- Ghostwritten for Intel
In-Store Retail Roars Back to Rival Online Shopping with Innovative Interactive Displays
Many consumers love the experience of in-store shopping. Product displays, seeing and touching a product, even the hustle and bustle of other shoppers—all add up to an experience that customers still crave.
Even while e-commerce and online shopping have built a strong presence in the world of retail, reports proclaiming the death of in-store shopping are, to quote Mark Twain, “greatly exaggerated.” What is true is that for those customers who are used to nearly limitless shopping options online, the return to a physical retail store can sometimes be a bit jarring.
“We’re out of your size.”
“We just sold the last one this morning.”
“We don’t have it in red, how about blue?”
Until now. Newer technologies now allow retailers to offer selections and options they would never be able to carry in a single store, while at the same time offering customers a one-of-a-kind, engaging shopping experience.
The future is omnichannel
Today, smart bricks and mortar retailers are taking advantage of a set of technologies, including real-time analytics, digital display, and computer vision, to create fun, unique in-store experiences that elevate the shopping experience to new heights and dissolve the boundaries between online and in-store shopping.
Savvy retailers are bridging this gap to create an omnichannel experience for their customers that builds brands, engages customers, and drives purchases—in some cases, leading to sales lifts as high as 30-130%.
Consumers are already familiar with virtual try-on technology found at makeup counters and glasses retailers such as Sunglass Hut and Sephora and now, newer technology is driving more extensive immersive experiences. At Bourgois, for example, a customer who picks up a lipstick is shown not just what the lipstick looks like on their face, but also complementary eyeshadow choices.
“Lift and Learn” for product engagement marketing
One company on the front lines of product engagement marketing is Perch, whose “Lift and Learn” digital marketing solutions have been implemented across a wide variety of retail brands.
Perch was created around a simple concept—”I can click on a product online to get more information. Why can’t I do that in-store?”
“What we did was marry the best of both worlds,” said Perch CEO Trevor Sumner. “87% of people start their product journeys online in terms of discovery because that’s where the content is—the ratings, the reviews, the videos. An in-store Perch experience of the customer picking up an item is the equivalent of an online ‘click.’ They pick up an item and all the rich media and content available is there, right at the fingertips of the customer.”
“Make It Mine,” Kate Spade
Luxury fashion brand Kate Spade partnered with Perch to integrate the in-store experience with its online presence for a customizable bag collection called Make It Mine.
An online shopper chooses a base bag, customizes the flap, strap, and heart twist lock to create a completely personalized bag. Perch and Kate Spade brought this experience into retail locations to provide an endless shelf experience for its customers, combining the excitement of limitless options with the immediacy of being in the store.
An in-store customer picks up a handbag and a configurator loads that shows all the available options. Stripes? Polka dots? Metallic leopard? Yes! All available. Strap or no strap. The customers can instantly see an initial configuration that is the bag of their dreams, but that’s not the end, said Sumner. “They can also see how choosing three different flaps or three different straps can actually yield nine different purse combinations. So the potential for selling more than just one bag is greatly enhanced.”
Macy’s Fragrance Bar organizes fragrances by category—-floral, sweet, citrus, spicy, fresh, woodsy— instead of by brand. “What Macy’s recognized is that the way that products are merchandised in-store is not the way the customers want to shop,” says Sumner. “So now customers start by taking a quick quiz, which profiles them and suggests a fragrance category. Customers can start with the floral station and smell all those fragrances. The fragrance a customer picks up determines what media or experience they will get. They can watch videos, read reviews, learn all about each product – all based on their choice.”
Sumner says this is a win-win for both consumers and brands. The consumer sees all the different fragrances that may be a good fit for them; the brands can showcase the rich media assets that they’ve created to promote their products.
Macy takes the omnichannel shopping experience to the next level by integrating a seamless checkout experience. So an in-store shopper can access Macy’s website or their app to order what they’re looking at, have it delivered to their home, or pay for it with Macy’s cashier-less checkout and walk out of the store with their new item.
Rich media for customers, rich data for brands
The front-end experience that Perch helps brands provide is equaled by its back-end processing, real-time analytics, and insights into customer behavior and conversion.
“We can track shopper behavior over time so that brands can examine campaign, creative, store locations, and regional performance,” says Sumner. “There is easy access to data about which products shoppers pick up most often, the total time the customer is engaged, as well as which products convert best to sales.”
A stable platform for the chaos of retail
Perch relies on both Intel® NUC architecture and Intel® RealSense™ to deliver innovative and immersive retail solutions in an affordable way that is easily scalable. “We use computer vision to figure out what people are touching,” said Sumner. “These are highly sophisticated algorithms and when the display ‘wakes up’ and activates a marketing application, we could have 14 videos, a configurator running, an augmented reality experience going. Having an integrated stack and a proven player like Intel is, I think, really critical. Retail is a very chaotic environment; we needed something rugged and proven, so we’ve been really happy with the Intel architecture to base our platform on.”
2. Ghostwritten for EdgeLinc
AI at the Edge Powers the Internet of Trains
It’s been nearly 200 years since trains became a major force in moving freight across long distances. While vast improvements have been made in the engineering of both trains and track, some of the fundamental challenges remain the same.
- 1) Is a train on time between Point A and Point B? Why or why not?
- 2) Are there issues along the route that might affect transit?
- 3) What’s the best way to prevent human error?
Technology has played a huge role in helping to answer these questions as investments in infrastructure, equipment, and network architecture have allowed the freight rail system to become more efficient than ever. Real-time analytics allow for safely adding more trains and increased capacity to the network. Smart sensors placed throughout the rail network detect problems before they lead to accidents.
And yet even while data is abundant, large challenges remain. The smartest locomotives on the market have hundreds of sensors capable of processing more than a billion instructions per second! So the sheer quantity of data is significant in and of itself, and having data constantly changing easily outstrips the capabilities of traditional business intelligence and analytics tools.
Capturing data on the fly, literally
Traditionally, collecting train data has been an amalgam of legacy systems, data silos, and batch processes that only take place when the train is in the service yard. Turning data into actionable insight is hard when the industrial assets are constantly moving in and out of communication range.
The ability to capture, manage, analyze and act on that data is essential for companies to benefit from IIoT. Train operators need real-time visibility into all the systems that keep a train running, so that they can make quicker decisions and fix unexpected problems as soon as they arise.
An edge-first answer
EdgeLINC™ is a comprehensive end-to-end device lifecycle management platform that provides companies the flexibility of real-time processing and management of connected
devices at the edge. With secure connectivity to back office software in the cloud, its enterprise architecture supports a diverse range of devices and simplifies the deployment of IIoT.
“EdgeLINC™ is an IIoT solution that places powerful real time analytics and edge computing power closer to the place where the data originates,” says Bayo Onigbanjo, Principal IoT Platforms and Applications, Wabtec. ““It takes a tremendous amount of power to run sophisticated operations at the edge, which EdgeLINC™ provides. We want to give customers actionable information they can use to better manage the physical world in real-time and improve industrial performance.”
Among the connected devices collecting data are sensors on the train that measure temperature, fluid levels, fuel management, brakes, wheelsets, engines, and speed. Wayside assets gather and report on switch operations, track vibrations, and real-time warnings of system failure along the line.
Storing data at the edge or in the cloud
EdgeLINC™ provides companies the flexibility to choose which data is analyzed at the edge immediately and which can be sent to the cloud later. Some data is very expensive to move – cellular, for example, so cost is one consideration.
A bigger driver in choosing edge-level computing is the ability to take action on physical assets immediately. So the analytics that are most likely to stop a train – locomotive telemetry, brakes, fuel monitoring, train handling alerts – have priority for real-time visibility, since any stoppage can result in millions of dollars of assets sitting idle.
Since much sensor data is image-heavy, underlying the strength and flexibility of EdgeLINC™ are the Intel® Movidius™ Vision Processing Unit (VPU) and OpenVino Toolkit. The ultra-low power VPU supports performance hungry tasks at the device and gateway levels, especially for image processing applications such as predictive maintenance. OpenVino offers pretrained models to fast-track development of high-performance vision and deep learning applications at the edge.
On-board personnel can access data via on-board smart display terminals on trains and on mobile devices, even personal mobile devices that are used by the crew.
Rail operators can also use the huge amounts of data gathered as a way for predictive maintenance and analysis. For data destined for cloud processing, EdgeLINC™’s capabilities include creating a digital “twin” of a locomotive, which uses the captured data to diagnose faults and perform predictive maintenance operations.
EdgeLINC™ offers the flexibility to be tailored to specific solutions for its customers. “We had an Asian railway company approach us looking for a solution for tracking trains through locations that did not have reliable communication,” says Onigbanjo. “Sometimes trains would be stopped en route and central operators would not know where or why the stoppage had occurred. The operator needed to be able to communicate to its customers why shipments were late as well as provide an ETA.
“We used EdgeLINC™ to help them track down train locations, identify dwell times, and create mapping that enable the company to approve processes and lower costs based on accurate info. Since the railway company doesn’t own the tracks, now if there’s a problem they see with infrastructure, they can go back to the owner of the tracks, and say ‘look, this stoppage was caused by a stuck gate on the line – it’s your responsibility.’”
Tools such as EdgeLINC™ enable technology to play a significant role in aiding rail operations for the future. Video analytics based on inference models at the edge can already help an operator determine if an object in a train’s path is large enough to be a threat. Automated rail inspections can be accomplished by utilizing captured video as a train travels a certain route, and then comparing changes over time.
Widespread deployment of new technologies like Positive Train Control (PTC), designed to address human error and mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), has paved the way to more safety and efficiency improvement for freight railroad operators.
Technology is also helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. EPA data shows freight railroads account for only 2.0% of the transportation-related sources for total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, an AAR analysis shows that if just 10% of freight moved by the largest trucks were instead moved by rail, greenhouse gas emissions would fall by more than 17 million tons per year.
So there may certainly be smart trains in our future. Or maybe they’re already here.
3. Ghostwritten for United Healthcare
Specialty RX: Controlling costs without compromising care
Although they account for just under 2% of all prescriptions, the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute estimates that specialty drugs will account for 50% of total prescription costs in 2020. 80% of new drug approvals fall into the specialty category, driven by new and rapid advances in science.
Specialty medications are lifesaving and life-enhancing for many people, sometimes the only option available for treatment. But the average annual cost for an orphan medication is around $140,000 per patient. Employers need strategies that serve their employees while limiting their risk and exposure to multi-million-dollar specialty medications.
Payers such as UnitedHealthcare are finding success in helping employers contain costs by focusing on three main areas: Cost Management, Care Management, and Pipeline Management.
Cost management that adds value and enhances positive health outcomes
An aligned strategy for medical and pharmacy benefits
Managing separate benefits for pharmacy and medical is often cited as a barrier to decreasing managing health care costs. The lack of transparency between the two and the inability to consistently coordinate benefits leads to inefficiency and restricts cost containment strategies.
Some payers are working towards erasing the distinction of medical versus pharmacy benefits and instead devising plans that span the entire pharmaceutical landscape. Oncology patients, for example, almost always receive care from both medical and pharmacy so a plan that holistically spans both benefits makes sense for both employee and employer.
UnitedHealthcare’s strategy for working with specialty medication management under both benefits is to align the same cost management strategies for both. Here are a few proven programs:
- Step therapy requires that a lower-cost medication be tried before a higher-cost medication is covered;
- Prior authorization guidelines ensure that coverage for a medication is determined based on clinical criteria;
- Quantity limits restrict either the amount or quantity of medication during a specific period; and
- Designated networks require certain medications to be sourced through contracted specialty pharmacies.
Guide employees to the most appropriate site of care
For many patients, their first treatment with a specialty medication occurs in a hospital setting, but they may not need outpatient hospital level monitoring for future care. Many patients are directed to an alternative site of care—a health care provider’s office, an infusion site, or the patient’s home—where they can receive the most effective and convenient care possible without incurring higher costs.
In 2019, United HealthCare analyzed its U.S. commercial claims from 2018 for the five conditions that account for over 75% of spending on administered drugs. It found that moving from hospital outpatient settings to provider offices and patients’ homes reduces the cost of the drugs and their administration by $16,000 to $37,000 per privately insured patient per year.
Genetic testing determines if medication is suitable and effective
Pharmacogenetic testing offers yet another avenue for managing costs. Genetic material shared by a patient is tested and the results shared with the health care provider. The provider can use the results to guide treatment strategies, help select the best medication and dosage, reducing the need for “trial-and-error” dosing as well as decrease the risk of adverse drug effects.
Value-based healthcare ties reimbursement to efficacy
Unlike the traditional fee-for-service, value-based contracting ties payments to outcomes achieved for select therapies, ensuring that the overall value delivered is justified by price.
Coverage and reimbursement are based on real-world medical evidence that demonstrates the efficacy—or lack thereof—of a medication. Payors continually monitor the results, and if the expected therapeutic benefit is not achieved, there is often some level of remuneration to the payer, who, in turn, shares the rebate with its customers.
Care management engages employees and providers to improve adherence and deliver better outcomes
UnitedHealthcare’s PreCheck MyScript enables prescribing health providers the ability to see lower cost but equally effective medications available. It also allows the provider to clear needed prior authorizations in real-time, nearly always while the patient is in the office. Since the inception of the program, United Healthcare reports a 20% increase in the use of lower-cost alternatives and 34% in avoided or initiated prior authorizations.
Technology that engages patients and provides support can lower overall health costs
Personalized tools and videos, including live consults with health care providers, often help employees better understand their health conditions and offer actionable information geared towards better, healthier lives.
With nearly all American adults owning a cellphone, the use of apps and text messages promotes adherence, provides clinical support that can reduce ER visits, and creates a shared record of actions and results that health care providers can monitor to help their patients achieve optimum outcomes.
Proactive pipeline management before and after launch
Most new drugs and therapies in the medication pipeline are specialty medications with oncology as the highest therapeutic area for specialty drug spending. Total expenditures for cancer medications, including new immunotherapies and targeted agents, increased in the US from $26.8 billion in 2011 to $42.1 billion in 2016.
UnitedHealthcare’s multi-phase approach helps determine which medications meet clinically appropriate, medically necessary, and cost-effectiveness standards for expedited implementation within its specialty drug program.
By providing guidelines on Day 1 of a new medication’s launch, health care providers will have visibility to determine if a medication is covered before providing services.
As research expands the possibilities of therapeutic medications to treat chronic and life-threatening conditions, the manufacturing costs for specialty RX are not expected to lessen. Savvy employers are taking a proactive approach and finding ways to mitigate costs through stop-loss insurance plans, so they have protection in place before it’s needed.
The smartest payers are finding ways to provide customers with greater value through cost controls and pipeline monitoring while using care management to create positive health outcomes and a better healthcare experience for the employees served.