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Straight Talk

Consumers demand great experiences and desire instant gratification. Whether it’s online or in-store, consumers want information to be fast, accurate and focused on their needs. If done correctly, online retail experiences can meet all those desires. But what about in-store, where you have to access data via a computer that may be a considerable distance from the customer’s current location in your store? There is a simple answer – empower sales associates with in-store mobile devices.

In-store mobility is the most efficient and accurate way to create the type of retail experience a consumer expects. Plus, it supports associates in providing a rapid response to a shopper’s needs, ensuring that the sale goes to your retail establishment. To understand the power of in-store mobile, first let’s understand the current consumer shopping behavior.

Consumers are Mobile-Centric

Mobile Centric ConsumerConsumers have no issue grabbing their smart device to look up a competitor’s product while also shopping in your store. Online discounts, offers and coupons, and competitor pricing and products now are at a consumer’s fingertips, challenging retailers to deliver the same or better experience.

Research from comScore confirms that smartphones and tablets are an integral part of the retail shopping experience. In the third quarter of 2013, desktop-based retail e-Commerce sales reached $47.5 billion, a 13% increase over the same period in 2012. Total mobile spending added $5.8 billion to online sales results, a 26% year-over-year increase. This means consumers are very comfortable reaching for a laptop, smart phone or tablet to make a purchase.

Mobile devices also are influencing in-store buying decisions. Research from Deloitte Consulting reported that smartphones will drive 19% of brick-and-mortar transactions — or $689 billion — by 2016. Through a survey of 1,041 random consumers, Deloitte Consulting reported that 48% of smartphone users said their devices, in some way, encouraged them to purchase an item in a store. Moreover, 61% of smartphone subscribers who have used their devices to shop have done so in a store aisle.

Retailers Must Become Mobile-Centric

The linear process in many retail environments today must be better aligned to a consumer’s desired shopping experience. Today, many retail shopping experiences require the consumer to find the product, hope it’s in stock, maybe decide on a replacement (or leave if they cannot find it), or if in stock, choose the product, take it to check out and leave. If the consumer has any question about the product, they must find a sales associate, who most likely will not know the answer. Then the sales associate must traipse across the store to find the computer in order to provide an answer. This is inefficient and frustrating for a consumer who can punch a few buttons and find the answer online.

By unlocking the power of mobile technology, retailers can closely replicate an online experience for their shoppers and empower sales associates to better provide positive customer experiences. Think about the scenario outlined above. If that sales associate had a tablet, he could simply look up the information right there, provide the customer with all the answers and ensure a sale.

Retailers that embrace in-store mobility will reap many benefits, including:

1.  Increase engagement and sales: Associates can access a wealth of information on products and customers. Simply entering a customer’s name or loyalty card account number will provide instant access to past purchases and browsing behaviors. As a result, associates can offer relevant product recommendations, and in turn, increase cross-sell and up-sell results.

2.  Improve customer experiences: Mobile technology that includes barcode scanning and credit card technology will enable employees to complete transactions from anywhere within a store, leading to shorter wait times. Employees can collaborate throughout the store, requesting items from the stockroom or specialized support at the click of a button.

3.  Retain the sale: If a shopper is looking for a product that is out of stock, she will most likely visit a competitor, or purchase the item online. Using mobile technology, sales associates can quickly access the company e-Commerce site, order the desired item, and have it delivered to the store or directly to the shopper's home, thereby saving a sale that was headed elsewhere.

4.  Employees that are better informed:With real-time access to inventory data on the selling floor, associates can be equipped with the information they need to sell effectively. This translates to a much better customer experience.

Consumers still have a desire to shop in-store so they can see the product first-hand. Online shopping will not fulfill this need, requiring shoppers to rely on recommendations from others rather than their own judgment. By improving in-store customer experiences, retailers continue to have an edge.

Choosing to meet mobile consumer demands will make or break the in-store shopping experience moving forward. NEC’s Retail Mobility solutions provide these major benefits to the shopping experience, as well as enabling store managers and staff to have greater access to data, improve communications and increase productivity.

To get more insight into retail mobility as our team prepares for National Retail Federation’s annual convention, check out Microsoft’s blog and http://www.necretaildirection.necam.com/WellConnected. Also, visit us at Booth # 351at NRF’s Big Show Jan. 12-15, in New York. Make in-store mobility part of your 2014 success strategy!


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The need for processing data continues to grow as analysis and reporting needs expand with business requirements. Accommodating these data needs—while providing rapid retrieval and the uptime desired—has been a challenge for many data centers and IT organizations. Traditionally, the use of clustered solutions with virtualization software has been implemented with some success. Depending upon the uptime and storage requirements, the solutions will vary in price and TCO.

For IT organizations with mission-critical data, as well as large retailers needing to maintain and access data quickly, the requirements for server uptime and processing are even more important. Trying to achieve five nines (99.999%) of uptime is feasible in a clustered data center environment, but often these organizations are better served through the implementation of a fault tolerant (FT) server, such as the NEC Express 5800.

Fault Tolerant Servers Provide Real Redundancy

When it comes to reliability, there is no better solution than the NEC Fault Tolerant server family. According to the Standish Group, 72% of mission critical applications servers experience nine hours of outage per year. However, the continuous availability of FT servers ensures 99.999% uptime, for an average annual down time of 5 minutes 25 seconds (Source: IDC). But that is not the only benefit.

The NEC Fault Tolerant Server provides 99.999% uptime in an industry standard Intel Xeon server platform without the added requirement of expensive and complex clustering software. The real elegance of FT servers lies in a configuration that provides real redundancy. Using the GeminiEngine™, an NEC-engineered LSI chipset for fault tolerance control, the FT server series have two identical component groups called CPU/IO modules. Other than the special LSI in the center, each CPU/IO module consists of the exact same components in typical general purpose servers. Key to the unique fault tolerant functionality is the GeminiEngine. The combination of redundant hardware and redundancy control software enables the FT series servers to provide 99.999% uptime.

If repair or replacement is required, the FT server works as a true hot swap device. Using NEC’s Customer Replaceable Unit (CRU) strategy, the module needing the repair is simply replaced. Once replaced, the GeminiEngine product automatically synchronizes the data and places the Fault Tolerant Server back to the redundant configuration with no operation intervention. Processing has never stopped on the working module, meaning the FT server does not require any downtime for maintenance.

Finally, the FT server is compatible with existing operating systems and applications with a major plus – unlike clustered environments, the FT server requires a single license, providing immediate cost savings.

The benefits of the FT server are easily understood, but how would this apply in real- world environments? Let’s explore that a bit further.

Fault Tolerant Servers in the Data Center

The NEC Fault Tolerant Server provides improved, uptime, simplicity while lowering costs compared to traditional clustering. Total cost of ownership can be reduced by taking advantage of the single Operating System and application requirement of the FT Server. System availability is increased as the solution provides 99.999% uptime utilizing hardware based fault tolerant technology. The NEC Fault Tolerant Server also simplifies the server environment by eliminating the need for clustering software.

Fault Tolerant Servers for Building Security

Another use case example for deploying an FT server is physical security at a place of business, which requires high availability. Even one minor glitch can create an unsecure situation by having impatient employees prop open a door because entry door key pads are not working. The open access allows not only multiple employees to enter, but perhaps even an unwanted intruder. Having 99.999% uptime is a significant improvement and prevents degradation in the effectiveness of building security.

Beyond the uptime, replication to ensure that there is no point that building security is compromised, even for a minute, ensures the integrity of the security and safety of the building occupants. FT servers provide high availability through Lockstep, another unique component developed by NEC that ensures the CPUs work synchronously on a clock-cycle basis. Lockstep ensures that replication is in the same state so that the FT server is truly redundant.

Fault Tolerant Servers for Continuous Availability

Data centers and IT departments are being asked to do more with less, while also being expected to better accommodate data needs and business-critical applications. NEC Express FT servers can be used to create a fault tolerant platform for mission-critical applications that’s simple to manage and can be deployed in the same amount of time it takes to configure a simple Windows, Linux, or virtual server. By implementing fault tolerance at the hardware level, and presenting the Express FT as a single logical server, NEC reduces hardware and software dependencies, complex configuration and administration, and the license requirements associated with multi-node software cluster configurations, creating a cost-effective infrastructure for mission-critical business applications.

NEC has worked with independent third parties to thoroughly test its FT servers, as evidenced in these white papers that provide additional benefits of using fault tolerant servers for business critical applications. Finding a solution that provides high uptime and real redundancy will remain a priority for data centers and IT organizations.

To learn more about virtualization listen to the podcast below:


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Unified communications (UC) has steadily gained acceptance over the years with enterprises of all sizes as a means of increasing productivity in competitive business environments. Most are familiar with the typical “on-premise” deployment model, with UC applications running on servers in the user’s data centers. Consistent with the trend of the migration of services (voice, infrastructure, storage, etc.) to a cloud-hosted environment, UC is no exception.

One of the more recent drivers of UC towards the cloud has been the proliferation of the different types of mobile devices that users use to stay in touch. Today’s employees may receive a call on their office phone and a copy of that voice mail via email, which they can retrieve either at their desk or via a smart device, perhaps using a mobile phone to return the call while also checking more email on a tablet or laptop. The average employee is now carrying an estimated 2.9 mobile communication devices, both company supplied as well as personal. The user expectation is to have their communications “unified” across all of their devices. The business challenge for the enterprise is to manage this element of unified communications (sometimes termed Mobility) towards corporate policies that include aspects such as security and legal/regulatory requirements. The Bring Your Own Device (or BYOD) scenario, where users are using personal devices for business communications, complicates things further.

This is the challenge that UC effectively resolves. Many companies are finding it more convenient and less complex from a management perspective, and more cost effective to align their UC needs with a cloud-hosted environment.

Does that mean that the on-premises investments are now dinosaurs and must be replaced?

Actually, no.

Organizations can choose to run UC by using both a platform in the cloud as well as an on-premises solution. There are multiple benefits associated with this hybrid approach, including:

  • Best of Both Worlds – The benefit of having a hybrid solution allows companies already invested in UC to keep and maintain that solution at their headquarters while running a cloud-based solution for mobile offices and remote workers, for example.
  • Redundancy Made Easy – With UC as a Service (UCaaS) as part of the enterprise communications and messaging strategy, you have the redundancy required to make rapid adjustments, say in case of a major weather event or other catastrophe.
  • Increased Efficiency in Dealing with a Remote Workforce – The integration of enterprise communications with complex business systems allows for a true solution based on open architecture.

Of course, the ability to add UCaaS to an existing UC solution provides business benefits as well. For example, having the benefits of cloud-based software, such as decreased operational costs, coupled with the ability to keep and maintain existing UC solutions, adds even most cost savings. Other benefits include:

  • Removal of front-loaded capital expenses
  • Dependable service experience and business continuity
  • Increased number of services, including integration of business applications

Best of Both Worlds

While not limited to one type of organization, UCaaS is ideal for organizations that have large numbers of remote or mobile employees, particularly when addressing BYOD concerns and providing a unified user experience. The offices that already utilize a UC solution on premises may be amply served and the organization does not wish to make the switch.

Even more important is the ability to make adjustments quickly. The need to adjust to a changing workforce is one environmental impact. Another is crisis scenarios such as major weather events. In these cases, there is little to no warning, causing a challenge for those offices without a flexible UC solution. This is where a hybrid approach really makes sense. Practically at the flip of a switch, you can ensure customers are still served regardless of the ability for employees to get to the office.

Simplifying communication and collaboration is the hallmark of UC and UCaaS. The good news is you don’t have to choose. A hybrid solution in which you get the best of both worlds might be the answer for your organization.

Check out this guide choosing a UC solution.


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Biometrics, particularly facial recognition, conjures images from sci-fi television to cop movies to real-life applications for law enforcement. However, the power of biometric technology does not stop there. In fact, according to a new report from research firm Frost & Sullivan, biometrics is just beginning to gain recognition as a viable solution for customer experience in the retail and hospitality industries.

The biometric market is expected to be worth $6.2 billion by the year 2019 primarily due to the continued adoption of the technology for applications beyond the law enforcement and government arenas. For example, the banking industry has found biometric facial recognition to be quite useful in ATMs.

Customer Experience at First Glance

Facial recognition can provide opportunities for multiple industries to serve their customers more efficiently. Take the hospitality industry as an example. As a high-end hotel, you want to provide white- glove service to your VIP guests. With facial recognition software for the hospitality industry, your staff will know as soon as one of the VIP guests enters the lobby. Now that individual can be greeted personally, and escorted to a room without going through the normal check-in procedures. It’s five-star service at its best.

“Being able to identify VIP guests immediately could enable the front desk staff to have room information pulled up before the guest steps up to the registration desk and be able to greet the guest by name,” said Raffie Beroukhim, vice president, Biometrics Solutions, NEC Corporation of America. “Overall, this capability helps enhance a VIP guest’s experience through personalization of services and increases customer satisfaction with the property.”

The guests really begin to feel like a VIP because of the rapid deployment of high-end services available simply by having facial recognition software such as NEC’s NeoFace® recognize them as they walk into the hotel. Furthermore, the ability to align the biometrics solution with existing surveillance equipment makes the implementation easy and much less disruptive to the property.

Hospitality is not the only industry to benefit from the expansion of biometric facial recognition software. Retailers will also benefit. Consider this – if a shopper repeated visits a store, facial recognition software such as NEC’s NeoFace Watch will recognize her and sends a message to the retail staff about her preferences and recent purchases.

According to Allen Ganz, senior account development manager for NEC, the idea is to provide an enhanced customer experience.
"I've often seen instances when a customer walks into a store, sees the long line and buys the product somewhere else," he said. "Imagine a scenario where you can walk up to a kiosk where you already preregistered yourself along with, for example, your favorite drink and the store recognizes and knows I want my standard order."

    

Is there Any Privacy Left?

Many critics claim this type of technology voids the ability for someone to maintain privacy. However, the NEC technology requires customers to opt in to the service, giving retailers the ability to use this ground-breaking customer experience only with those shoppers who agree in advance.

For those who value a strong, individualized customer experience, biometric facial recognition such as NeoFace is a true value-add. It alerts team members to the arrival of someone who desires to be given white-glove treatment, while expediting either the check-in or purchase of products, and giving that person something truly valued – recognition of repeat business coupled with time savings.

What do you think about using biometric facial recognition to enhance white-glove service in retail and hospitality industries? Would you appreciate the extra effort?


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The Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a user-driven organization focused on the promotion and adoption of Software-defined Networking (SDN) through open standards development, has awarded NEC Corporation (NEC) with the first Certificate of Conformance offered through the ONF’s OpenFlow Conformance Testing Program. A Certificate of Conformance from ONF is the highest level of assurance available in the market today to confirm OpenFlow specification compliance.

dan pitt, don clark, and fabian-schneider with the nec openflow certificate of conformance

Dan Pitt, ONF Executive Director, presents Don Clark, Director of Business Strategy, NEC Corporation, and Fabian Schneider, Vice Chair of the ONF Architecture Working Group, and Senior Researcher at NEC Labs, with the Certificate of Conformance

NEC’s ProgrammableFlow® Switches PF5240 and the PF5248 both earned the OpenFlow Switch Specification 1.0.1 certificate. Testing of NEC’s switches was conducted by the Indiana Center for Translational Research and Education (InCNTRE). The ONF OpenFlow Conformance Testing program was introduced in July 2013, and works with independent labs approved for ONF testing. Once the test specification requirements are met, the certificate of conformance is issued, validating that a company is using current technology and is guaranteed to accurately implement the OpenFlow specification.

OpenFlow Conformant When the program was first rolled out, Rick Bauer, technical program manager at ONF, commented: “the ONF OpenFlow Conformance Program underscores an organization’s dedication to end users. The program assures that the products purchased and implemented are deployment-ready for end users’ networking environments, as well as future-looking for compatibility with the increasing number of SDN solutions built on an OpenFlow foundation.” He concluded that “the certified products deliver predictable results, reinforcing the end users’ overall confidence in the vendor.”

This certification from ONF underlines NEC’s commitment to OpenFlow standards and to innovative network solutions. Vendors with certified products assert their commitment to both the OpenFlow specification and the benefits it provides customers, including interoperability and best-of-breed network solutions resulting in cost-effective networks delivering business agility.

It is interesting to note that Red Hat previously certified NEC ProgrammableFlow Networking Suite for the OpenStack Neutron plug-in. And earlier this year the ProgrammableFlow virtual switch for Hyper-V, the PF1000, was certified by the Microsoft Server 2012 team.

To pilot NEC’s ProgrammableFlow Networking Suite and the certified switches, please contact your NEC account manager or your local NEC reseller. More information on NEC’s award-winning SDN solutions can also be found at www.necam.com/sdn.


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