Category Archives: Innovation

Artificial Intelligence in Brick and Mortar Retail

Retail Law Advisor Goulston & Storrs PC

Headlines about brick and mortar retail tend to be dominated by how these establishments are in decline while online retail is burgeoning. Fortunately for brick and mortar retailers, their demise is not preordained since tools from the online retail universe may also help them succeed. One such tool is artificial intelligence (AI), which is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years.

Online retail is able to target customers easily because of the large data collection that occurs with every transaction. However, brick and mortar retail establishments may employ various AI tools to collect data to tailor in-store shopping experiences and target consumers. For example, video and/or audio surveillance can be used to track shopper activity in stores, and stores can then predict customer preferences and behaviors by analyzing and conglomerating in-store surveillance. Such surveillance methods can use facial and/or voice recognition software to analyze facial and voice expressions to understand how customers react to particular products or experiences.

Robots are another AI tool that may help brick and mortar retail compete more effectively with online retail. Robots may enhance the physical shopping experience in many ways. Humanoid robots can be deployed into retail establishments to greet customers, answer questions, and guide them through the store. Lowe’s has piloted a robot program at its Bay Area stores, where robots help customers search for products and guide them in the stores. Also, robots are being used and expanded to check and resupply inventory, deliver products, and assist with checkout and payment.

Finally, the collection of sales data can help retailers personalize a customer experience and ultimately help increase sales – whether in-store or online. Data can be collected online and then used in stores, or data collected from a customer’s previous visit can be used to enhance his or her next visit to a bricks and mortar store. “Machine learning” can discover patterns in a customer’s behavior and then make suggestions or produce incentives, such as instantly printing coupons for products that are likely to be desirable to an individual customer. The same data collection can be used to better tailor inventory, customize shopping experiences, adjust pricing, and refine product selection. While all of these techniques are equally useful online retail tools, their utility in the bricks and mortar environment may help these physical establishments remain competitive with their online counterparts

How Retailers Can Stay OFF The Closing List

MultiChannelMerchant

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

Integrate Ecommerce and POS inventory
Omnichannel shoppers see no difference between your ecommerce and POS offerings and neither should you. Make every store’s inventory visible to online shoppers so that you can take advantage of the “buy online, pick-up in store” model. Integrated ecommerce and POS inventory management systems show real-time availability so consumers do not face unexpected out-of-stocks at brick and mortar locations. If an item is not available at the customer’s selected store, provide fast and free transfer from another store.

Use brick and mortar stores as fulfillment centers
Every physical store should also double as a fulfillment center for web orders. This opens up every item in inventory to sales from any channel and reduces time in transit for ecommerce orders. Orders that are automatically routed to locations closest to customers can reach front doors faster than from a central warehouse, often overnight or within two days without incurring express shipping charges.

Go mobile
It’s official — mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop traffic. If your website does not display properly on mobile devices, you’re missing out on a huge number of consumers. But just displaying properly is no longer enough. Navigation, inventory visibility and checkout must all be optimized for mobile users. This has massive benefits for brick and mortar as well when customers on the go can locate items in your stores; they may even make purchases from inside a competitor’s location.

Automate ordering with vendors
The long-time promise of just in time inventory management finally eliminated worries about out-of-stocks. Set minimum and maximum thresholds for SKUs and let your retail management platform automatically order the right amount of inventory from suppliers at the exact right moment. When you know every product you sell will be automatically replenished before it sells through, you do not have to keep as much inventory on hand and can open up shelf space for additional offerings likely to attract customers. You also don’t have to worry anymore about selling out on popular items and sending frustrated customers home empty handed.

Empower every employee as a checkout
One of the worst things that can happen in a store is when customers with intent to purchase leave upon seeing long checkout lines, or can’t find anyone to take their money. The in-store experience must be as smooth and easy as it is online — consumers are no longer willing to wait. Arm every employee with a tablet loaded with mobile POS software so they can complete transactions, look up inventory, and place customer orders from anywhere in the store.

Personalize direct marketing to customers
Target individual customer segments with the offers most likely to appeal to them through marketing automation. Integrate online and POS customer data to segment personas effectively and send promotions that are personalized to known preferences and likely to bring customers into stores. Specific behaviors should trigger customized messages, and look for opportunities to leverage ecommerce and in-store offerings. For example, an abandoned shopping cart may trigger a reminder message that could also include a note like, “this item is also available at your nearest store, would you like us to hold it for you?”

Expand inventory exponentially with drop shipping
Drop shipping today does not resemble what it looked like 15 years ago. Many vendors offer drop shipping that can use your branding and fulfill lightning fast. Offering items for sale that you do not have hold in inventory opens up your website to endless opportunities and it can also be integrated into “buy online, pick up in store.” Give customers the option of having the item sent to their homes or to their nearest store with no shipping charges. If they select a store, simply have the vendor pack the item along with your next regular order.

The next time you see a headline about a retailer closing stores, refer back to this list. It will become clear that one of the major reasons the merchant is in trouble is because it is not responding quickly enough to the changing demands of modern consumers. Provide the experiences today’s empowered shoppers expect and you will have much less to fear from predictions of impending doom.

GE’s New Global Operations Center only one in U.S.

GE is accelerating the establishment of shared services to deliver better outcomes at lower cost for our businesses and customers. Called Global Operations, It is centralizing and simplifying these services to work smarter and more efficiently. Teams of experts at the Global Operations Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, span many functions, including: Accounting, Finance, Communications, Customs, HR, IT, Legal, Logistics, Project Management, Supply Chain, & Enterprise Data Management. They apply their expertise to business processes to make them simple, fast and more reliable, enabling our colleagues to compete and win in the global marketplace.

Cincinnati is one of the four locations for GE’s Global Operations Centers worldwide, with the other locations in Pudong, China; Budapest, Hungary; and Monterrey, Mexico. The Cincinnati Center currently houses approximately 1,000 people working in functions such as Finance/Accounting, HR, IT, Supply Chain, Legal/EHS and Commercial Operations.

The building features open and collaborative work spaces, including a mix of huddle spaces and workstations, with floor to ceiling windows providing sweeping views of the Cincinnati riverfront and downtown. Flexible and productive workspaces underpin GE’s culture and mission, and add to the overall atmosphere, energy, culture and collaboration. These work spaces are extensions of GE culture and motivate employees to contribute their best while maintaining a good work-life balance. The infrastructure and spaces in the new building supports GE’s culture of FastWorks and Lean and promotes collaboration.

1,800 employees projected to be employed at the Center by the end of 2017
We celebrate diversity! Some interesting statistics about our center include:
21 Nationalities represented
25 Languages spoken
50% women
12% of the new hires in 2016 are Veterans

San Clemente approves plan to turn historic Miramar movie theater and bowling alley into events center

Orange County Register via California Rail News

A plan to renovate San Clemente’s historic Miramar Theater property – shuttered since 1992 – has won the approval of the city’s planning commission.

Commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday, June 7 to approve permits so the owners can incorporate the former movie theater, built in 1938, with an adjacent former bowling alley built in 1946 as a single project – an events center with restaurants.

Both buildings occupy the 1700 block of North El Camino Real. The city designates them as historic landmarks in the city’s North Beach area.

The plan is to turn the former 7,836-square-foot cinema into a 435-seat performance and events center and convert the former 5,200-square-foot bowling alley into five specialty-cuisine restaurants with shared seating.

There would be 50 restaurant seats indoors and up to 150 seats in a landscaped outdoor dining area facing El Camino Real. The restaurants could cater for the events center.

Man Saves the Day by Delivering Pizza to ‘Hangry’ Passengers on Stalled Train

From TIME via California Rail News

A pizza deliveryman saved the day by trekking out to a stranded Amtrak train and delivering pizza to the hungry passengers.

Jim Leary heard on Sunday during a routine shift at Dom’s NY Style Pizzeria in Newport, Del. that some passengers on a stalled train less than a mile away had ordered pizza. That didn’t faze Leary, who says he has delivered pizzas to passengers on airplanes and boats throughout his 17-year career.
“I was like, ‘hell yeah, I gotta hook them up,'” Leary, 46, told TIME. “I know they gotta be hungry.”

Firm hired to develop LaGuardia’s AirTrain

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces Parsons Brinckerhoff will develop plans for the AirTrain which will run along the Grand Central Parkway providing a link to Willets Point.

The engineering firm behind the Second Avenue Subway line has been awarded the $14.6 million contract to develop the initial plans for the AirTrain connection to LaGuardia Airport.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that multinational engineering and design firm Parsons Brinckerhoff was selected to conduct preliminary engineering work on two AirTrain stations at LaGuardia linked to a complex at Willets Point with easy transfers to the No. 7 subway line and the Long Island Rail Road.

“The new AirTrain will improve passenger experience, reduce traffic congestion and serve as a key part of the modernization and transformation of LaGuardia into a world-class airport,” Cuomo said. “LaGuardia Airport is an essential part of New York’s economy and transportation network, and by providing additional transit options, we will support new economic opportunities and growth throughout the region.”

Parsons Brinckerhoff will create a conceptual design for both the train right-of-way and the stations, and develop cost estimates for the project, conduct a detailed ridership analysis, analyze public-private partnerships and other options to identify the most advantageous financing plan for the AirTrain. The firm will also evaluate expanded parking and centralized car rental operations at the new Willets Point Complex.

Reliable and efficient rail service, to and from the airport, is critical to manage on-site airport parking, improve drop-off and pick-up activities at the terminals, and reduce congestion in and around the airport, including the Grand Central Parkway and neighborhood streets, according to Port Authority officials.

“LaGuardia Airport is the only major airport in the region without direct rail transit access,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said. “With passenger demand expected to reach 34 million annually at LaGuardia by 2030, providing mass transit access to the airport is fundamental to transforming it into a world-class facility that supports future growth, while reducing roadway congestion and resulting emissions.”

Like any NY City project, the critics are coming out of the wood.

Read the full story in the Queens Times Ledger

San Diego County Tests New Projects April 29-30

During the weekend of April 29-30th Rail service was shut down in San Diego County for work on several rail related projects. One of these projects was for testing the new 3rd track and switches at the Oceanside Transit Center. Here is a Coaster trainset on the new 3rd station track on April 30th running past the new station platform. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

The CSX Railroad Must BE NIMBLE!

Coal likely won’t be a major traffic/revenue for CSX anymore. Coal revenue losses, which have been mounting since 2011, are expected to total $2 billion by year’s end.

So, the Class I needed to develop a strategy to radically change the structure and operation of the coal-dominant railroad for the long term. Enter the “CSX of Tomorrow.” Formally launched in late April and expected to take several years to implement, the strategy calls for realigning the network to de-emphasize coal traffic and optimize the volume-growth potential of the more promising intermodal sector and solid merchandise segment; deploying more high-tech equipment and information systems; pursuing service excellence; and developing a workforce of the future.

csxmap

The idea— and hope — behind the CSX of Tomorrow (CoT): help spur volume growth and increase profitability in the intermodal and merchandise franchises, and yet preserve the business value of coal as it becomes a smaller part of the company’s portfolio.

The Class I aims to develop a Team of Tomorrow (ToT), or a more diverse, versatile and highly skilled workforce. CSXers believe such a team can up the ante on working collaboratively, making decisions quickly, embracing new technologies and finding ways to boost productivity.

The Network of Networks: You Mean THE CLOUD

Today I spent on a project from 2013: Supply Chain Control Towers

Far greater minds than mine have defined Supply Chain Control Towers? There are many definitions but Capgemini offers a good, broad definition that many would agree with: “A supply chain control tower is a central hub with the required technology, organization, and processes to capture and use supply chain data to provide enhanced visibility for short and long term decision making that is aligned with strategic objectives.”

Yes, I wrote about Supply Chain Control Towers and Transportation Control Towers

First thing today I get a message from India. Company wants to know more about Supply Chain Control Towers. Then I read mail (uuuggghhh). Get a blog from Lora Cecere, The Supply Chain Shaman.. She knows more about Supply Chains than I ever will. But she is allied with ALL the vendors in the industry. I trust them as far as I can throw them.

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But she has a great idea: A Netword of Networks

I simplify that to “THE CLOUD”

Back the Control Towers. She and I agree on a lot. Difference simply is I want EDI to be the main communications tool (other than voice-to-voice). She wants to also introduce many existing communications tools from her great vendor community. I feel EDI is proven and can communicate ANYTHING. She wants to introduce things like HADOOP, SPARK, BLOCK CHAIN to the process. ADOBE may be her great friend. All I know about them is their opening remark if I contact them. “What is your credit card number?” Still confident in the international banking system to think BLOCKCHAIN is a lot of B..S We use BNP Paribas and know it’s capabilities.

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I am sure Lora and I will work out our differences. So confident that I have signed up for her Webinar in January.

This is a guest blog from my boss, Ken Kinlock. He is “The Man” about Control Towers

Gotthard Base Tunnel In The Alps Begins Passenger Service

Regular passenger train services through the Gotthard Base Tunnel begin. The longest rail tunnel in the world, it is the centrepiece of the planned AlpTransit rail network that will speed people and cargo through Switzerland and under the Alps. It was inaugurated on Jun 1.

The 57km (35-mile) tunnel is expected to service 65 passenger trains per day reaching speeds of 250 kmh (155 mph), along with up to 260 freight trains. It cuts the 3.5-hour travel time from Zürich to Milan by an hour and reduces the journey from Zürich to Lugano to one hour 40 minutes.

A parallel service, running hourly, begins in the same month on the original Alpine railway link, which involves countless bridges and loop tunnels and passes through the old 15 km (9.3 mile) Gotthard tunnel, which was built in 1882.

Engineers broke through the final barrier in the new Gotthard in Oct 2010. With rock cover up to 2,300 metres (7546 feet) in depth, it is also the deepest rail tunnel in the world. It has overtaken Japan’s 53.9 km (33.5 mile) Seikan rail tunnel as the longest in the world and pushed the 50.5 km (31.3 mile) Channel Tunnel linking the United Kingdom and France into third place.