NRF Showed 2018 Will Be the Year of Data, Analytics and Intelligence for Retailers

Last month, our own VP of Retail Solutions, Matt Worley predicted some emerging retail technologies he expected to see at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show in New York City. He described five technologies that, when combined effectively, will let in-store retailers create a frictionless, more personalized experience for their customers, all while making their operations more efficient and cost-effective.

Now that the show is over, I can confirm Matt’s prediction of where in-store retail is headed this year, namely that retailers will apply these technologies to make the entire store more customer-aware.

Store and Customer Analytics
When a shopper visits an online store, the retailer knows where they clicked, what they looked at, what they read, how long they stayed on each page—and that’s just for starters. The site collects data on the items you put in your “cart,” the ones you removed, and what you replaced them with. All this data is analyzed to reveal the customer’s behaviors and underlying preferences, allowing the experience to be customized on future encounters.

So, why shouldn’t brick-and-mortar retailers gain the same type of insights? It’s all about analyzing and applying the data collected in the store.. Retailers can use it to optimize inventory management and store personnel scheduling—traditional back office functions—but also to elevate the customer’s shopping experience to levels they are only accustomed to finding online.

Shelf Analytics and Order Optimization
Show attendees were very excited about potential applications of shelf analytics. For example, a fresh foods store can keep track of how long items have been on the shelf or in the cooler, to better maintain freshness levels of the inventory. Today, many retailers use RFID tags—to better manage inventory levels and loss prevention. Using RFID tags isn’t practical. Not only are they expensive from an investment standpoint they are wasteful, as tags typically get thrown in the trash when the customer discards the packaging at home.

A less expensive and more environment-friendly alternative is NEC’s machine-learning order optimization application that helps retailers predict sales numbers to reduce inventory or overstock shelves. Shelf inventory and digital signage solutions can identify an item as the customer removes it from the shelf, then determine whether the customer puts the item is the basket or returns it to the shelf. Once in the cart, nearby displays can offer helpful tips, related videos, coupons or other shopping assistance, all based on the item selected.

By tracking all the items in the basket, the solution helps manage inventory control, ordering and stocking, not to mention preparing the customer for the checkout counter.

Such solutions can be adapted to a wide range of retail verticals and applications, to promote additional purchases, reduce waste, automate and optimize inventory orders, and more. All the while, they promote a healthier bottom line, make operations more efficient, and improve the customer experience—just like an online experience does or better.

It’s All About Data, Analytics and Intelligence
This year the focus of the show was less about hardware and more about artificial intelligence, data gathering and mining and analytics. Yes, you need hardware devices to perform all these things. Interactive kiosks, IP cameras, smart tags and displays and so on, not to mention the enterprise software and storage. What it really comes down too, is the ability to connect all that data to the back office, taking and using it to make data-driven decisions based on actionable insights in the store.

Here retailers can see actual, functioning AR and AI retail solutions like CaliBurger. If NRF 2018 was any indication, this year’s retailers will be focused on data, analytics, and intelligence. From the customer perspective, it’s all about the store experience and convenience these solutions bring. From the retailer’s perspective, it’s about bringing customers back from online and into the store. But what it’s really about, is making the entire store smarter and more efficient.

What’s does retail intelligence run on? A robust foundation on which to gather, store, analyze and act upon the resulting insights. Watch this space for articles about the NEC Smart Enterprise solutions that provides a secure foundation for retailers and other industries.

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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

7-Eleven Point-of-Sale Deal with NEC Is About Much More than Payment Processing

As the President and CEO of a major technology subsidiary focused on delivering security, safety and operational efficiency using a broad technology portfolio we call the Smart Enterprise, I have the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great companies and brands.

For example, I take great pride in the fact that NEC Corporation of America has such a longstanding, global relationship with 7-Eleven, Inc. The convenience store giant is a beacon of innovation in the retail industry, and through the years we have helped 7-Eleven build out its impressive IT platform.

This week, NEC announced an exciting, exclusive deal with 7-Eleven to provide point-of-sale (POS) technology to 8,600 stores across the United States and Canada. As we communicated in the news release, for 7-Eleven it’s a great new opportunity to connect with tech-savvy consumers at the register with an engaging, custom digital experience using our NEC TWINPOS® G5100 POS platform.

For us, it’s a great opportunity to continue to demonstrate that we do so much more than provide technology in the store. In this case, we are also offering fully integrated product development, service desk and maintenance support for the next five years.

7-ElevenThese are the types of customer relationships that excite me the most – integrated development and support.  Working with our customer, we are able to leverage real-time feedback in the labs to create a solution that does exactly what our client wants. To help us stay even more in-tune with our customer, we actually have a 7-Eleven store inside our headquarters building in Irving, Texas. We use it and shop there every day.  We serve as a testing ground for our customer, just as our customer often pushes us to innovate in their own environment.

The resulting relationship with 7-Eleven is the very the definition of Smart Retail, which allows retailers to gain insights to know their customers better and build a larger share of wallet. Together, we always have our eyes on the customer.

Over time, I am confident NEC will continue to contribute and enhance 7-Eleven’s customer experience and operational efficiency through a broad range of technologies.

The full gamut of NEC’s Retail Solutions are on display this coming week at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2017 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

If you are headed to the NRF or will be in New York City next week (January 15-17), I encourage you to come by and check it out.  Now in its 106th year, there is nothing quite like Retail’s Big Show.

As you can read online in our press release, the NEC booth #4121 will not disappoint and will showcase all of the technologies smart retailers can use to know their customers better, including our core POS hardware, software, cloud platform for retail, Infrastructure as a Service and lifecycle management solutions.  Likewise, NEC’s leadership in biometrics solutions, specifically facial recognition for use in loyalty program, as well as automated greetings and surveillance, will provide a bit of wow-factor in the booth.  Our industry leading analytics solutions for automated shelf detection, heat mapping and video shopper demographics will also be popular items.

Finally, we’ll be joined in booth by our colleagues at NEC Display Solutions, which offers 4K displays, video wall solutions, interactive displays and large format displays for a wide array of commercial and retail applications.

If you are a technologist in the retail industry, I encourage you to check out NEC’s full retail suite by heading over to

You just might be surprised at how we might be able to help you “Know Your Customer.”

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NEC at NRF16 – The New Face of Retail

NEC brought the latest in point of sale, biometric, analytics, and display technology to this year’s National Retail Federation EXPO (NRF). Nicknamed “Retail’s BIG Show,” NRF presents visionary leaders and game-changing ideas to the retail industry, and the NEC display made a lasting impression with show-goers.

Face the Future

A great deal of that talk in the booth centered on NEC’s revolutionary face recognition technology and how it’s helping to make stores more secure while providing valuable analytics to retailers.

Today’s shoppers want a more personalized experience and the best possible price. That’s exactly what the NeoFace Engage™ solution can provide – in real time. Integrated with the Microsoft’s Azure IoT Hub, Azure Stream Analytics, Power BI and KAIT, the solution could benefit retailers by tailoring in-store advertising based on shoppers’ age and gender using real-time data and content to make offers and educate shoppers, all while capturing valuable shopper analytics.

Another biometrics-based solution, NeoFace® Watch, presented a dramatic leap forward for store security. By integrating with video surveillance systems, NeoFace Watch immediately captures images and matches them against a watch list. Store personnel are alerted to any threats through push notifications to their Apple or Android devices.

Enterprise Video Analytics™ (EVA) is one of NEC’s newest biometrics solutions. EVA captures age and gender analytics to track in-store shopper demographics. Attendees of the NRF16 EXPO saw EVA integrated with NEC’s latest point-of-sale(POS) retail options.

A Thousand Points of Service

NEC’s Stanchion® 3.0 retail suite includes hardware, software and services to enable store managers and staff greater access to data, improved communications and increased productivity within their store environments. As store owners know, consumers have more buying options than ever – too many! It has never been more important for retailers to capture a sale at the moment a consumer is ready.

That’s what attendees at NRF16 experienced live with InPosition. This mobile solution takes POS where it’s needed most – to your shopper on the store floor. InPosition also offers instant item look up and detailed product information to deliver top-notch customer service.

Many NRF attendees commented that NEC’s Interactive Projection System was a fun, “futuristic” way to order in restaurants. This solution uses projection technology to offer interactive, direct table ordering and can even push coupons and promotions to customers’ mobile devices while in the restaurant itself.

Restaurants and grocers were also shown a new approach to fresh item management. NEC’s Fresh Food Optimization solution helps reduce waste and save money by leveraging in-store data to accurately predict fresh food purchases.

To gauge consumer traffic, In-Store Analytics utilizes heat mapping to track dwell times at specific products and store locations. If we used this solution at NRF16, the NEC booth would have glowed red-hot.

On Display

You can’t attend “Retail’s BIG Show” without bringing a really big show, and that was achieved with NEC Display Solutions of America’s breathtaking selection of commercial LCD display and projector solutions.

Show-goers were captivated by NEC Display’s video wall solution using X554UNS 55-inch displays. These impressive arrays utilize Impinj RAIN RFID technology to create a unique in-store customer experience. And for a store that wants a huge, ultra-high definition splash, NEC Display showcased the impressive X981UHD 4K 98-inch display. Or for a more interactive presentation, a new interactive kiosk utilizing a 55-inch V552 display with integrated multi-touch technology was on display.

All Digital Signage solutions were powered by NEC Display’s new Intel Open Pluggable Specification (OPS) computing solutions designed to enable easier installation, use, and maintenance of digital signage.

Based on the booth traffic and attendee response, NRF16 was a tremendous showcase for NEC’s innovative solutions.

“The show was incredible,” said Gary Price, director of sales at NEC Corporation of America. “We were delighted to see a record number of people experiencing our innovations, participating in demos and asking questions about the ways the technologies can enhance their businesses. With our recent recognition as a top 50 most innovative company by Boston Consulting Group, we will maintain our focus on technology advancements to support our retail clients.”