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New demands on old stores

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The retail model of the future will be a different experience from today. Advances in technology could improve relationships between the customer and retailer, but says PIETER ENGELBRECHT, the retailer needs to adapt to these changes.

The retail model of the future will be a radically different experience from today, largely driven by the changing shopping demands of the younger hyper-connected consumer. Bricks-and-mortar retailing will remain to be a very significant part in retail, however the lines between channels will erode at the benefit of both the customer and the business. Advances in technology will significantly improve the relationships between retailers and customers, much the way analytics is already doing to online shopping.

Real opportunity lies in responding to this change, focusing on delivering a truly integrated and seamless omni-channel experience. The future of retail is an exciting one, and over the next few years we expect to see a number of key developments taking place in stores around the globe:

The emergence of the smart personal shopper

Online retail will continue to exist for customers who want to buy a specific product and have it delivered to their home. But those who enter a store do so to learn, to view and feel items and to speak to a person. As the physical environment of a store changes, communication barriers between customers and employees such as counters will be removed, enabling staff to provide a more personalised experience.

Mobile technology will revolutionise the sales process and experience. Tomorrow’s retail staff will be unleashed from the sale counter, and given the equipment to connect with customers across the entire store, offering a more consultative approach. In fashion retail for example, assistants will be able to show customers a range of outfits and styles a particular item could work with.

With a real time view of stock and availability, they will be far more capable of closing sales, only recommending items that are both in stock and in size, whilst offering further choice and reducing wait time for shoppers.

The rise of immersive engagement

Walking past a store, a customer’s phone buzzes, offering them to try on the same pair of jeans they saved in their online basket a few days ago. Enticing them in, as they’ve already shopped online, for today only they will get an additional 10% off all purchases.

Location-aware technology will identify customers’ mobile devices, enabling upsell and cross-sell offers based not just on what they’re viewing, but also what they’ve purchased before. As customers roam the store, engagement programmes will link with in-store beacons to dynamically offer up suggestions at various points along the store path.

Here, the loyalty programme and the new found freedom of the retail assistant will combine and, with a shared purchase history, the best retailers will enable assistants to make personal style recommendations, based on customer preference and items they may already own.

Experiences will extend loyalty beyond purchases too, offering experience enhancements such as VIP parking spots when customers approach retail stores, and recognising regular customers on entry.

The end of cash and plastic

Part of matching the new connected consumers’ expectations will be delivering a seamless, frictionless payment experience, removing any barriers slowing down the speed of a retail sale. Eliminating queues from stores, roaming staff, now empowered by mobile technology will be able to transact with customers in seconds, as shoppers keep focus on the purchase experience rather than the cost.

One of the most important factors to consumers, payment security requires additional compliance with higher security standards, ensuring consumers are protected from fraudulent activity and avoiding the irreparable reputational damage and financial costs associated with a breach in payment security for the retailer.

This adoption of mobile, digital payments will further enable retailers to offer things like on-demand delivery options, where products can be delivered straight to the customer’s home or even car.

For retail businesses, this will also likely lead to higher revenues. Just as the shift from cash to plastic showed consumers are willing to spend more when not parting with cash, so too will sales be further strengthened by further dissociation from the traditional bank instrument – the card.

The road to the future

These hyper-connected consumers already in the marketplace have a rapidly growing share of spending power. This always-on generation demand things like fast internet access and a more seamless, digital experience they’re already getting from other services.

While new innovations are being tested and tried in today’s market, much of this development is stifled by existing and fragmented existing IT infrastructure, negatively impacting the customer experience, and slowing the consumer adoption of new technologies that could help drive the retail business forward.

Because of this, retailers are already starting on the back foot. To build a successful platform for innovation across multiple channels, they must ensure the technological needs of today’s customers are fully met, otherwise they face being left in the dust. Focus on enriching the customer experience immediately, and set the stage for rapid innovation in the coming years.

* Pieter Engelbrecht, regional manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Aruba Networks

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Samsung unfolds the future

At the #Unpacked launch, Samsung delivered the world’s first foldable phone from a major brand. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tried it out.

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Everything that could be known about the new Samsung Galaxy S10 range, launched on Wednesday in San Francisco, seems to have been known before the event.

Most predictions were spot-on, including those in Gadget (see our preview here), thanks to a series of leaks so large, they competed with the hole an iceberg made in the Titanic.

The big surprise was that there was a big surprise. While it was widely expected that Samsung would announce a foldable phone, few predicted what would emerge from that announcement. About the only thing that was guessed right was the name: Galaxy Fold.

The real surprise was the versatility of the foldable phone, and the fact that units were available at the launch. During the Johannesburg event, at which the San Francisco launch was streamed live, small groups of media took turns to enter a private Fold viewing area where photos were banned, personal phones had to be handed in, and the Fold could be tried out under close supervision.

The first impression is of a compact smartphone with a relatively small screen on the front – it measures 4.6-inches – and a second layer of phone at the back. With a click of a button, the phone folds out to reveal a 7.3-inch inside screen – the equivalent of a mini tablet.

The fold itself is based on a sophisticated hinge design that probably took more engineering than the foldable display. The result is a large screen with no visible seam.

The device introduces the concept of “app continuity”, which means an app can be opened on the front and, in mid-use, if the handset is folded open, continue on the inside from where the user left off on the front. The difference is that the app will the have far more space for viewing or other activity.

Click here to read about the app experience on the inside of the Fold.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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