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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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Epic Games brings a
Nite-mare to Android

Epic Games’ decision to not publish games through Google Play inadvertently opens a market to Android virus makers, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, decided to take the high road by skipping Google Play’s app distribution market and placing a third-party installer for its games on its website. While this is technically fine, it is not recommended for the average user, because allowing third-party installers on one’s smartphone opens up the possibility of non-signed and malicious software to be run on the smartphone. 

In June, malware researchers at ESET warned Android gamers that malicious fake versions of the Fortnite app had been created to steal personal information or damage smartphones. A malware researcher demonstrated how the fake applications works in the Tweet below.

While the decision to bypass Google Play was a bold move on Epic Games’ part, it has been a long time coming for app developers to move their premium apps off Google’s Play Store. The two major app distributors, Google Play and Apple’s App Store, take a 30% cut of every purchase made through their app distribution platforms. 

The App Store is currently the only way to get apps on a non-modified iOS device, which is why Epic Games had no choice for Fortnite to be in the App Store. On the other hand, Android phones can install packages downloaded through the browser, which makes the Play Store almost unnecessary for the gaming company. 

The most interesting part of this development is that Google is not the “bad guy” and Epic Games is no saviour to other game developers. Epic Games is a company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and has resources like large-scale servers to distribute and update its games, a big marketing budget to ensure everyone knows how to get its games, and server security to protect against malware. 

Resources of this scale allow the game company to turn a cold shoulder to Google’s Play Store distribution and focus on its own, in-house solution. 

That said, installing packages without the Google Play Store must be done carefully, and it is essential to do homework on where a package is downloaded. Moreover, when a package is installed outside of the Google Play Store, a security switch to block the installation of third party apps must be turned off. This switch should be turned back on immediately after the third party package is installed. 

This complex amount of steps makes it less worthwhile to install third party apps, in favour of rather waiting for them to reach the Play Store.

From a consumer perspective, ESET recommends not installing packages outside of the Google Play Store and to ignore advertisements to download the game from other sources.

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How to take on IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, whether you like it or not and organisations today will look to platforms and services that help them manage and analyse the streams of data coming from connected devices, says RONALD RAVEL, Director B2B South Africa, Toshiba South Africa.

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Today, we are witnessing an explosion in IoT deployments and solutions and are moving towards a world where almost everything you can imagine will be connected. While this opens the door to many possibilities it also comes with its own challenges such as privacy and security.

The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life; it has been a free for all on a daily basis. IoT is a difficult concept for many people to wrap their minds around. Essentially, nearly every business will be affected.

Managing vast quantities of data across increasingly mobile workforces can be tremendously beneficial if done well, but equally can be cumbersome and ineffective if not managed properly. This is why technologies such as mobile edge computing are becoming increasingly popular, helping to increase the prevalence of secure mobile working and data management in the age of IoT.

Unlocking IoT

The evolution of IoT, despite rapid and ongoing technological innovation, is still very much in its fledgling stages. Its potential, though, is demonstrated by the fact that by 2020, Bain anticipates a significant shift in uptake, with roughly 80 per cent of adoptions at that point to have progressed to the stage of either ‘proof of concept’ or extensive implementation. This means that technological innovation in IoT for the enterprise is progressing at a similarly fast rate with many of these solutions being developed with utilities, engineering, manufacturing and logistics companies in mind.

Processing at the edge

For IoT to be adopted at the rate predicted, technology which does not overwhelm current or even legacy systems must be implemented. Mobile edge computing solves this. Such solutions offer processing power at the edge of the network, helping firms with a high proportion of mobile workers to reduce operational strain and latency by processing the most critical data at the edge and close to its originating source. Relevant data can then be sent to the cloud for observation and analysis, thereby reducing the waves of ‘data garbage’ which has to be processed by cloud services.

A logistics manager can feasibly monitor and analyse the efficiency of warehouse operations, for example, with important data calculations carried out in real-time, on location, and key data findings then sent to the cloud for centrally-located data scientists to analyse.

The work of wearables

The potential of IoT means it not only has the scope to change the way people work, but also where they work. While widespread mobile working is a relatively new trend in industries such as banking and professional services, for CIOs in sectors where working on the move is inherent – such as logistics and field maintenance – mobility is high on the agenda.

Wearables – and specifically smart glasses – have started to gain traction within the business world. With mobile edge computing solutions acting as the gateway, smart glasses such as Toshiba’s assisted reality AR 100 viewer solution have been designed to benefit frontline and field-based workers in industries such as utilities, manufacturing and logistics. In the renewable energy sector, for example, a wind turbine engineer conducting repairs may use assisted reality smart glasses to call up the schematics of the turbine to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. This means that when a fault becomes a barrier to repair, the engineer is able to use collaboration software to call for assistance from a remote expert and have additional information sent through, thereby saving time and money by eradicating the need for extra personnel to be sent to the site.

The time is ripe for organisations to look to exploit the age of IoT to improve the productivity and safety of their workers, as well as the end service delivered to customers. In fact, Toshiba’s recent ‘Maximising Mobility’ report found that 49 per cent of organisations believe their sector can benefit from the hands-free functionality of smart glasses, while 47 per cent expect them to deliver improved mobile working and 41 per cent foresee better collaboration and information sharing. Embracing IoT technologies such as mobile edge computing and wearable solutions will be an essential step for many organisations within these verticals as they look to stay on top of 21st century working challenges.

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