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Retailers must curate customers

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Recent Epson research has uncovered that consumer buying decisions rely heavily on the retail environment, so it makes sense that retailers are searching for more innovative ways to engage customers at every touchpoint, both online and in-store.

Consumer buying decisions rely heavily on the retail environment, so it makes sense that retailers are searching for more innovative ways to engage customers at every touchpoint, both online and in-store. With studies pointing to most in-store purchases being made on impulse rather than pre-planned, retailers would do well to consider how customers engage with the retail environment.

Epson research shows that current trends in the retail sector show that store layout, the use of technology for seamless integration and convenience, and the sensory experience of a space all play a role in moving a customer to the point of purchase.

The importance of strategic layout

The customer’s experience of a physical (brick and mortar) or online retail space has a surprising amount of influence on their purchasing decisions. According to the 2013 European Journal of Marketing, the number of aisles customers tend to visit is also a major influencer on their in-store decision-making. This means that using strategic design to ‘guide’ customers through the entire store would likely lead to an increase in purchases.

Other ways to achieve this include; placing popular brands as far apart as possible, positioning essential items at the back of the store, and using floor lines to create a set path for customers to walk along, to ensure they visit every part of the store. Placing pay-points strategically within the retail space also increases product visibility by ensuring the customer is forced to walk past various product displays before paying for their items.

Retailers can also boost on-the-floor efficiency by making use of intelligent point-of-sale systems, such as Epson’s TM-m30 POS receipt printer Wi-Fi capability to print receipts from virtually any mobile device, allowing cashiers to assist more customers at a quicker rate.

A similar principle applies to online retail stores – to keep visitors interested and encourage maximum engagement and sales conversions, retailers need to carefully consider how users navigate their websites. Some key aspects to think about include clever placement of call-to-action buttons and internal links, along with a beautiful and easy-to-navigate product catalogue.

Mobile payment solutions

Waiting in line to pay for goods is one of the main reasons people avoid visiting stores altogether. However, for retailers hoping to keep foot traffic flowing through the doors, mobile payment solutions are a great way to make shopping more convenient and pleasurable for customers.

Many major retailers are implementing more efficient payment systems in-store, such as payment portals and mobile receipt printers, to take the hassle out of paying for goods. Cardless payment systems are also on the rise, as app-based solutions make on-the-go transactions even easier.

In addition to traditional point-of-sale systems, mobile payment platforms add a new level of convenience which give customers the feeling of ‘jumping’ the queue.

Epson is a global leader in mobile payment solutions, and recently partnered with a major South African retailer to offer customers the convenience of quick and easy mobile transactions.

Multi-sensory experiences

To further enhance the in-store experience for customers, many retailers are creating retail environments that appeal to the five senses, following research suggesting that multi-sensory shopping experiences stimulates powerful responses from customers.

For example, pairing a specific fragrance with the relevant product has a profound psychological impact on the limbic system – an area of the brain responsible for processing smells, as well as supporting a variety of other vital functions, including emotion and memory processing.

However, this sensory combination is only effective when products are paired with familiar, complementary smells. You wouldn’t pair a cleaning product with the smell of coffee, for example, simply because the products are unrelated.

Engineering retail environments to engage all five senses – from appealing to the eyes using appropriate lighting techniques, to creating the perfect ambience through the power of sound and music – is a highly effective way to positively affect the consumer’s decision-making processes.

Designing retail environments that effectively engage with customers, on a level that makes them feel understood and their needs catered to, is growing in popularity within the retail industry. While experiential retail becomes an increasingly crucial area for retailers to understand, implementing mobile solutions also influences buying decisions and provides customers with efficient and pleasant shopping experiences.

Epson’s latest range of point-of-sale printers, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet capabilities, are designed to help transform two-dimensional retail stores into mobile and customer-friendly experiences. Visit http://www.epson.co.za/en for more information on business printing, scanning and copying solutions designed specifically for business.

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Which IoT horse should you back?

The emerging IoT is evolving at a rapid pace with more companies entering the market. The development of new product and communication systems is likely to continue to grow over the next few years, after which we could begin to see a few dominant players emerge, says DARREN OXLEE, CTOf of Utility Systems.

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But in the interim, many companies face a dilemma because, in such a new industry, there are so many unknowns about its trajectory. With the variety of options available (particularly regarding the medium of communication), there’s the a question of which horse to back.

Many players also haven’t fully come to grips with the commercial models in IoT (specifically, how much it costs to run these systems).

Which communication protocol should you consider for your IoT application? Depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of the main low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) communications options that are currently available, along with their applicability:

SIGFOX 

SigFox has what is arguably the most traction in the LPWAN space, thanks to its successful marketing campaigns in Europe. It also has strong support from vendors including Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, and Axom.

It’s a relatively simple technology, ultra-narrowband (100 Hz), and sends very small data (12 bytes) very slowly (300 bps). So it’s perfect for applications where systems need to send small, infrequent bursts of data. Its lack of downlink capabilities, however, could make it unsuitable for applications that require two-way communication.

LORA 

LoRaWAN is a standard governed by the LoRa Alliance. It’s not open because the underlying chipset is only available through Semtech – though this should change in future.

Its functionality is like SigFox: it’s primarily intended for uplink-only applications with multiple nodes, although downlink messages are possible. But unlike SigFox, LoRa uses multiple frequency channels and data rates with coded messages. These are less likely to interfere with one another, increasing the concentrator capacity.

RPMA 

Ingenu Technology Solutions has developed a proprietary technology called Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) in the 2.4 GHz band. Due to its architecture, it’s said to have a superior uplink and downlink capacity compared to other models.

It also claims to have better doppler, scheduling, and interference characteristics, as well as a better link budget of 177 dB compared to LoRa’s 157 dB and SigFox’s 149 dB. Plus, it operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, which is globally available for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so there are no regional architecture changes needed – unlike SigFox and LoRa.

LTE-M 

LTE-M (LTE Cat-M1) is a cellular technology that has gained traction in the United States and is specifically designed for IoT or machine‑to‑machine (M2M) communications.

It’s a low‑power wide‑area (LPWA) interface that connects IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (375 kb/s upload and download speeds in half duplex mode). It also enables longer battery lifecycles and greater in‑building range compared to standard cellular technologies like 2G, 3G, or LTE Cat 1.

Key features include:

·       Voice functionality via VoLTE

·       Full mobility and in‑vehicle hand‑over

·       Low power consumption

·       Extended in‑building range

NB-IOT 

Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT or LTE Cat NB1) is part of the same 3GPP Release 13 standard3 that defined LTE Cat M1 – both are licensed as LPWAN technologies that work virtually anywhere. NB-IoT connects devices simply and efficiently on already established mobile networks and handles small amounts of infrequent two‑way data securely and reliably.

NB‑IoT is well suited for applications like gas and water meters through regular and small data transmissions, as network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Meters also tend to be in difficult locations like cellars, deep underground, or in remote areas. NB‑IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this.

MY FORECAST

The LPWAN technology stack is fluid, so I foresee it evolving more over the coming years. During this time, I suspect that we’ll see:

1.     Different markets adopting different technologies based on factors like dominant technology players and local regulations

2.     The technologies diverging for a period and then converging with a few key players, which I think will be SigFox, LoRa, and the two LTE-based technologies

3.     A significant technological shift in 3-5 years, which will disrupt this space again

So, which horse should you back?

I don’t believe it’s prudent to pick a single technology now; lock-in could cause serious restrictions in the long-term. A modular, agile approach to implementing the correct communications mechanism for your requirements carries less risk.

The commercial model is also hugely important. The cellular and telecommunications companies will understandably want to maximise their returns and you’ll want to position yourself to share an equitable part of the revenue.

So: do your homework. And good luck!

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Ms Office hack attacks up 4X

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Exploits, software that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability, for Microsoft Office in-the-wild hit the list of cyber headaches in Q1 2018. Overall, the number of users attacked with malicious Office documents rose more than four times compared with Q1 2017. In just three months, its share of exploits used in attacks grew to almost 50% – this is double the average share of exploits for Microsoft Office across 2017. These are the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q1 IT threat evolution report.

Attacks based on exploits are considered to be very powerful, as they do not require any additional interactions with the user and can deliver their dangerous code discreetly. They are therefore widely used; both by cybercriminals looking for profit and by more sophisticated nation-backed state actors for their malicious purposes.

The first quarter of 2018 experienced a massive inflow of these exploits, targeting popular Microsoft Office software. According to Kaspersky Lab experts, this is likely to be the peak of a longer trend, as at least ten in-the-wild exploits for Microsoft Office software were identified in 2017-2018 – compared to two zero-day exploits for Adobe Flash player used in-the-wild during the same time period.

The share of the latter in the distribution of exploits used in attacks is decreasing as expected (accounting for slightly less than 3% in the first quarter) – Adobe and Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making it difficult to exploit Flash Player.

After cybercriminals find out about a vulnerability, they prepare a ready-to-go exploit. They then frequently use spear-phishing as the infection vector, compromising users and companies through emails with malicious attachments. Worse still, such spear-phishing attack vectors are usually discreet and very actively used in sophisticated targeted attacks – there were many examples of this in the last six months alone.

For instance, in late 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s advanced exploit prevention systems identified a new Adobe Flash zero-day exploit used in-the-wild against our customers. The exploit was delivered through a Microsoft Office document and the final payload was the latest version of FinSpy malware. Analysis of the payload enabled researchers to confidently link this attack to a sophisticated actor known as ‘BlackOasis’. The same month, Kaspersky Lab’s experts published a detailed analysis of СVE-2017-11826, a critical zero-day vulnerability used to launch targeted attacks in all versions of Microsoft Office. The exploit for this vulnerability is an RTF document containing a DOCX document that exploits СVE-2017-11826 in the Office Open XML parser. Finally, just a couple of days ago, information on Internet Explorer zero day CVE-2018-8174 was published. This vulnerability was also used in targeted attacks.

“The threat landscape in the first quarter again shows us that a lack of attention to patch management is one of the most significant cyber-dangers. While vendors usually issue patches for the vulnerabilities, users often can’t update their products in time, which results in waves of discreet and highly effective attacks once the vulnerabilities have been exposed to the broad cybercriminal community,” notes Alexander Liskin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Other online threat statistics from the Q1, 2018 report include:

  • Kaspersky Lab solutions detected and repelled 796,806,112 malicious attacks from online resources located in 194 countries around the world.
  • 282,807,433 unique URLs were recognised as malicious by web antivirus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware that aims to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered on 204,448 user computers.
  • Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected a total of 187,597,494 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky Lab mobile security products also detected:
    • 1,322,578 malicious installation packages.
    • 18,912 mobile banking Trojans (installation packages).

To reduce the risk of infection, users are advised to:

  • Keep the software installed on your PC up to date, and enable the auto-update feature if it is available.
  • Wherever possible, choose a software vendor that demonstrates a responsible approach to a vulnerability problem. Check if the software vendor has its own bug bounty program.

·         Use robust security solutions , which have special features to protect against exploits, such as Automatic Exploit Prevention.

·         Regularly run a system scan to check for possible infections and make sure you keep all software up to date.

  • Businesses should use a security solution that provides vulnerability, patch management and exploit prevention components, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. The patch management feature automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and proactively patches them. The exploit prevention component monitors suspicious actions of applications and blocks malicious files executions.
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