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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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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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