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Retail technology: the future is here to blow your mind

Retail technology has changed dramatically in the last decade alone, giving retailers of all sizes more useful insight into what their consumers do and want.

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Retail technology tackles big data

It is well known that retailers of all sizes have relied on data on their consumers, and in a recent study1 by The Control Group, new details about how retail technology has evolved brings to bear new details, including uses of infrared beams, infrared retina tracking, and even embedded chips. It all sounds futuristic, and it is, but the future is here.

Retail technology is redefining the retail experience which the Control Group (CG) says “will drive significant change in the retail experience by providing more immersive, personalized and cohesive brand experiences as well as new mechanisms for capturing, measuring, and understanding consumer behavior.”

The study notes, “Brick-and-mortar retail hasn’t changed drastically since the early days of the shopkeeper. It’s long been an experience based around tangible goods on shelves and a clerk behind a counter. Even if wooden boxes and coins have been replaced by cash registers and credit cards, the basic process of a retail purchase has looked pretty much the same for thousands of years.”

Further, “things are changing. We are experiencing a shift in retail that moves us from predominantly human transactions to technology-enhanced interactions. A few things have happened that will ensure a wholly different retail experience moving forward.”

First, technology now automates the customer experience wayfinding, comparison shopping and point-of-sale transactions. Additionally, the study asserts that consumers have changed their attitudes towards privacy and expect more from the stores they patronize. Also, over half of all American shoppers shop with a smartphone on hand, and the online shopping experience has become more personalized and engaging than the offline experience, “but people still want to try on pants.”

Shopping has changed, people counting has evolved

Jonathan Spooner writes on the Control Group blog, “People counting technology got its start in the 1970s when one engineer in Montreal, Canada deployed a refrigerator-sized box with an infrared beam that counted every time the beam was broken as 1 person entering a store. Since then, the state of the art in people counting has evolved into an incredibly precise science of visual data interpretation.”

How has technology changed the tracking process? CG explains that systems today count people as they enter and exit retail stores, which can determine sex and age range by reading a person’s facial shadows and wrinkles. Other systems are said to use infrared retina tracking to determine a person’s emotional state based on comparing their image to a library of emotional facial reactions.

Because the technology has changed, as with any industry, there is a challenge in what to do with the massive volume of data being collected, so big data analytics tools have emerged to tackle the challenge and translate endless data into useful information. For example, CG notes that retailers can record the length of time between a customer entering a store and their being greeted, and other tools message the store manager when more than four people are standing in a checkout line.

“Future video/scanner systems will not only track people counts and movement but also capture their interactions with the merchandise via embedded UHF/UH RFID chips that can pinpoint the location of products and analyze this compared to the customer’s final purchase total,” CG notes.

1 “Retail Technology 2013: The State of People Counting in Retail”

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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Business News

Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Seasonal employment scams are back on the menu and here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation surrounding the holidays, employment scams typically have a resurgence during this season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions and beyond aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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Business News

Genomelink is a one-stop-shop for your DNA data, but is it safe?

(NEWS) Genomelink is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. Sounds cool…until you think about privacy.

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dna ancestry tests representing genomelink

Have you ever done one of those nifty home test kits to check your ancestry? In this new world where covid is a long-term reality and the resulting boom in telehealth services, genetic home test kits are seeing a comeback in popularity. What many consumers aren’t aware of, is what happens to their data after they get their report back. Now, there is a new contender in the market called Genomelink that is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. That sounds cool… until you start thinking about privacy.

Most of the major companies in the business don’t even give you the option to not have your data sold, but that fact is buried so far into the fine print, it is no wonder that people miss it. Research published in the journal Nature found that genetic-testing companies frequently fail to meet even basic international transparency standards. Unifying all this data into one dashboard product unlocks even more opportunities for your data to be compromised.

There are four big glaring red flags prospective users should be aware of:

1. Cyber security standards in the genetic testing industry are low-tier.

2. The protocols for how to make your information “anonymous” before they sell it en masse are laughably ineffective.

3. There are no restrictions on who can purchase it or for what purpose.

4. Genomelink is trying to build a platform to streamline access to this data for “all users everywhere.”

Genomelink Co-founder Tomohiro Takano provided the following quote on ProductHunt.com: “We believe in the future, billions of people will have access to their DNA data. When that happens, imagine: [the place] where you will store DNA data and how you [will] connect data [to an] app ecosystem. That will be Genomelink in a nutshell.”

As someone who lives with disabilities, the last people I want to have access to my DNA data are health or life insurance providers or other for-profit interests who may not have my best interests in mind. Genomelink’s vision sounds like the well-intentioned beginning of something with the potential to be abused in sinister ways.

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Business News

9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity

(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.

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productivity outside of the challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays

As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely. One of these concepts that have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.

Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four-day workweek. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.

Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour workweek which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.

The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.

This was done with the goal of working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps to stay efficient.

During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.

There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).

Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old-fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.

Flex hours and remote working are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.

9-to-5 workdays are becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.

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