deciding between building and maintaining your own data center or moving to the cloud or IaaS can be quite the head scratcher for an IT executive. In some cases, the terms “data center” and “cloud” might be interchangeable. The first step in decision-making is clarification of terms and a clearer understanding of your options.

Why move to the cloud? Can Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) be used for a data center? Which option is better for the future needs of the organization?

Data Centers

“Data center” is a general term used to define an organized area of servers and storage, either onsite or offsite, that is managed by trained data center and IT specialists. The data center equipment is used to store user and organizational data and make it accessible when needed. With many data centers kept onsite, network users do not rely on an Internet connection to access the local data. As long as the local network connection is available, the data is accessible.

Cost

Building and maintaining your own data center include the following cost factors:

  1. Staffing and training – hiring IT expertise and paying for training to maintain, backup, restore and upgrade data center equipment, as needed.
  2. Architecting – forecasting for current and future data storage requirements, workload and scalability
  3. Facilities – finding an expandable location for the equipment that is secure, safe and with a low risk of break-ins and natural disasters
  4. Utilities – covering the cost of electricity, wiring, air conditioning and other utilities required to keep the servers running 24/7/365
  5. Equipment – purchasing and evaluating ever-changing equipment and storage needs, year over year
  6. Redundancy – ensuring the data is backed up or available immediately should the storage equipment or servers encounter a failure
  7. Software – purchasing the software required to keep the servers running efficiently and the data storage secure
  8. Expansion – planning for expansion of the data center as the data storage requirements increase

Free Ebook 5 Reasons You Can’t Ignore the Private Cloud Anymore

Security

If there is an emergency situation at the data center location, such as fire, flood or other physical damage, or an attempted data breach, the actual servers and storage are at risk of being harmed and unavailable. Backing up the data or maintaining a data center elsewhere may help mitigate the risk of failure or loss of data.

Cloud Computing

In plain terms, cloud computing is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a set of shared resources and services available to end users (cloud clients), quickly and with little management, via an Internet connection. Cloud computing provides these services via three general models: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS). An example of SaaS would be an email application accessed through a web browser. Platform as a service is typically used in the web or software development world. When developers need to collaborate on a project such as an application or software creation, PaaS offers a good option for a tool or platform to be used in this way. In the case of data centers, IT executives considering the “cloud” would be interested in using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS provides servers, storage, virtual machines and more for the use of running software and other necessary components needed in the IT environment.

Check out this eBook for ways to ease an SAP Implementation or Upgrade

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

An IaaS environment is also considered a data center that is accessible via the cloud or Internet-based services, hence the reason the terms can cause some confusion. The difference is that the data center equipment is not purchased or maintained by the organization but rather purchased as an on-demand service from an IaaS provider. IaaS can be available via the “public cloud,” where the shared infrastructure services are open for public use. “Private cloud” is also an option, where the services are available, but only for the single organization and via a private network. Some providers are also offering a combination of these options, referred to as “Hybrid Cloud.”

Cost

The cost of building and maintaining IaaS is different from an organizationally-owned data center and can significantly assist in controlling budgets. As part of the service, the IaaS provider does the staffing and training of storage experts, provides the facilities and utilities, furnishes the equipment, backs up and builds redundancy of the data and offers security – all for a single price. With an in-house data center, the organization is paying for these requirements all the time. With “pay only for what you use,” IaaS provides customization, agility, control, dynamic scaling, optimization, security and efficiency for a lower total cost of ownership. And with an IaaS provider, there is also the ability to have the “latest and greatest” in technology, making it easier to stay up to date.

Security

When using a private cloud, IaaS offers dedicated servers for the organization’s mission critical data. The IaaS provider is offsite and builds redundancy and backups into the service so the organization’s sensitive data is always secure and available.

See also: What is a High Security Data Solution for IaaS?

Why NEC for Private Cloud IaaS?

As an original equipment manufacturer of servers and storage, NEC is uniquely positioned to offer IaaS to clients without the use of third-party sourcing. IaaS is not a “one size fits all” solution and NEC can tailor customizable configurations based on your organizational needs.

Cost

Because of the lower total cost of ownership, NEC’s IaaS solutions offer long-term scalable and quantifiable benefits to organizations at a predictable and financially manageable expense.

Security

NEC’s hosts its private IaaS infrastructure 200 feet underground at Iron Mountain’s Western Pennsylvania Data Center. Iron Mountain provides FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) compliance to ensure Department of Justice Level 4 security. This security level is the highest federal regulatory standard.

When considering cost and security, IT executives are weighing options for highly sensitive and mission-critical operational environments. As the organization’s needs expand, so will the cost of maintaining an onsite data center, equipment, real estate, utilities and more. Moving to IaaS, as part of a cloud computing solution, is an opportunity for enterprise environments to manage expanding requirements for security, regulatory compliance and business continuity at a lower total cost of ownership. NEC’s managed IaaS solution, as well as “best in breed” server and storage options, offers organizations dedicated servers, stored and physically secured deep in Iron Mountain’s underground data center.

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