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Big data development is major move for Big Blue

BY CSA STAFF

The phrase “big data,” is all the rage these days and IBM made a major move to drive growth.

The company on Wednesday introduced a new class of predictive analytics software it said places decision making power into every employee’s fingertips regardless of location. The software gives instant insights on big data and helps employees become better salespeople, marketers, human resources managers, procurement experts, and customer service agents, according to IBM. In addition to generating insights on internal data in a matter of seconds, the software measures the impact of social networking channels and factors the information into organizational decision making, according to the company.

Those are some meaningful advances in how retailers and consumer packaged goods companies leverage technology and the expanding array of information inputs that spawned the term, “big data.” IBM contends its new software is a major milestone because it helps clients embed predictive, social, and entity analytics into their decision making, whether on the road, behind a desk or on a mobile device.

“In today’s marketplace, when a customer says they’re not happy, companies must decide how to react – not later that day, or in an hour, but instantly,” said Deepak Advani, IBM’s VP of business analytics products and solutions. “With these new technologies, winning organizations can embed analytics into under-served areas of their business, empowering all employees to make information based decisions.”

IBM has a lot riding on it ability to make inroads in the analytics space. The company’s 2015 roadmap shared with investors indicates it will generate $16 billion in new revenue from the analytics business. The latest offering is the culmination of more than a decade of work by IBM Research and dozens of acquisitions of predictive technology companies.

IBM said it spent $14 billion on those acquisitions and the investment is poised to pay off as the new solutions the company offers tap into the big data phenomenon and broaden the company’s potential client base to include digital marketers, chief marketing and risk officers.

What retailers and brand marketers are likely to find especially intriguing is a new social network analytics feature that enables companies to take sentiment analysis a step further by analyzing who the influencers are around any given topic, who exactly is listening, and why people should care. According to IBM, this feature enables decision makers to factor in how customers behave, what they say, and how big their sphere of influence is in a social network. For example, which other customers does this person know? Does this person influence others in their social network? The ability to incorporate social network analytics into the predictive models used in analytical decision management helps organizations identify social leaders who can influence behavior, according to IBM.
The new analytical decision management software, part of a series of IBM smarter analytics initiatives, helps clients apply automated, real-time analytics into any operational data no matter where it resides, and instantly analyze it to uncover trends and expose hidden paths to growth. As a result, IBM said insights can now be automated, socialized and used for predictive decision making.

Wednesday’s announcement builds on the company’s recent release of its Operational Decision Management software and is said to represent the first time that both analytical and operation decision management are provided on a single platform.

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Saving the Sale With New Mobile POS Solutions

BY CSA STAFF

By Ed Weiser, motorolasolutions.com/mobilePOS

On a recent trip to an electronics store, I found myself contemplating the art of the sale – or more accurately, the digital technology that really drives the sale. While browsing, I overheard a woman discussing the features and benefits of several digital cameras with a sales associate. The exchange seemed pleasant enough and the associate helped her select a camera that best fit her needs.

Having found what I came for, I headed toward the register only to be greeted with long lines. The lady with the camera was in the one next to me. She looked anxious – maybe irritated – with the length of the line and was tapping energetically on the screen of her smartphone. She put the camera box down and walked out of the store. I wondered if she had been looking for a better price or was sending out a tweet for advice on the brand she selected. Obviously, I could only guess, but the sale was lost nonetheless.

How could that sale have been saved? Perhaps if an associate armed with a mobile computer and the right application checked her out as soon as she received her merchandise. In this digital, all access age, we expect more; it’s leading to a steady revolution of the retail shopping experience. Building a stronger, more personal relationship with this new class of customer will ultimately drive sales and loyalty, but it takes the right strategy and investments. To stay in the game, you need to step up your digital toolkit and mobile point-of-sale solutions (mPOS) can help.

POS is not a “point” anymore
POS solutions have been a mainstay of retailers’ strategy for years. New, more advanced technology has transformed the capabilities of traditional POS systems, improving the shopping experience by speeding up transaction times and providing immediate access to product information and additional savings. Their impact on retailers’ business operations remains equally impressive, increasing customer satisfaction and intelligence, cutting labor costs, improving inventory management and adding to the bottom line. Making POS mobile has the potential to redefine this concept and deliver even greater benefits for the retailer and their customers.

A recent Motorola Solutions mPOS study found that 75% of retailers currently using fixed computers for customer-facing applications expect they’ll be using handheld computers, smartphones and tablets for this purpose in the near future. And while only 23% of respondents indicated they are currently using mPOS solutions they anticipate replacing more than 36% of their fixed POS systems with mPOS by the end of 2013.

While there are numerous reasons to implement mobile POS, strengthening customer service is a big one. According to our 2011 Holiday Shopper Study, 71% of retailers agree that improving customer service is their most important goal. With greater access to information from a variety of sources, today’s shoppers walk through your door with a wealth of information at their fingertips – competitive pricing, social network reviews and more. Eighty-three percent of the associates surveyed indicated that “shoppers can easily find a better deal, so customer service is more important than ever.” And having access to mobile solutions gives them an important advantage by keeping them in the store.

A more personal, profitable touch
Every square foot of space in the retail environment has a dollar amount associated with it. Taking advantage of mPOS technologies allows retailers to minimize the use of fixed POS solutions, freeing up valuable space for more merchandise and allowing greater interaction with customers.

Current mPOS solutions come in a variety of forms and with several options. The latest combine scanning, signature capture and payment technology, empowering sales associates to engage directly with customers and meet their increasing demands. A growing number of retailers, like Home Depot, are taking advantage of this new tool, arming sales associates with handheld devices to provide increased coverage, line busting, and full mPOS with payment on the store floor.

The new level of responsiveness these solutions deliver makes the shopping experience more personal and interactive – two important elements in building brand loyalty. By eliminating the walk to the register, mPOS solutions can save sales. According to our 2011 Holiday Shopping Survey, 33% of store visits ended in shoppers leaving without purchasing everything they wanted. This resulted in an average loss of $125 per customer walk-out. Allowing an associate to stay by a customer’s side and answer questions, order out-of-stock merchandise for direct delivery and reinforce their purchasing decision increases the likelihood of closing that sale. And closing the sale on the spot seals the deal.

Mobile POS solutions provide greater operational flexibility. Associates can handle more tasks, manage purchase transactions from anywhere in the store and allow you to better understand customer wants and needs and how to meet them more effectively.

Important considerations
Implementing mPOS solutions does require some planning. To start, you will need to thoroughly evaluate your existing wireless infrastructure capabilities to determine if additional coverage and bandwidth are needed to support the solution. Having the proper security measures in place to protect financial and customer data and manage all deployed devices is also a critical consideration. Others include:

  • Managing compliance with all PCI requirements;
  • Having a POS application that supports, suspends, and resumes functionality and contains an optimized mobile user interface. Scan, beep, total, tender is easy. Make sure your solution handles exceptions and error conditions seamlessly;
  • Determining the right type and number of devices to be deployed – single users or shared devices?;
  • Determining what types of applications need to coexist on devices;
  • Managing those devices. Break-fix service, software updates, implementing plans to mitigate lost or stolen devices, monitoring battery life and allowing for real-time battery change;
  • Facilitating convenient customer checkout in-store, including things like cash, security tags, and bags;
  • Type of payment technologies needed — MSR, chip and pin, PIN, debit – secure, private – separate keypad?
  • Managing cash purchases – how to handle accountability issues with associates sharing devices; and
  • Identifying the right number of associates needed on the floor and what level of access they require.

Delighting connected customers
The art of closing the sale. Today, it demands more – mobile technology, service and engagement. New mPOS applications coupled with devices, like Motorola’s ET1 enterprise tablet, can empower associates to control a sale from beginning to end, allowing them to connect with customers in powerful new ways. Those retailers that do it best will ultimately end up on top. And while IT investments must be weighed carefully, business growth depends on the ability to close sales. The good news is the latest mPOS solutions allow you to do that for less.

Ed Weiser is principal, retail solutions at Motorola Solutions.


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STEIN MART

BY CSA STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Stein Mart shareholders have re-elected the following people to the company’s board of directors:

Jay Stein, Ralph Alexander, Alvin R. Carpenter, Irwin Cohen, Susan Falk, Linda M. Farthing, Mitchell W. Legler, Robert L. Mettler, Richard L. Sisisky, Martin E. Stein, Jr. and John H. Williams, Jr. Eachwillserveoneyearterms

Net income for the first quarter was $11.8 million or $0.27 per diluted share compared to net income of $15.9 million or $0.35 per diluted share in 2011. Net income as adjusted for the first quarter of 2011 was $14.7 million or $0.32 per diluted share. See discussion of other income below for explanation of "as adjusted" amounts for 2011.

Sales for the first quarter of 2012 of $303.4 million were flat to last year’s first quarter sales of $303.5 million. Comparable store sales decreased 0.4 percent. Beginning in the fourth quarter last year, the Company began reducing coupons to return to an every-day price value model. Approximately 22 percent of first quarter 2012 sales were associated with coupons compared to 33 percent in the first quarter of 2011. The reduction in sales with coupons was predominantly on regular-price merchandise, which was 43 percent lower in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011.

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