What is The Big Picture for Retail? Customer Faces!

Brick-and-mortar retail establishments have fought hard to recover from the consumer transition to online buying. Even standing in the middle of a store aisle, a customer is likely to participate in “show-rooming,” which is to research online and purchase the very item you have right there on your shelf for less money from an online retailer. Fortunately, there are ways retailers can fight back, such as “web-rooming,” where you can enable the customer to find the item online, and then pick it up in your store. But that is barely scratching the surface to what is possible today.

In order to be more effective, as well as improve the customer experience, retailers have moved well beyond the basic point-of-sale into a full ecosystem. In this environment, a retailer can deploy end-to-end solutions that increase revenue while lowering operating costs and improving the customer in-store event. At NEC, we have devised a state-of-the-art retail ecosystem that ensures retailers can complete in today’s online purchasing world. So what is the ecosystem, exactly?

Point of Sale

Of course, point of sale (POS) systems are a given in today’s retail stores, but they don’t have to be the cashier, front-of-store type that we’ve used in the past. Today’s POS embraces the mobile environment, allowing payment via mobile wallets and purchasing applications. In addition, you can run on multi-purpose, smaller devices that are eco-friendly and have a smaller footprint (leaving more room for product merchandising). The smaller all-in-one compact POS terminals, such as the new NEC TWINPOS G5, are so easy to use and feature high-resolution displays and better processing power.

Mobility / Cloud

As we have already discussed in previous posts, customers will engage in show-rooming to look up reviews, price points and shop for better deals. In addition, consumers have become less patient, not willing to wait in line to purchase when they know they can order a comparable or even that exact product online at the click of a button. Ideally, your sales team has the ability to provide check-out services from the floor with mobile devices, ensuring that lines aren’t a hindrance and that the customer is served immediately. NEC’s Stanchion® integrated retail solution combines software, hardware and services to effectively improve the POS system and provide mobility solutions.

Back Office

It would not be an ecosystem if the store operations were not included. That is why NEC’s solution includes back office in the mix. By adding the ability for sales teams to access inventory information on the fly, customers are served more efficiently. Data integration is critical to giving the best information to the customer and keeping the sale. Using NEC retail software, you can now optimize data management so you gain access to information from warehouse to shelf. This level of data management improves loyalty programs as well as retains sales, all at the touch of a button.

Life-Cycle Management

Consumers live in real-time, and expect that information they receive from your own online channels is up-to-date and true. If a customer enters your store expecting to find a product listed on your website, but instead learns that product is out-of-stock, then that customer is frustrated and may not give you a second chance. The reality is that customers expect a fully-integrated online and offline experience, and if you do not provide one, they will find a retailer that does. They are looking for seamless experiences, which require you to have seamless integration for full life-cycle management.
NEC has a fully integrated solution that improves shopping experiences so you can get more satisfied customers and improve your bottom line.

The Big Picture

The NEC Retail Ecosystem puts you on the right road to great customer experience, and improved bottom line. That’s powerful, but can’t be the end. After all, technology consistently changes and as a partner to retail chains, we believe in supporting you through the next wave of technology. So what is that next piece to put you in front of the competition?

Biometrics!

We recognize the power of face recognition in loyalty programs, security, and overall improved shopping experiences. That is why NEC has developed solutions that integrate biometrics into the retail experience. With the NeoFace® Watch system, which uses proprietary face recognition technology, retailers can identify individuals such as VIP shoppers or loyalty club members, as well as track buyer activities at retail displays and capture demographic data on shoppers – the next game changer.

Come visit us at the NRF Big Show at Booth #3653. You can see the ecosystem first hand, and experience the power of facial recognition and take a peek at new retail solutions.  Make plans to also stop by booth 2803 to learn about NEC’s collaboration with Microsoft on an exciting new retail signage solution that combines NEC face recognition technology with Microsoft’s Kinect camera system to create a next-generation shopping experience. The solution serves up digital retail signage based upon an individual’s age and gender, and archives in-store demographic and engagement data in the cloud for later analysis by the retailer. This solution will be demonstrated in Microsoft’s booth during the NRF event.

And while you’re at NRF 15, we invite you to take part in our #BigPicture Twitter contest. Simply take a selfie in front of the NEC signage at the expo entrance and Tweet “I was @NEC#Big Picture” for a chance to win up to $500. Full contest rules available here.

The Big Picture puts a face on your customer. See how you can make that happen by visiting us at Booth #3653!

TechKnowledge: The Best of 2014

As we look back at 2014 to prepare for 2015, we thought it would be great to provide you with some of the best tips from our NEC Today series. So sit back, relax and prepare to be informed!

MOBILITY – COMMUNICATION

Creating a strong mobile platform provides flexibility for your workforce, but must remain secure in order to protect company assets. Take a look at these posts on the subject:

  1. Get the Best of All Worlds with In-Store Mobile
  2. How to Stay ‘Mobile’ during a severe Weather Event
  3. Healthcare Innovation for Improved Patient Experience
  4. Under the Sea…with Internet?

SDN

Software-defined networking supports business agility through architecture that is dynamic, manageable, and adaptable. Are your ready for some transformative technology?

  1. Is Your Company Seeking Business Agility? Uncovering the Business Value of SDN
  2. NEC Teams with Microsoft for flexible, open, standards-based SDN for the cloud

BIG DATA

A critical component and potential differentiator for businesses going forward, big data and analytics are showing up in every industry and business type, as you can see in the posts referenced below:

  1. Big Data to the Rescue!
  2. Armchair Quarterbacks Rejoice! Big Data is in the Game!

IERS

Our guest blogger, Matt Sarrel, provided us with many good posts on InfoFrame Elastic Relational Store, so if you are in need of information on high-performance databases building for high availability and flexible scalability, look no further! Here is a sampling:

  1. An Introduction to IERS and NoSQL/NewSQL
  2. An Interview with Atsushi Kitazawa of NEC Japan, the “Father” of IERS
  3. IERS is Built for Elasticity

We hope you enjoyed some of our best posts from 2014. We look forward to providing more compelling information in 2015, so check back regularly to see what’s going on with NECToday!

Warning Calgary Criminals: You Can Run…But You Can No Longer Hide!

Every day, members of law enforcement risk their lives and spend long, grueling hours trying to catch criminals. They make these sacrifices to protect law-abiding citizens, so shouldn’t they be provided with useful technology that would aid them in their investigations?

Calgary Police Service: Investigative Experts Choose NeoFace®

Recently, the City of Calgary (Canada) and the Calgary Police Service (CPS) made the conscious choice to enhance their investigative capability by choosing NeoFace® Reveal facial recognition software. This decision did not come without a rigorous review process of multiple face recognition-based criminal identification systems, but nothing less should be expected from investigative experts.

The implementation of NeoFace Reveal will reduce investigation times and lighten the caseloads through more efficient methods of analyzing images. Additionally, quicker identifications inform investigators of a criminal’s identity immediately following a crime, thus preventing the criminal from gaining a significant head start while fleeing. CPS will be able to confidently solve higher volumes of crime in a much more timely and efficient manner. Ultimately, this facial recognition solution gives the  Calgary Police Service a valuable tool to serve public safety and security needs.

View Demo:

Bio-Metrics | Life-To Measure

Some may wonder…what is biometrics exactly? Simply, it is the study of identifying and verifying individuals based on their physical characteristics. Not so simply, it includes a person’s recognition through biological measurements such as their fingerprints, voice, DNA, the iris of the eye, hair and facial features.

These are but a few examples of characteristics that police departments use to verify and identify persons of interest. The sphere of the characteristics used in law enforcement investigations expands to more specific kinds of measurements, although facial characteristics can be examined and identified much quicker than the other factors. NEC recognizes the importance and usefulness of facial recognition, and through years of experience has developed NeoFace Reveal into a go-to resource for law enforcement.

NeoFace, Revealed!

Facial recognition techniques have existed for some time, but NEC has perfected the process through advanced technology. Investigators are able to process and analyze images rapidly and with unsurpassed accuracy and matching speed. Standard imaging enhancements, such as crop/rotate, brightness, contrast, intensity, smooth, sharpen, histogram equalization, noise reduction, aspect ratio correction, and de-interlacing, are combined with additional highly developed processing methods that allow for superior image quality and matching ability.

NeoFace advanced enhancements include:

·         Pose correction on off-centered images improves facial matching score

·         Consolidation of multiple images creates the most accurate frontal face image

·         Illumination allows correction of shadows from off-center light sources

The images acquired during an investigation do not always provide law enforcement with the clear-cut evidence or positive identification needed in an investigation. Whether the image is too dark or taken at the wrong angle, a number of potential things can slow down an investigation. NeoFace easily addresses these issues. Poor quality images, outdated criminal photos, or images that appear to be unusable are no longer setbacks associated with facial recognition technology when using NeoFace Reveal.

For more information on NeoFace, visit our web site where you can find more information on this solution as well as case studies and white papers. We are proud to serve law enforcement by providing solutions for society that help keep us safe.

Black Friday Sales Tanked?

According to this business reporter, Walmart is the reason Black Friday sales were down this year. While that is probably not the case, or at least not the whole picture, the results from Black Friday have proven interesting. The in-store sales numbers were down, while the online numbers were up 14.3 percent over 2013. Many retailers, including Walmart, chose to mark down items in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, giving consumers an opportunity to bargain shop in advance. Plus, the convenience of online shopping is difficult to overcome. It’s easy to grab a tablet and shop while lounging in your favorite chair.

So how does a retail brick and mortar establishment compete with this type of convenience? Create an amazing in-store experience!

Did Your Customers Have the Best Experience?

Customers have opinions about how you do business, and if you don’t succeed in fulfilling their expectations, they will shop somewhere else. A big part of what they want is an innovative, personalized experience that enables them to utilize online technology and access inside a brick-and-mortar store. That is a tall order!

Making reasonable and strategic efforts to fulfill customer expectations is important for 2015, particularly for those retailers who spent time this year analyzing the customer journey. To truly appreciate the importance of having a point-of-sale (POS) system that empowers customer expectations, consider who is actually doing the shopping over this holiday season.

According to a new report by Bankrate.com, a majority of Americans did not plan to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  They expect to find deals throughout the holiday season. The report also stated that Millennials were expected to be visiting stores on Black Friday in higher numbers than older Americans, and we are very aware of the tech-savvy, mobility centric ways of this generation.

As reported by the U.K. publication Retail Systems, a study by 1010data shows many Americans prefer to shop in stores because they do not want to wait on shipping. Additionally, 97 percent of study participants claimed they would purchase gifts early this year, with half of those starting before Thanksgiving and one in five participating in Black Friday. The reason? They want to ensure product availability.

Fully Connect with Your Shoppers

Whether catering to Millennials, bargain shoppers or early-birds who want to make sure they get that perfect gift, there are ways to improve the experience by embracing technology that your customers really want.  First, let’s discuss what that actually is:

Going Mobile

Shoppers are price and comparison shopping from the floor of your store. They are constantly connected now, and want to have that experience enabled in their brick-and-mortar store experience. This constant connectivity also changes the behavior of a shopper. They are no longer willing to wait in line to make a purchase. They believe they can find what is needed online and will simply exit your store if they are made to wait.

In addition, shoppers have significantly more information at their fingertips, so they are able to not only price shop, but feature compare as well. If the item you have in stock is not what they want, they will go find it somewhere else.
Fortunately, you can update your current POS to include mobility solutions that allow you to achieve the following:

  • Real-time access to data on the selling floor – Now you know what merchandise is in-stock, so you can serve customers more effectively.
  • Better up-selling and cross-selling – Get that key data to sales associates to help them to make better recommendations to customers.
  • Improved communication – Your team can collaborate from the sales floor, again better serving customers without sending them all over the store.

Dynamic Advertising

The ability to deliver real-time information and highly targeted messages is available now. Customers really want to feel like you care about them and are appreciative they shop in your store. Adding digital signage to a POS system provides you the opportunity to:

  • Reach customers where they shop
  • Increase sales volumes of higher margin merchandise
  • Suggest add-on merchandise to increase average purchase volume
  • Incorporate real-time data to present timely and relevant offers to customers at the point they make the buying decision
  • Customize messages for local storefronts easily

Now you can easily get that “wow” factor in your store and enhance the customer shopping experience.

Time to Go High Tech

Retailers who are able to cater to the connected nature of their shoppers will win the in-store experience, and have the ability to better compete with online retailers. However, to do so requires adding a strategy to improve mobility, interactivity and information by empowering the sales staff to access data and sell from the floor. Fortunately, NEC has retail solutions available now and can support you in implementation so you can stay focused on your business.

This is just the beginning. There are many more exciting technology trends coming that improve the customer experience, support better data analytics and increase security. Retail is in for some exciting innovation!

Did You Consider This in Your 2015 IT Budget

Your IT budget planning is most likely well underway and you are probably putting the finishing touches on it. Or perhaps you work for one of those organizations that has a fiscal year that does not align with the annual calendar, and you are in research mode. Either way, deciding where money will be well spent is a significant planning process. The word “budget” can be such an intimidating and restricting word to many…but it’s an essential annual process and perhaps could be viewed as a way to limit unnecessary expenses and maximize the value of the investments to enable your business.

To prioritize your 2015 IT expenses, it is important to consider the following to ensure you have allocated enough budget dollars. Not only will considering these as priorities help set up your IT team for success, but the addition of strong strategic partners for managed services will place your core team in the driver’s seat for more strategic and revenue-generating activities, leaving other less-strategic IT tasks to a value-added partner.

The Complexity of Big Data

Big data is here, and will continue to be an important part of every organization’s IT department. It is important to recognize that multiple aspects of a big data strategy enable your access to the best information. These include:

  • Acquiring and storing data securely
  • Analyzing data effectively
  • Ensuring your team has the right skills to manage this process

Fortunately, you do not have to go it alone. NEC offers complex Analytics and Big Data that turn your data into valuable insights for your business. Think of these insights as priceless intellectual information your business can use to make smarter decisions. Maximize your business potential by using analytics to decrease costs, improve revenue, drive profitability and increase customer satisfaction.
While your team is focused on the core of your business, the NEC team will partner with you to bring big data to life, unlocking the intelligence hidden in the data, while also supporting any planning and implementation. Our solutions work in the NEC Cloud, on-premise and hybrid deployment models and leverage multi-vendor strategies.

How Do You Cloud?

Cloud services provide an excellent way to empower a mobility strategy, as well as ensure rapid provisioning of seasonal and temporary employees. In fact, enterprise mobility removes many barriers for employees who are either on the road or in remote locations, ensuring they can access enterprise applications quickly and easily. However, the use of cloud in your organization is something that requires strategic thought.

There are many concerns about cloud applications, including security and reliability. What applications should you actually use in the cloud? Are there some that should remain on-premises? Can you be certain that the cloud services will meet your needs?

This is an area where the NEC team can bring broad experience to your table. Our Cloud Services team provides solutions that transform your business by bringing together people, applications and smart devices to deliver communications and collaboration solutions through the cloud. For example, Desktop-as-a-Service or DaaS is a cloud service that deploys virtual desktops that users can access from any device, anywhere. Talk about flexibility for your business! One of the benefits of DaaS is that it enables your business to step into cloud usage in a strategic manner, while giving you peace of mind regarding security and access, all without touching critical enterprise applications, such as financial software.

The NEC team offers a solid strategy that meets your specific environment, from on-premises to hybrid to public cloud services. The important thing is that your business requirements are considered and met without interruption through a seamless integration. Our team is well-versed in creating this environment so you can utilize the cloud to maximize your business while minimizing any risk.

Finding the Best Managed Services Partner

Knowing which services are core to your business or simply routine, but still important, is a key decision to be made…so that leaves the question: Do you have all the expertise in-house to properly evaluate the many aspects of IT and then make the best decision for your organization? With the ever-changing landscape, particularly in the areas of security, cloud and virtualization, it is extraordinarily difficult to have all the talent in-house you need to make the best decisions and implement the right solutions while still contributing to the company bottom line.

Our Managed Services teams understand all these complexities, and have built a strong talent pool to execute our offerings. We believe that rather than trying to do it all on your own, you should have the option to align with experts who act as an extension of your existing IT team.

Our managed services offering, NECommand, enables business through important IT solutions in three key offerings: nBuild™, nMaintain™, and nManage™. These services provide you with the level of expertise for your particular environment, whether it’s implementing a new system, providing administrative functions and maintenance to free up your internal IT talent, or managing those complex systems such as security, we have created services to align with your business needs.

Budgeting and Beyond

The typical budgeting process often means “take what you have done, add or subtract by percentages and submit the number.” However, with the consistent fluctuations in IT, you should probably ask yourself is it better to rely on historical experiences alone to make important business decisions? Instead, consider working with NEC to help you manage your IT future and make solid business decisions that can enhance your bottom line.

You can learn more about our Analytics and Big Data, Cloud and Managed Services by visiting our web site, where you will find white papers, videos and other information to help you make the right adjustments to your 2015 IT budget.