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Paul Higley

Paul Higley

The future of retail has long been heralded as digital. And, of course, some of the online shopping giants are testament to the vast appeal of a digital shopping experience. But the overwhelming popularity of online retail does not necessarily herald the end of brick-and-mortar stores.

Online stores can offer a more convenient experience for customers under certain circumstances – but not in every case. For instance, the customer who is looking for advice, wants to test a particular product firsthand or likes the face-to-face interaction of talking to a sales rep will always have use for a physical store. But for shops to continue to thrive, they must offer an ‘in real life’ digital experience that is at least on a par with online.

The Riverbed Retail Digital Transformation Survey 2018 shows that cloud-based technology will be essential for retailers looking to deliver a superior customer experience and to stay successful. Of the 300 IT decision makers, at retail companies with $500 million or more in revenue who were surveyed, nearly half said their company will need to adopt new technology in the next three years to evolve and stay competitive.

Retailers are experiencing an apps-gap

Riverbed’s survey findings highlighted a gap between where retailers want to be and where they currently are. Even though there is recognition that retail applications supporting in-store staff are of utmost importance, nearly half (46%) claim their companies do not currently have applications in place. In addition, 58% of retailer decision-makers do not have mobile point of sale (POS) technology in place for staff to facilitate customer transactions, making the purchase process a severe pain point.

For customer-facing technologies, this gap is even more pronounced. Virtual assistants are lacking in the majority of retailers (74%), and just more than two thirds (67%) don’t offer push notifications to inform customers of recommendations or sales while they’re in the store. This leaves retailers with an incredible amount of ground to make up in a very short time, in order to keep pace with rapidly shifting customer demands.

Cloud is crucial

The cloud is a fundamental requirement for retailers that want to achieve digital transformation. Almost all of global IT decision makers (98%) view cloud-based solutions that improve the customer experience as critical to enhancing the digital retail experience. And, placing next-generation networking technology at the heart of a cloud strategy ensures a more agile, resilient and efficient network that will be able to deliver the experience users expect, whilst providing greater control, security and manageability.

In terms of specific use cases, applications that track inventory top the list as the most important technology to keep up with customer demand. Almost half (46%) note their company doesn’t currently use such apps – calling for immediate adoption of cloud-based technology to thrive.

Wi-Fi is a ‘must’ for customers and employees

Of course, an effective cloud strategy is underpinned by advanced Wi-Fi networking. Connectivity within physical retail stores is critical to deploying digital services and boosting store profits. And it is equally important for both customers and employees to be connected. Employees, no matter where they are in the store, rely on Wi-Fi to access key files and applications to get their jobs done. Customers, on the other hand, use guest Wi-Fi to access marketing offers and online/app shopping tools.

While 99% of respondents report their company offers in-store Wi-Fi, it often provides a sub-optimal experience for customers. When asked to describe the quality and speed of their in-store Wi-Fi, more than half of retailers (58%) note that it is fast but does not effectively engage the customer, whilst just one in five (19%) describe their Wi-Fi as both fast and effective at engaging customers. To stay competitive in 2018, retailers will need to rethink their Wi-Fi deployment and monitoring strategy in order to fully transform their business.

Success rests on superior customer experience

Many traditional retailers are taking an omnichannel approach to improve the customer experience — combining the best of both by embracing online channels whilst maximising brick and mortar sales. Retail strategies for improving the customer experience are primarily twofold: quickly deploying new innovations and applications (53%) and providing a seamless online-to-store experience (50%).

Riverbed’s survey shows a general consensus on how brick and mortar stores will support a push to improve the customer shopping experience by being much more flexible and agile. Almost half of respondents (49%) reveal that monitoring and adapting in real-time to shopping behaviours will be critical, and 47% say gathering insights on customers’ experience and satisfaction, such as through adoption rates or response times in-store, will require a focus.

As these results have shown, to keep pace in an industry on the cusp of great change, retailers will need to embrace next-generation technology in order to optimize their online and in-store channels and provide a seamless customer experience….and it would seem there is still quite some way for many retailers to go before they get there.

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Duo glide around world’s largest fountain in Dubai



Duo glide around world's largest fountain in Dubai 1

Paragliders Llorens and Goberna take magical flight above the Palm Fountain.

Horacio Llorens and Rafael Goberna defied gravity to perform The Breaking Pointe flight around the world’s biggest fountain at The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Here is all you need to know:

– Spaniard Llorens is a five-time world champion and Infinity Tumbling Guinness World Record holder, who has performed a series of spectacular projects during the last five years including paragliding with a flock of starlings and with the beautiful Aurora Borealis as a backdrop.

– Brazilian Goberna was a Guinness Book of World Records winner at only 12-years-old and, in December 2016, he took to the skies above one of the seven wonders of the natural world when paragliding at Iguazu Falls.

– This time around, the duo teamed up in Dubai to showcase The Palm Fountain at the Pointe, Palm Jumeirah. They overcame a tricky preparation period to expertly glide between the fountain’s powerful jets of water.

– Spanning across the boulevard, the Palm Fountain features two giant floating platforms covering 14,000 square metres of sea water. Reaching an impressive 105 metres high and lighting up the Dubai sky with 3,000 LED lights, the fountain “dances” to hit songs from sunset until midnight.

– They undertook training first at Paramotor Desert Adventure on January 12 to test out their brakes and motors with technician Ramon Lopez finally arriving after being held up by the heavy snow in Madrid.

– Training was crucial for the challenge of flying during the night with low visibility as safety director Alan Gayton ensured they had a reserve parachute in case of a technical issue with the main parachute. Llorens and Goberna also had to study the movement of the water with great precision in order not to get caught up in the jets of water

– Flying over water, it was also mandatory to have a lifejacket with rescue boats, jet skis and divers on hand which came handy when Goberna suffered a technical malfunction on the first January 14 practice run.

– After repairs long into the night, they returned to Paramotor Desert Adventure to test out the motors again before completing the stunning flight on January 15 with Llorens and Goberna performing in harmony.

– Llorens, 38, revealed: “As soon as we got the opportunity, we wanted to fly there. We needed to know the area really well beforehand and we needed to know how to ‘play’ with the fountain – this was new for us. Such strong streams of water shooting 100 metres up is a lot, so we had to be really prepared.”

– Goberna, 26, explained: “The motor wasn’t flying so good because, prior to arriving in Dubai, it was last used in Europe at high altitude. I needed to adjust the carburettor in the air inside the motor. In the first practice flight over the water, I broke one propeller. I really couldn’t understand what was happening and then another one broke. Eventually, a backup motor was required. After a long journey, the final result was beautiful! The team worked incredibly hard to make it.”

– Llorens added: “The highlight for me was playing between the super shooters with Rafael, because it’s something we’ve never done before; it felt really new and really powerful.”

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EU sets itself jobs, training and equality targets for 2030



EU sets itself jobs, training and equality targets for 2030 2

By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission on Thursday announced goals for the 27-nation bloc to reduce poverty, inequality and boost training and jobs by 2030 as part of a post-pandemic economic overhaul financed by jointly borrowed funds.

The EU executive arm said the European Union should boost employment to 78% in 2030 from 73% in 2019, halve the gap between the number of employed women and men and cut the number of young people neither working nor studying to 9% from 12.6%

“With unemployment and inequalities expected to increase as a fallout of the pandemic, focusing our policy efforts on quality job creation, up- and reskilling and reducing poverty and exclusion is therefore essential to channel our resources where they are most needed,” the commission said.

The goals, which will have to be endorsed by EU leaders, also include an increase in the number of adults getting training every year to adapt to the EU’s transition to a greener and more digitalised economy to 60% from 40% now.

Finally, over the next 10 years, the EU should reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 15 million from 91 million in 2019.

“These three 2030 headline targets are deemed ambitious and realistic at the same time,” the commission said.

The goals are part of the EU’s set of 20 social rights, agreed on in 2017, to make the EU more appealing to voters and counter eurosceptic sentiment across the bloc.

They say everybody has the right to quality education throughout their lives and that men and women must have equal opportunities in all areas and be paid the same for work of equal value.

The unemployed have the right to “personalised, continuous and consistent support”, while workers have the right “to fair wages that provide for a decent standard of living”.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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UK aero-engineer Meggitt eyes return to growth after pandemic slump



UK aero-engineer Meggitt eyes return to growth after pandemic slump 3

LONDON (Reuters) – British engineer Meggitt said that it could return to profit growth in 2021 provided there are no further lockdowns, despite a weakening in the struggling aviation market at the end of 2020 and early this year.

Pandemic restrictions halted much flying globally last year and forced plane makers Boeing and Airbus to cut production rates, dragging down suppliers like Meggitt, which makes and services parts for such aircraft.

Meggitt’s underlying operating profit plunged by 53% to 191 million pounds ($267 million) in 2020, it said on Thursday, despite continued growth in its defence business which makes parts for military jets and accounts for about 45% of the business.

Meggitt, however, said it expected air traffic to recover in the second half of the year which would help it return to profit growth over the year, although its guidance for flat revenue disappointed analysts who had expected growth of 6%.

Meggitt’s Chief Executive Tony Wood said in November that he had expected flying to start to recover by Easter, but new variants have led to more restrictions and delayed the recovery.

“It has gone back a couple of months… it’s now very much in the summer,” Wood said of the recovery in an interview on Thursday.

Further in the future, Meggitt is positioning itself for the move to lower emissions flying, and its sensors and electric motors will be used on electric urban air mobility platforms, such as flying taxis, and in hybrid aeroplanes being developed.

But Meggitt said new tax breaks announced in Britain’s annual budget on Wednesday aimed at encouraging investment would not change its plans.

“Yes, it will be a benefit. Are we looking at any acceleration as a result specifically of that? Not really,” Woods said.

Shares in Meggitt were down 1% to 427 pence at 0943 GMT. The stock has risen by 50% since news of a COVID-19 vaccine last November, but is still down 23% on where it was pre-pandemic.

($1 = 0.7165 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Alistair Smout and Susan Fenton)

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