After working in Sweden for 5-6 years I took the train from Gothenburg to Stockholm for the first time to attend a workshop on Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping. Since commuting across the country was a new experience for me, I chose to be 30min early for the train only to find the doors of the coach locked. Standing outside freezing, I took the time to find my ticket. I had received an SMS with my details a few days earlier, but to my surprise it said: “This is not your ticket”. So my customer experience with SJ prior to arriving at the Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping workshop wasn’t really a superb one.
After 4 hours puffing through the Swedish countryside, I arrived in the capital ready to join DI Akademi on a very important and interesting topic: Customer Experience (CX) and Customer Journey Mapping.
The workshop kicked off with an introduction of the participants and their roles, following a thorough explanation of what Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping is. The workshop was divided into six parts, all aiming to make content customers and employees: Strategy, Insights, Design, Measurement, Management and Culture.
The way to interact with customers and the focus on customer experience has significantly changed during the last 100 years. Back in 1913 when Woodrow Wilson was president, and USA went through the Progressive Era the focus was mostly on the product itself. However in the 1950’s the focus moved more towards the american dream and a very strong brand focus and transitioning into stronger customer relations through the 1970’s and 1980’s.
The focus on Customer Experience as we know is today started for real around the millennium, where new technology became available to both understand and interact with the customer. Also the consumers matured and expected more than just a product, introducing terminology like retailtainment and entertainmerce.
At its core, Customer Journey Mapping is a methodology that enable insight and understanding of customer’s with the aim of developing products or services that support innovation and business development through earning the satisfaction and loyalty of your customers. In a nutshell, I would call it a form of result oriented customer service.
The duration of the workshop was two days, at first out instructors focused on using theory to teach us how to work with Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping for our businesses before switching to practical application when we had grasped the basics of the concept.
The workshop was tailored to serve a wide range of people, specifically people responsible for customer experience, others were business managers, business developers, support and customer service managers, marketing managers and marketers, strategists, and product owners. Learning about Customer Experience together availed is the opportunity to create connections and offer each other insights relating to our various fields.
I learnt that Customer Experience Management is a strategy, methodology and process to manage a customers exposure, interaction and transaction with a corporation, a product/service and a brand. The discipline that is about developing service and business models that prioritize the customer in all of the company’s business processes, thus creating favorable conditions for growth. One of the fundamental aspects of CX is taking time to understanding the customer’s experience and contact points with your company. It involves careful documentation and recording of all forms of contact between a customer and the company to the extent that at a glance the customer’s journey can be visualized and understood easily; A Customer Journey Map if you will, which is a documentation/mapping of all the customer’s contacts with you as a company.
During the course of the two-day workshop on learning about Customer Experience, we created a Customer Journey Map for a fictitious company and integrated the results into our respective businesses. We started off by understanding Customer Experience as a business discipline and it’s concepts, what makes up a customer experience and how to understand it. We then proceeded to Customer Journey Mapping, creates models with the aid of working methods, practical steps and guidance. A large part of the workshop was focused on “learning by doing”.
We moved onto Persona and Empathy mapping, gathering customer insights, customer needs and behavior, contact points and channels. This part was more about how to appropriately gauge a customer’s response and feelings when they make contact with our business. We were also taught how to effectively record these to facilitate these to facilitate business growth modeling. Happy customer = better business!
Our knowledge on the workshop was then put to the test by presenting us with practical exercises on creating Customer Journey Map and how to measure the progress of our services linked to Customer Journey Mapping.
The final part of the learning curve was the most delicate: Business development and business management with CX and how you can introduce change to our business specifically. We were made to understand that without actual measurable growth, the aim of the workshop would not be met. So in essence, all CX and Customer Journey Mapping should lead to measurable growth.
Attending the two day workshop armed me with a lot of new skills in dealing with customers and I learnt basic understanding of Customers and experience as a business discipline. What I consider to be the most vital lesson learnt is understanding how an empathetic approach to customers can create an atmosphere that encourages sustainability and profitability in business for your company.
With all these exciting business models, I’m quite ready and anticipate implementing Customer Experience work plan!
What better way to start the week than crunching and visualizing data. I joined the Dashboard in a Day workshop by Microsoft and Random Forest, a one day hands-on workshop designed for business analysts.
I have to say that I really enjoy digging into new tools and learning about new technology. Even if I am probably not going to be working directly with PowerBI, it makes my job easier by understanding what is possible and the boundaries of the tool.
Kicking off with a short introduction (and the mandatory Microsoft advertisements), we dove straight into the PowerBI Desktop application itself, learning how to connect to, import and transform data from various sources. After preparing the data, reformatting and splitting fields, we moved on to exploring data with powerful visualization tools.
The exercises were quite comprehensive, and at some point I went rough and chose to implement some of my own visualizations instead.
The event was well organized and planned, the assets were categorized in a way that made it easier to identify the specific assets that suited our needs. The attendee content consisted of Lab Manuals and Datasets that were available for download on MPN without requirement for an MPN ID.
Towards the end of the day the guys from Random Forest ensured that we had a good working knowledge and familiarity with Power BI and possessed the ability to answer questions concerning the workshop or Power BI in general. It was a tremendous learning experience and I couldn’t wait to try out those awesome new technologies! They even spent the last couple of hours of the day to support and guide us through our own datasets. I brought some statistics from one of our Business Units, and it was quite impressive how I could visualize and interactively navigate through the data.
All in all an exciting workshop, and I look forward to playing more with PowerBI in the future. If you have any questions or great ideas, feel free to contact me at email@example.com 🙂
Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci are everything a shopaholic would want. These brands have been classified as the cream of brands that have kept them as the most wanted items. Thus, with the most durable materials and elegant designs, it is hard to resist them.
However, as prices are exorbitant, fake products similar to these brands have begun to exist. These duplicates have been created with so much similarity that it becomes very hard to draw a line between the original and fake. Therefore, the notion of Blockchains became the best solution to tackle this problem at hand.
Fake products and its’ impact on the originals
As mentioned in my previous article, most of these luxury products are hard to afford for a vast majority of people. These products have been aimed at the high-class society who can afford them.
However, the rationale behind this high price is that these brands focus on customer satisfaction, experience and are very committed to each product that is released. The quality of products is always top-notch which is why the price is a bit steep.
Due to this pressing factor, many duplicates have been created so that others can buy these products as well. In many Asian countries like India, streets are filled with fake and original products that even consumers are not able to distinguish them.
In fact, the duplicates come in various categories often sold as original for higher prices but affordable than the originals. Statistics reveal that counterfeit markets earn up to $450 million a year.
As discussed in my previous article, the issue is that since these products are given at a lower cost, they tend to be of low quality. This, in turn, ruins the reputation of the original that negatively impacts the brands. Therefore, due to this rising concern, customers and business partners as well lose the trust that they have of these luxury brands and end up demanding for refunds or exchanges.
The worst-case scenario is when they completely stop using the products and give negative reviews that tarnish the image of the brands.
On the other hand, these luxury brands fail to create more unique designs and neglect to think of the betterment of them. Rather, they end up spending time and money solving these quandaries that are a nuisance to them.
Blockchain Technology as a solution
The Blockchain technology is designed to bring in more transparency to products which proves the authenticity which is what the customers now look for. The one factor that consumers now look for is the sustainability of products along with authenticity.
This is due to the increased vulnerability of paying more and getting their hands on fake products. Consumers are even willing to pay more if the goods are more durable which was revealed in the 2015 Nelson Global Sustainability report. Thus, thanks to Blockchain, it shields these brands from the eyes of fake producers.
One of the blockchain technologies that is worthy to discuss is Curate. It is a decentralized app that gives digital tokens when scanned gives the history and origin of the product. This is vital because most of these luxury brands have set high prices because they do not compromise on quality which fake producers do.
Brands like Gucci and Zara have begun using this for the benefit of the consumers. Therefore, customers are protected from being exposed to fake producers or buying duplicate products.
This Curate project uses a remote frequency identification system that uses RFID smart tags which assures the authenticity and genuineness of the products. You can scan codes and even see the history of garments or fabrics.
Another plus point is that it rewards consumers with crypto currencies when they contribute to the platform. You can give positive votes and reviews so that it increases the credibility of the brands and this reward system ensures that the platform is a transparent community not plagued with counterfeits.
This, in turn, increases sales as well since it portrays the genuineness of products particularly of luxury brands like Louis Vitton which always tends to fall into the hands of fake producers.
Louis Vuitton’s AURA
Another concept that was introduced by the owner of Louis Vuitton is the Aura which is built using Quorum. It is an Ethereum blockchain and began on June 2019. This was created to track and authenticate luxury goods. This platform will initially be used by Dior and the luxury handbag brand Louis Vuitton. It will then be open to 60 other luxury brands as well. It is a private blockchain that was developed by JP Morgan and aims to enhance privacy.
Through this platform, customers can see information about the products and the materials used. In this way, users will know the genuineness of the products and its originality will not be an issue. You can even trace the origin from the raw materials until the point of sale and it also protects from fraudulent ads. It is, in fact, the best way to enhance brand authentication.
However there is no specific app for Aura, but it will do its’ job veiled behind the app of the luxury brands. In a market filled with counterfeited products, Aura is a vital tool to ensure the credibility of original products.
The blockchain technology is a great approach for tracking the genuine product and handling counterfeit markets like India and China who have a history of creating fake products that are very much similar to the original brands. Therefore, Blockchain technology is the remedy to the woes of luxury brands and with this technology, one can feel very confident about the future of luxury brands and its’ reputation untouched by fake producers.
If you are interested in hearing more about the future of retail and bloackchain, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
These days there is a lot of publicity about transitioning from one gender to the other and it is quite positive. As way of introduction, transitioning is the process of changing one’s gender presentation and/or sex characteristics to accord with one’s inner sense of gender identity. Non-binary people’s internal sense of gender identity is neither solely female nor male. For transgender and transsexual people, this process commonly involves reassignment therapy, which could hormone replacement therapy and/or sex reassignment surgery, with their gender identity being opposite that of their birth-assigned sex and gender. Transitioning might involve medical treatment, but it does not always involve it. Cross-dressers, drag queens, and drag kings tend not to transition, since their gender presentations are often only adopted temporarily.
Transition begins with a personal decision to transition, prompted by the feeling that one’s gender identity does not match the sex that one was assigned at birth. One of the most significant parts of transitioning for many transgender people is coming out for the first time. Transitioning is a process, not an event, that can take anywhere between several months and several years. Transitioning generally begins where the person feels comfortable: for some, this begins with their family with whom they are intimate and reaches to friends later or may begin with friends first and family later. Sometimes transitioning is at different levels between different spheres of life. For example, someone may transition far with family and friends before even coming out at work.
Growing up, my friend Emma always felt like a part of her was always hidden, even when she tried to fit into people’s expectations as best she could. Dating boys because this was expected, wearing pink dresses to comfort the family. When she eventually accepted who she was and made the decision to transition, there was a prompt improvement in his self-image, confidence, and mental health. The growth he experienced since transitioning has been extremely reviving since I was with him every step of the way. His initial transition wasn’t easy, and there were a lot of potholes and obstacles along the way. To make the change less difficult I advised him to talk to and read about as many trans people as possible, and learn from their successes and failures.
Luckily Emma has a father and uncle that has supported her, probably even before she understood that she is not a girl, but a boy. She confided in me that she has felt like a boy from her childhood, but trying to keep up with expectations and family appearances she took the role as the younger daughter.
So, the girl is a boy. In conservative US, probably not a straight forward transition.
He fought with his true self for some time. Cutting the hair short, tucking in the breasts, getting tattoos. His interest in all the things considered male and it must have been challenging to find common ground with the few female friends that stuck around. It got to a point that he had to have boyfriends he wasn’t attracted to just to throw his mother off his back and not stick our like a sore thumb. Looking back, it’s sad to realize that his mother were one of the biggest challenges he had to overcome; transitioning would’ve been a lot more easier with her support.
When he got older he had a period transitioning from straight to lesbian. Dating girls for some time was a relief. Still, he felt that he needed to be sure. Over and over, he asked himself if he was more as male or female.
If you’re in a relationship, it is extremely difficult to predict with certainty what course the relationship will take—but it will be affected. I hate having to say this one. He and his partner were really committed, despite mentally preparing themselves after reading a lot about how often couples break up when a partner transitions, and I think they toughed it out for a while. But neither of them was truly prepared for how deeply the changes would affect them.
Wherever you are and however you look, you are still the same person. When I talk to young trans people, this is the biggest thing I stress. Transitioning is a way to live your truth more authentically, but your baggage will still come with you. For all its challenges, transitioning is the best thing Ethan(Emma) did for himself. I am grateful he found in me an older and wiser confidant who told him that yes, it is totally all worth it to look in the mirror and recognize yourself as you should be.
The people that push you to prove this aspect of your existence will seldom accept any facts, and will skate around the multitude of flaws in their very repetitive and hollow arguments. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with friends or family if they are not supportive. It will be awful to lose someone you’ve loved a long time, but keeping a negative influence in you will do more harm to you than losing them.
Diversity is important and admittedly there has been progress in creating a world people realize that differences do not harm anyone, and thus creating an atmosphere for people to be expressive of their differences. Tradition is delaying evolution, we need girls, boys, trans, intersex, lesbians and gays with their individual perspectives and unique ideas to help us evolve and create a better world. I’m glad I have known Ethan and being able to support him all the way to the man he is.
I had the opportunity to attend the Norwegian Trade Conference in Oslo 24th September featuring some of the most interesting retailers in Norway, and even a couple of international speakers. The focus for this years conference was BOPIS + BORIS = True, but some of the keynotes also focused on traditional retail and omnichannel.
Trade is never a dying concept but rather a constantly changing industry. This rapid change and advancement bought in two e-commerce acronyms to the market. This is none other than BOPIS which is abbreviated for buy online and pick up in-store facility and BORIS which is bought online and return in-store. So what does this give your business? How does it support customers to have a better shopping experience? These are the questions we intend to answer by the end of this article.
These new purchasing behaviors have widened the scope of shopping gives more flexibility and convenience to your business. Let’s dig in deeper and see what advantages these new Omni channels provide you with.
From apocalypse to renaissance?
Trade would never reach an apocalypse. Rather, it gives new beginnings just like the renaissance. So, it can be related to it as well. There is one question that many have in mind when it comes to engaging consumers and maintaining relationships with them further with regards to trade and business. Is trade all about customer experience or it solely based on price?
Recent statistics that mainly focused on Norwegians show that Norwegian shoppers who shopped in physical brick and mortar stores in Norway increased by 16% from 2012-2018 and those who shopped abroad in physical stores increase by 76% in the same time frame.
On the other hand, Norwegian shoppers who purchased from Norwegian online stores increased by 101% and purchasing from international stores increased by 146% from 2012-2018.
It also revealed that 50% of consumers preferred physical stores whereas 20% preferred online stores. However, 30% did not really have a particular preference.
Therefore, these facts show that customer service is not just a department or a small fraction in the trade industry. It plays a bigger role as the main purpose is to build a loyal member and focus every aspect of keeping the customer in the center. Simply said, the customer is the boss! Not to forget while the store is 50%, delivery is equally important and takes about another 50% nowadays.
From apocalypse to relevance
Peterson was the speaker of the year during “The Big Show” in New York in January and has about 30 years of experience as a retailer, strategist, and speaker. His innovative approaches to modern retail and strong expertise in cultural trends are his specialty.
It was pointed out that retail closures were more than openings in the USA and the sole reason was shoppers were looking for more facilities than just shopping. Whilst shopping, they looked for eating spots and food halls are a great technique. They also look into children’s play areas, fitness centers, green spaces to relax, farmers’ markets, places to buy household items and other facilities. For example, farmers’ markets have 3985 in 2014 to 9027 in 2019 as buying fresh fruits and vegetables has increased over the years and a consumer on average spends about $16 per visit.
Therefore, many shoppers looked for an all-in-one place to get all that they need. Therefore, incorporating this concept shows that shopping is not dead yet, but rather the way shopping is done must be changed. This is where BOPIS and BORIS become two famous traditions that are followed these days for customer convenience.
BOPIS and BORIS
Unlike earlier days, people are less patient and expect instant gratification. Thus, BOPIS is very useful for people who are stuck in workplaces or traffic and do not really have the time to choose items in shops. Through this, they get the option of choosing the goods they need online and picking it up on the store. This saves time for people with busy schedules to smoothen their shopping. On the other hand, when customers pick their goods, 75% of them also purchase additional items while in-store.
Looking at the near future, the use of technology will be more heavily incorporated into shopping. For example, having 3-D views of products and being able to visually shop their stores and getting it delivered.
This is another option where you could buy online and get it delivered. However, if you want to exchange or return to a physical store, you can do so. So the hassle of return shopping is eliminated and is a convenient service. The benefit of it is that when customers visit the store to return goods, there is a high chance that they might exchange or even buy additional goods.
But these innovations won’t mean it is the end of shopping centers because having physical stores gives delight to people which virtual stores cannot give. People like to touch, feel or smell which online stores cannot give because those sensations can induce spontaneous purchases.
The line between physical stores and online stores will get thinner and thinner day by day and a new concept will come known as a physical store which will create a fluid web-to-store system with a smooth customer experience. Therefore, many different methods will be used with different approaches to reach different audiences.
How to create total seamlessness between the web and the store?
As Hauk Landsverk, Digital Director of Elkjøp expressed, to create a seamless integration between web and physical store is through these omnichannel approaches like BOPIS and BORIS to create a link between physical stores and mobile, telephone or computer devices. Through these, customers will enjoy the benefits of technology which will simultaneously cater to their needs as well. It will be customer-centric rather than product-centric where it is based on the customer’s journey and experience which is a fundamental factor.
It speeds off the web
Siv Heleen Grødem, entrepreneur and owner of the Suser i Sivet highlights certain strategies to enhance the shopping experience such as instead of selling individual clothes, you sell a full costume. Apart from that other factors like social media promotions by stores, online presence and personal services like cash on delivery are a few aspects that also enhance the shopping experience.
Suser i Sivet also won the prestigeous award for retailer of the year: “The winner is the result of hard and planned work over many years, a willingness to invest and dare to try out new things and excellent marketing in social media. The result is a modern, forward-thinking business that masters the demanding art of combining online sales and physical store in an excellent way.”
Different industries, same customer – how to meet future customer needs
Ingjerd Blekeli Spiten, Executive Vice President of PersonMarked highlights modern payment options like mobile banking and paying online as new developments that make purchasing more easier and convenient. Most banks and online payment gateways are trustworthy and reliable where almost 90% of people trust their banks and 20% of the people trust global payment systems like PayPal. There are few others as well that rely on social media payments, IT companies or mobile companies.
Keeping up with the consumers – how Zalando aims to become the starting point for fashion
David Hejgaard, Regional Lead Nordics of Zalando reflects on Moore’s law stating evolution is much faster than ever where customers tend to shop anywhere at any time of the day. Most physical stores have partnered with virtual stores where people can choose the color and size of what they need. If this is available in the virtual warehouse, they can purchase it.
How to prepare for a different future?
Truls Fjeldstad, Director of marketing and business intelligence at NorgesGruppen is a charismatic guy who mainly focuses on sustainability. He believes that classical stores where you pick and pay will continue to exist and never halt. Thus, to prepare for this, new features and services must be introduced to support the traditional brick and mortar stores. These include personal assistants, IoT, automation, and delivery as well.
How to leverage customer data and not just collect it?
Anton Nytorp, Head of CoopX at Coop Norway is a firm believer in heat mapping. This is a great technique to understand customer’s purchasing behaviors in the store. These analytics show actions and what your customers usually like. It is a good way to record data in a way that can be interpreted rather than just merely collecting it.
Furthermore, placing similar products of different vendors is another great technique so consumers have many options to choose from if they don’t like a particular product type or brand. This also shows and helps identify which products are more likely to be bought. Having an unmanned- store in Norway is also on the bucket list as it will show what customers actually want and not forced or induced to buy sales representatives.
Symbolic consumption and self-concept
Siv Skard, Associate Professor at Kristiania University College researches consumer behavior. She highlights that people are always concerned about how others look at them and judge them. This is a great point that can be taken advantage of from a business perspective. People are self-centered and if they notice that they are being watched, you can promote concepts like ‘go green’ or ‘go healthy’ which people tend to buy.
How to create results online from the first click?
Rune Kjeldsen, General Manager at “Hekta på Tur” began his first business at the age of 22 which was sold to a Dutch company. He then began an online store called Hekta Pa Tur which has steady and stable growth. Today it is a leading profitable store.
Thus the moral of the story is when the wind of change blows, you must build a windmill if you’re a winner because losers will build wind-shields instead.
The customer experience is what will differentiate you from the competitors in the future.
Always keep in mind that customer experience is far more important than having a good customer service system. Thus, to ensure smooth and efficient customer experience, it is necessary to indulge in profitable and sustainable business models inclusive of Omni channels like BOPIS and BORIS. These strategies are what gives customers a better overall experience.
Sveinung Jørgensen, Associate Professor at INN and Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen, Associate Professor at NHH research on sustainable and profitable business models working closely with Norwegian and international companies. They have published a book together called ‘RESTART 7 Roads for Sustainable Business Models’. You can read more about them at www.JorgensenPedersen.no.
There are a few ways to enhance the customer experience. You can Redesign the business model and approach focusing on a customer-centric fashion model as it is important to see through the customer’s eyes.
Controlled experiments is another process of understanding customers and to see their issues beforehand. You can see the usability of the products, how well people can use and their overall experience and impression of the particular product or service.
Another method is Circular processes whichare usually adapted by product-oriented companies who have sought ways to give in a service and benefit from it. For example, you purchase a washing machine and pay in a cycle whereas the manufacturer will ensure that it works properly and service it when needed. Service logic is quite similar to a circular process and is relatively new which focuses on exchanging services than just goods.
Alliances are equally important to engage with your customers and communicate with them throughout their shopping journey. You can get information such as feedback, their experiences. Knowing these you can adapt means to ensure customer’s expectations are met. Another important aspect is Results that are obtained by different analysis will help you identify loopholes and fix any issues to enhance the overall customer experience. The three dimensions of customer experience are segregated into three elements. The first is a success where the customer is able to get what he/she requires and also see if the interaction was successful or not. An effort is analyzed to see how much effort the customer had to personally put to get a successful interaction. Lastly, emotion is whether the overall interaction left the customer delighted or disappointed.
The changeover process in the green shift
Anita Sørlundsengen, Retail Director and Øyvind Andreassen, Senior Region Manager at ST1 Norway highlights the importance of the green shift in the modern century. Gas stations have now transformed into energy stations with new concepts constantly developing. See how ST1 / Shell at retail director Anita Sørlundsengen and retailer Thommas Landsem have created the energy station of the future with special emphasis on good customer experiences.
From market leader to challenger
Lars Kristian Lindberg, CEO / Managing Director at Gresvig emphasized that Gresvig was in need of a change or an advancement from a strong national brand to a more profitable international brand. Ole Sauar, Founder and CEO of Jollyroom stated that social media and influencers are a great method to grow your business in an international platform. Also having playing zones is another key idea.
Also keep in mind that nordic countries who balance between socialism and capitalism have better economic efficiency and growth and thus, investors must carefully consider this aspect as well.
The key is to hit the emotional muscle
Sondre Gravir, CEO of the SATS group which is a leading fitness center chain in the Nordic region highlights that rather than focussing on getting in participants to the gym, the focus must be on getting the customer to the gym.
New business models
Emilie Stordalen, daughter of Peter Stordalen and part owner at Strawberry Group is a charismatic and down-to-earth personality. She currently works to develop and operate digital platforms. The specialty about her is that she focuses on individual people such as Amanda, who is young and modern to Anders, who is a bit aged and classical which gives a more personalized experience to customers.
Another strategy used is that they tend to use low-quality locations such as basement rooms and give high-quality experiences like LED walls where you feel like you have woken up in a rainforest. These minute details are very important to create a positive image about your services or goods to the customers.
The number of retail chain stores closing over the past few years has dramatically increased. Yet, as of 2019, large stores announced the closing of almost 7000 stores. This is comparatively more than 2018 where 5000 stores shut down. If this continues, it could be the retail apocalypse.
The sole reason behind this rapid closing of traditional stores is the rise of e-commerce outlets where traditional stores are no longer an attention- grabber. As mentioned in the previous article, online sellers like Amazon have made it really difficult for stores to withstand in this digital era.
Most of these stores have begun changing their sales strategies particularly focussing on digital marketing. Thus, they have now moved from brick and mortar stores to e-commerce sites. The trend these days is to do purchases online. This saves time and money for needing to visit stores. Buying products online is a more convenient method.
Apart from that, bankruptcy is another major concern because of private-equity firms like what happened to Toys R Us. Most of these private-equity companies are more likely to go bankrupt than public companies. Although these companies express that they can help to grow capital, they are silent about debt and leverage buyouts.
What happened to American Apparel?
American apparel was a major selling store since its launch in 1997. It faced a lot of sexual harassment and defamation issues costing the company $3 million as fines. In 2017, facing bankruptcy for the second time, they had to close most of their stores.
It was purchased by Gildan Activewear by the end of 2017 for $88 million. The major change is that sexual images are no longer there. The new American Apparel emphasizes more on materials and pricing to attract customers.
Toys R Us: the kids’ dream store
Toys R Us has been around for 70 years and was every child’s dream store. This company faced its doom when taken by a private equity firm in 2005. It faced an unsustainable debt and filed bankruptcy in 2017.
This decision was taken as suppliers pressurized and they liquidated remaining stores. They had to close almost 700 stores of theirs and sold the rest to Canada. Many say there might be a comeback but Toys R Us will be a fond memory for many.
Victoria’s Secret – A girl’s best friend
Parent company L Brands announced closing almost 53 Victoria’s Secret stores in 2019. They even did close 30 stores in 2018 due to bad sales. One reason was the controversial comments that the chief marketing officer spoke of transgender and plus size.
This incident outraged many and led to a reduction in sales. Apart from that, many people claim that the quality of products has dropped as well.
Abercrombie and Fitch – new toned-down version
Abercrombie and Fitch have planned to close almost 40 stores in the USA this year 2019. They have made plans to change their marketing strategies and be more sales-oriented. Getting rid of sexual ads was another point of focus.
They have also mentioned opening 3 flagship stores redesigning others as a part of the restructuring. Moreover, The change of infrastructure in which they have moved from dark tones to a more bright and light atmosphere is a key highlight.
GAP – shutting down rapidly
One of the most famous brands, GAP is closing doors of almost 700 stores worldwide. Its sister stores like the Banana Republic are struggling to survive as they are not performing well.
They are planning to split into two and have decided to change business models to increase profit. The Old Navy will go on a separate way. This is another marketing strategy as well to increase sales.
Payless- bankruptcy victim
A few years back, Payless went into bankruptcy for the second time. Now it is finally closing doors in 2019. They are planning to close almost 2300 stores within the USA. One reason was that the shoe store only has physical stores and with the increase in online sales, store sales have gone down.
On the other hand, Just like Toys R us, private equity buyouts are very hard to bear due to an extensive amount of debt. They also began liquidation sales which went until June 2019.
Michael Kors: Restructuring
Michael Kors closed almost 100 stores in 2017. This year they will be shutting 50 stores and have stated that there could be more. This is because of the low sales that the company encountered. It has also faced great difficulty to focus on average buyers being a luxury brand. However, they have partnered with Amazon and have moved to online sales which is a positive movement.
Claire’s – The Accessory Chest overcomes Bankruptcy
Claire’s is a very popular store for teens with an extensive amount of accessories. However, Claire’s also sought Chapter 11 protection due to bankruptcy. It, however, eliminated its debt of $1.9 million. They also underwent restructuring and eliminated about 2000 locations.
Gymboree – Children’s clothing
Gymboree was another victim of bankruptcy and sought for protection under chapter 11. It was another store that was dependant on brick and mortar. It faced a lot of loss in sales that made the company face debt. It has planned to close all Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores within the US and Canada which is about 900 stores in total.
J.C. Penny – 116-year-old outlet
J.C. Penny closed about 130 stores back in 2017 due to a dip in sales and has also decided to close 18 more stores. This Giant retailer was forced to close their shops because they have been losing a huge amount of money, due to a reduction in sales. At the moment, it is a broke company and stores are out of date. There are assumptions that they have been planning to open some toy shops at their brick and mortar stores.
The list of retail stores calling it quits can go on and on. It is almost like a global epidemic that infests to every retail chain and shuts it down. The list mentioned here is just a few of them. More and more companies are facing issues either due to bankruptcy or lack of sales because of online purchases. Yet, some stores like Gucci, Luis Vuitton and Claire’s have risen from this problem and have adapted new marketing strategies.
We are living in a new world, with new channels and if you want to know how to make your retail business ready for the future, please reach out to me: email@example.com
Working in IoT we sometimes need to handle large data streams of information, that might or might not be totally accurate. Streams might contain noise, inaccurate/unreal readings and other unwanted data.
Debouncing can be done on the hardware itself, or in software. Hardware debouncing can be done either using an S-R circuit or an R-C circuit. Two famous algorithms to do software debouncing is vertical counter and shift registers. Despite being well-known, in literature, these methods are typically presented as a code dump with little or no explanation. In this article, I will touch upon these circuits, methods and other algorithms and their use in IoT debouncing.
Understanding Switch Bounce
When the contacts of mechanical switches toggle from one position to another, these contacts bounce (or “chatter”) for a brief moment. During the first millisecond, the bounces are closely spaced and irregular, and although all of it happens in the course of milliseconds, high-speed logic will detect these bounces as genuine presses and releases.
A button release produces bounces too, but it is common for a switch release to produce less bounce than for a switch press.
Switches usually become stable after 5-20ms depending on the quality, size and electronics of the hardware.
Debouncing using S-R circuits
Switch debouncing using S-R circuit is one of the earliest hardware debouncing methods. In this circuit, S-R latch avoids bounces in the circuit along with the pull-up resistor. It is still the most effective debouncing approach.
The figure below depicts a simple digital debouncing circuit which is used quite often.
The circuit utilizes two cross-coupled NAND gates which aim to create an S-R latch, A SPDT (Single Pole Double Throw) switch and two pull up resistors. Then the resistor produces and generates a logic ‘one’ for the gates and the Switch pulls one of the inputs to ground.
If the switch is kept in a position as seen in the figure, the output of the upper gate is ‘1’ regardless of the input of the other gate and the one created by the bottom pull up resistor which stimulates the lower NAND gate to zero, rapidly in turn hustles back to the other gate. If the switch moves back and forth like a pendulum between the contacts and is suspended or halted for a while in neither one of the regions amidst the terminals, the latch preserves its’ state because ‘0’ from the bottom NAND gate is fed back. The switch may move between the contacts but the latch’s output assures that not in any way it would bang back and therefore, the switch is bounce free.
Although S-R is still common, it’s bulkiness cause problems when you try to use it frequently. You can see that it uses many hardware pieces. Another drawback to using S-R circuits is SPDT switches are more expensive than SPST switches. Thus, a new approach of debouncing emerged using an R-C circuit. The basic principle behind it is to use a capacitor to filter out swift adjustments or changes in the switch signal.
The following image demonstrates a basic R-C circuit which is used for debouncing.
It is a simple circuit which uses two Resistors, a Capacitor, a Schmidt trigger hex inverter and an SPST switch.
In the event where the switch opens, the voltage across the capacitor which is initially zero begins to charge to Vcc through R1 & R2. The voltage at Vin is higher and hence, the output of the inverting Schmitt trigger is low (logic 0)
When the switch is closed, the capacitor discharges to zero and subsequently, the voltage at Vin is ‘0’ and output of the inverting Schmidt trigger is high (logic 1)
At the time of the bouncing condition, the capacitor will halt the voltage at Vin when it comes to either Vcc or Gnd.
You may wonder why a standard inverter is not used. There is a problem for using the standard inverter gate here. TTL defines a zero input when the applied voltage is between 0 and 0.8 and the output in certain circumstances or situations is very unpredictable or unforeseeable. Thus, we must use a Scmitt trigger hex inverter. Thereby, the output remains constant even if the inputs vary or dither and it also ensures to prevent the output from switching due to its’ hysteresis trait.
We can debounce switches using the software as well. The basic principle is still to switch signals and filter out glitches if any. The most used algorithms used for that are counters and shift registers.
The first approach uses a counter to time how long the switch signal has been low. If the signal has been low continuously for a set amount of time, then it is considered pressed and stable.
Let’s see the steps in the Counter method.
First, we set up the count value to Zero. Then set up a sampling event with a certain period, say 1 ms. You can use a timer for that. On the sample event, Do the following things.
If the switch signal is high, reset the counter variable to 0 and set the internal switch state to ‘released’. If the switch signal is low, increment the counter variable by 1 until it reaches 10. once the counter reached 10, set the internal switch state to ‘pressed’.
Shift Register Method
Similar to that of the counter method. The only difference is that it uses a shift register. The algorithm assumes unsigned 8-bit reg value usually found in microcontrollers
First, set up the shift register variable to xFF. Set up a sampling event of period 1 ms with the help of a timer. On the sample event, Do the following things.
First, shift the variable towards MSB, the most significant bit. Set LSB, the least significant bit to the current switch value. if the shift register value is equal to 0, set internal switch state to ‘pressed’. otherwise, set internal switch state to ‘released’.
IoT Sensor Bounce
Recently my team has been working on telemetry involving OCR decoding of License Plates. I consider data from an OCR routine, a temperature sensor or a push button the same thing and debouncing the telemetry can be done very much in the same way.
First of all, we needed to clean up the data stream by filtering out incorrect values. Since there are not control digits on license plates, we chose to trust the result if the camera would return three similar plates within five iterations.
If you want to know more about how to debounce data streams or if you have any questions, please reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this article, I will be discussing one of the most trending topics in IoT. I will take you through a beginner level tutorial on MQTT which is currently the most used protocol in IOT projects.
MQTT stands for Message Queueing Telemetry Transport Protocol. To put MQTT in a nutshell, it is “A lightweight event and message-oriented protocol allowing devices to asynchronously communicate efficiently across constrained networks to remote systems”. I know that this doesn’t really help much. So let’s try to decode that definition and understand what MQTT is and how to use it.
What is MQTT?
Again, for people who have no idea about MQTT, it is a protocol for machine-to-machine communication. It uses a publisher-subscriber model for communication. If you are from a programming background, you probably would have some knowledge about the publisher-subscriber model. Anyway, we will discuss the publisher-subscriber model and how MQTT works later in the tutorial.
MQTT over HTTP for IoT
Before going onto discuss how MQTT works, let’s first try to understand how it came to existence. MQTT came to exist as a replacement for HTTP because HTTP could not properly answer the challenges in IOT and M2M projects. Unlike web applications, IOT projects have some peculiar challenges. One of the main concerns is that IOT requires the event-driven paradigm. Some of the features of this event-driven paradigm are:
Emitting information one-to-many
Listening to events whenever they happen
Distributing minimal packets of data in huge volumes
Pushing information over unreliable networks
Some other challenges you face in an M2M application
Volume (cost) of data being transmitted
Reliable delivery over fragile connections
Security and privacy
MQTT was successfully able to cope with these challenges due to their features.
Why MQTT is good for M2M and IoT applications
MQTT has unique features you can hardly find in other protocols, like:
It’s easy to implement in software as it is a lightweight protocol.
MQTT is based on a messaging technique. This makes it faster in data transmission compared to its alternatives.
It uses minimized data packets which results in low network usage.
Low power usage. As a result, it saves the connected device’s battery.
Most importantly it works on real-time which makes it ideal for IoT applications.
We learnt earlier that MQTT works through a publisher-subscriber model. In a P2S system, the publisher sends its messages to a topic. Then, every subscriber of that topic will receive the message. In MQTT, Broker handles the topic and messaging process while MQTT clients behave as publishers and subscribers.
Components of MQTT
To learn about how MQTT works, we have to understand some concepts in MQTT. The fundamental components of MQQT protocol are explained below.
The broker is a server that handles the communication and data transmission between the clients. It is responsible for the distribution, management and storage of data sent and retrieved by the clients. The broker acts like a centralized hub that regulates the message exchange.
In the case where a broker breaks down, the whole communication process breaks down as there is no way for the clients to communicate with each other directly. Therefore, the Broker Bridging mechanism was introduced to prevent such cases and build a fail-safe broker network.
There is a number of broker applications available on the internet including the popular ones; Mosquitto and HiveMQ or you can also use cloud-based brokers from cloud providers such as IBM or Azure.
Clients (Publisher, Subscriber)
These are basically the end-users who retrieve the data distributed by the broker. Each client is assigned a unique ID to identify themselves and the session when connected to the broker. A client could either be a publisher who publishes messages under a specific topic or a subscriber who receives messages relevant to a topic, at one time.
These are the chunks of data sent and received by the clients. Each message consists of a command and a payload section. The command part determines the type of message and there are 14 message types available in MQQT.
This is the namespace or literally the topic that describes what the message is about. Each message gets assigned to a topic and clients can publish, subscribe or do both to a topic. The clients can also unsubscribe from a topic if they want to. MQTT topics are just strings with a hierarchical structure.
Assume that there is a topic called “home/kitchen”. We call home and kitchen as levels of the topic while home being topper level topic than the kitchen. Also, topics can use wild cards such as ‘+’ and ‘#’.
This is the process of clients (Publisher) sending data to the broker under a topic be distributed among the clients (Subscriber) who have requested data from the same topic.
This is the process of Clients (Subscribers) receiving data specific to a topic they have previously subscribed to, from the Clients (Publishers) through the broker.
QOS: Quality of Service
Each message is given an integer value from 0 to 2 to specify the delivery mode. This is known as Quality of Service. There are three different types of QOS.
0 (Fire and forget) – the message is delivered only once, acknowledgement not given, high-speed delivery method.
1 (Acknowledgement) – the message is delivered once or several times until an acknowledgement is received.
2 (Synchronized) – the message is delivered only once, guaranteed delivery, comparatively slower.
Practical use of MQTT
Its time to do some practical things here and get used to dealing with the MQTT protocol. As you learnt previously, there are many MQTT clients developed for each programming language. I will use Paho python MQTT client as I am a fan of Python and it is probably the best MQTT client out there.
First, you need a broker to create an application with MQTT. One of the most popular MQTT brokers is Mosquitto. You can install it with the following command.
sudo apt-get install mosquitto
We set up it to work on our localhost. By default, Mosquitto listens to port 1883. Next, install the MQTT client with pip command.
sudo apt-get install mosquitto
We setup it to work on our localhost. By default, Mosquitto listens to port 1883. Next, install the MQTT client with pip command.
pip install paho-mqtt
This command will install python MQTT client library on your machine. The core of the client library is the client class which provides all of the functions to publish messages and subscribe to topics.
There are several important methods in Paho MQTT client class which you should know:
Each of these methods is associated with a callback.
Publishing a message
One of the main tasks you do with MQTT is publishing messages. A simple code that publishes a message usually has 4 steps.
Import the paho.mqtt.client class
Creating a client instance with Client() constructor
Most of the code is self-explaining. First, you create an instance of an MQTT client. Then you connect with the broker running on Localhost. Then the client publishes its message on “TopicLevel1/test” topic. After that, it disconnects from the broker.
Subscribing to a topic
You know that MQTT is not a one to one messaging protocol as it connects many devices. The trick here is that message from any device is assigned to a topic. Any devices that are subscribed to that topic will receive the message. Similarly, you can publish messages to Topics.
You can subscribe to a topic with subscribe() method in Client class. Subscribing to a topic has the same steps as to publishing messages. I am not going to repeat it as you can easily identify these steps from the code.
In this application, the client works as a subscriber. It subscribes to the topic to the broker which in this case, runs on localhost. Whenever it receives a message, it calls for the on_message() method. If the received message is disconnected, it immediately disconnects from the broker. This is a very simple use of subscriber method. You can write more complicated logic using the same callback functions.
So in this article, you get a concise yet comprehensive idea about MQTT. Its’ time to move on to the conclusion to recall yourself as to what is the gist of the article.
MQTT is a lightweight, flexible and a simple but very efficient protocol that has a definite advantage over others when it comes to IoT and M2M solutions; considering its low bandwidth and low power consumption, response time and multiple usages. In conclusion, it could be said that MQTT is the best protocol so far when it comes to IOT development.
If you want to know more about MQTT, you can check the links below or have any questions, please reach out to me: email@example.com
With the high pace the technology industry is moving in towards development, many different fields and areas have been considered as hot zones. The different innovations motivates researchers to create and develop better devices and technologies that are helpful. However, the more we advance, the more technology gets complicated and sophisticated. This is observed much more in hardware developments as the number of components used keeps increasing year by year to keep up with the need.
SIMATIC IOT2040 By Siemens
A leading company in innovations and developments is Siemens, which is German based. Siemens is specialized in technologies that would impact the Industry, Energy, Healthcare, and Infrastructure & Cities fields. With their many powerful groundbreaking products in the market, Siemens have been interested in the IoT field, releasing their SIMATIC IOT2000 series. This series targets the industry field, allowing different machines to analyse and utilize data sources from all around the globe.
Current issues include weak communication with overseas machinery due to different use of languages and different source codes. SIMATIC IOT2040 is one of the series by Siemens which is the up-to-date version to the SMATIC series. This version includes the following:
Energy-saving processor, with many compatible interfaces including: Intel Quark x1020 (+Secure Boot), 1 GB RAM, 2 Ethernet ports, 2 x RS232/485 interfaces, battery-backed RTC.
Supports Yocto Linux.
Arduino shields und miniPCIe cards can be used for expansions.
Programming with high-level languages
Compact design and DIN rail mounting
Proven SIMATIC quality offers great ruggedness, reliability and longevity
This version in particular is worth mentioning due to its ability to be used with many different hardware and solutions. This product is mostly used with different other add-ons, which help deliver the target efficiently.
Setup: SIMATIC IOT2040
A very common application for the SIMATIC IOT 2040 is the use in Micro-SD cards (minimum capacity of 16GB). Many of the previously stated features of the series can be used with the card, helping in making the experience much better. The following is a tutorial guide, explaining how to successfully prepare and install SIMATIC IOT2040:
Remove all trash and deleted files fomr your SD-Adaptor and flash the image to your disk imager.
You can now safely insert the SD-card in the SIMATIC IOT 2040.
You should then connect your devices to the computer/laptop using an Ethernet cable.
A strong internet connection should be available at all times. Adjust your Ethernet IP address to an IP around 192.168.200.1, which is considered as the static IP for IOT2040. (Subnet mask 255.255.255.0)
Use the Secure Shell Protocol with the following IP: 168.200.1, using user root. Insert your own password for the root.
SSH into 192.168.200.1 with user root. Set a password for root:
Now you are ready to run the installation for SIMATIC IOT2040 successfully.
/etc/opkg/base-feeds.conf and add these lines:
src all http://iotdk.intel.com/repos/1.1/iotdk/all
src x86 http://iotdk.intel.com/repos/1.1/iotdk/x86
Now you can run the file with the name “opkg update” and install the git directly.
$opkg install git
Node-Red: Flow Based Solution
One of the most modern tools that is considered a breakthrough is Node-Red. Node-Red is a development tool, created by IBM initially, to wire hardware devices together with APIs and online services. This technology is flow based, which was inspired by the use of Internet of Things (IOT). In simple terms, the technology focuses on the use of browser software that helps users to develop different tools using flow diagrams. It was created as a means to simplify development; making it available for users with basic knowledge. The tool focuses on the ease of use of software and online services, using a direct connection through the internet.
The previously stated technologies could come really handy when they are used together. Both tools have the capability to be used in parallel aiming towards the same final result. NodeRed will be used to ease the use of SIMATC through simple flow diagrams. SIMATIC is generally a very important tool, yet too complicated for normal users. Thus, the use of NodeRed is crucial in this case, where you will need to control the development process and wiring of the hardware with the online services as smooth as possible.
The following is a tutorial guide, explaining how to successfully prepare and install Node-Red:
Through the menu named software, you can move forward to the Manage packages page.
Set Node-Red on Auto-start together with Mosquitto MQTT Broker.
Here is where we integrate SIMATIC IOT 2000 with Nod- Red. You are expected to install the nodes for the SIMAMTIC.
In the following directory “/home/root/.node-red” create a root folder by the name of nodes; where you will place the installed nodes in the previous step.
Put custom nodes here if needed. For example from Git repository:
npm install<git repo url>
Dependencies and nodes under npm can be installed directly to
In the following directory “/home/root/.node-red” create a root folder by the name of nodes; where you will place the installed nodes in the previous step.
Earlier this year, I visited US for a couple of weeks, and having a genuine interest in retail technology, I visited quite a few retail stores. I went to see classical stores, but also had the chance to have a preview of the future of retail: Autonomous and Frictionless Stores!
Customers in this digital world don’t want to spend too much time while shopping. They want everything to happen very fast. Customers are looking for a seamless shopping experience all the time. That’s how the concept of frictionless stores came to exist. Frictionless stores are one the biggest new thing in consumer shopping.
What are Frictionless Stores
The concept of frictionless stores started a few years ago. When I talk to retailers this is one of the topics that always pops up. All major brands are looking for innovative ways to create better customer experience and frictionless stores is one way to make that happen. These store improves the shopping experience to the point where customers don’t have to wait at any point of shopping such as selecting, receiving and paying for the product. Initially frictionless stores only confined to ease and less hassle shopping. But as innovations such as mobile wallets, digital receipts, free and fast shipping, and one-click purchasing emerged and began to reshape the consumer shopping experience, the definition began to be reshaped as well. Today, a frictionless experience means more than just less hassle. It means greater speed, personalization, and wow experiences.
How Frictionless Stores work
Let’s try to understand ow frictionless stores work. In frictionless stores, Buyers and sellers are connected in a way that provides buyers the ability to instantly find, compare and buy products and services they need. In frictionless stores, customers should feel that they have full control. The concept and technology has evolved over time, and nowadays customers expect to have this experience through their smartphones. Retailers and brands are trying to find new ways modifying the definition of frictionless stores to provide customers the best possible shopping experience. They need that commitment to stay ahead of the competition. As a result of that, nowadays, frictionless shopping means eliminating anything that negatively impacts customer experience.
Importance of Frictionless Stores
How has frictionless shopping fared according to researches? Alliance Datacenter has done a study and found out that customers from all generations looking for a great service and an ideal shopping experience. This is true for all the areas in the world. If some brand fails to deliver what they want, customers will find a different one. According to the research, 76 percent of consumers said they give brands only two to three times before they stop shopping with them. Another 43 percent said their main reason to leave a brand is poor experience in shopping. What all these means is that if a customer encounters friction they will run away from that brand fast without probably giving a second chance.
Amazon Go Stores
Similar to frictionless stores, Amazon introduced Amazon Go stores. What is special about Amazon Go is you don’t have to wait for checkouts. That basically means you no longer have to wait in queues. First Amazon Go store was a grocery store of 1800 square feet. It spread fast, in fact, you can see a lot of Amazon Go stores now in the USA and Europe.
How is this even possible? What technologies have they used? Amazon was doing many types of research in the areas of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Amazon Go is a fruitful result of that. You need Amazon Go application to do shopping with Amazon Go stores. All you have to do open your Go app, choose the product you want, buy it and the just leave. This application can detect when a product is purchased or returned to the shop. The application can remember what you bought and you can revisit these details at your virtual cart. When you finish shopping, you will be charged and you will receive a receipt for what you buy
Buy Awesome foods with Amazon Go stores
You may wonder now what you can buy there? What items are available on Amazon Go stores? I will just point out how one Amazon Go store had marketed their shop. “We offer all the delicious meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We have many fresh snack options made every day by our chefs at our local kitchens and bakeries. You can buy a range of grocery items from milk and locally made chocolates to staples like bread and artisan cheeses. Try us, you will find well-known brands you love in our shops.” by the way, don’t expect to go in there and buy books, tech or clothes or anything else that Amazon sells online. It’s basically quick-and-easy food and other groceries. It’s just that there’s no cashier.
So many people have been attracted to Amazon Go stores so it is quite evident that this concept will make a huge impact on the future of retail stores.
If you want to know more about frictionless Sstores, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out these related articles: