Next-Generation Retail Insights from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2015

Every year in January for the past century, tens of thousands of retailers and industry representatives converge in chilly (okay, really freezing cold) New York City for the National Retail Federation Big Show. For 4 days, NRF brings together retailers and partners in the retail ecosystem to discuss standards, best practices and latest technologies and research.

It is also a showcase for several key NRF initiatives:

  • The Retail Across America program: A program that highlights the retail industry’s positive impact on the U.S. economy, in terms of employment and business.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show
  • Keynotes from dignitaries like ex-Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke on handling of the financial crisis, and a round table discussion from executives from NFL, NBA, NHL, WTA and the German National Team discussing how sports fan marketing can be applicable to retailers.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show
    National Retail Federation Big Show 2015

  • Expo halls and sessions featuring speakers and retailers discussing technology and best practices for retailers.
National Retail Federation Big Show 2015

I spent 3 days at the event and came away with the following observations:

  • Omnichannel customer engagement is a reality
    The shoppers have spoken: We want to browse, shop and get our questions answered anytime, anywhere, in-person or online, on any device, and at our convenience. Retailers need to invest in the process, the people and technology to sell across all channels. It isn’t about “showrooming” or “webrooming,” it’s about shopping.
  • Integrating Web-like experiences in stores
    Customers are interested in replicating the types of experiences they get online in-store. We saw a number of innovative examples, like the Rebecca Minkoff showcase on eBay, and Scala’s digital signage powered by physical sensors in a sneaker display. As shoppers are more comfortable with technology, retailers continue to experiment with technology-driven store experiences.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show 2015
  • Mobility and wireless are king
    The wireless experience now acts as the shopper’s “fifth sense.” While retailers are experienced with manipulating sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, the WiFi experience acts like the consumer’s fifth sense. WiFi is now a crucial piece of the shopping experience, whether it’s through engaging consumers on their mobile devices, giving tablets to employees, or powering mobile checkout and self-service kiosks.
  • Reporting and metrics capabilities continue to grow
    I think the term “big data” is overused. For the past 100 years, retailers have been using detailed reporting to run their businesses. The only difference is that now, the amount of actionable data is hundreds of times more detailed and powerful. From social media data to location data, Web browsing histories, to location heat maps, there is no shortage of new data available to retailers. The key going forward will be to turn these individual data points into actionable intelligence, to increase revenue or operational efficiencies.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show 2015
  • How to fill an auditorium for an 8:30 a.m. keynote
    Donuts. Lots and lots of donuts and coffee. There must have been 20+ staff passing out Krispy Crème in 3 lines as people entered the auditorium for the morning keynote. Great logistics lesson from NRF for any other events in the future. Congrats!

For more information on the National Retail Federation Big Show, please visit

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The New Era of Engagement – A Day in Life of an Online Shopper

At the recent Avaya Engages Silicon Valley event, Avaya announced a number of initiatives, including our new engagement strategy, and technologies such as Avaya Engagement Development Platform and Avaya Agent for Chrome.

Avaya Engages Silicon Valley

I would like to share with you the story line for one of the demonstrations featured during the event, the Day in the Life of the Online Shopper. Following the demo, we received a lot of positive feedback on social media, since it featured many of the technologies announced at the event.

Imagine you are a shopper looking for a pair of bootcut jeans. If you had questions about the pants, you could go to the store and have an associate answer your questions, measure and fit you, and complete the transaction.

Now imagine taking that same scenario online. Retailers interested in replicating the high-touch customer experience equip their associates with video so they can help customers through the computer, answering your questions, sharing their screen and helping you complete your purchase.

That exact scenario can now be accomplished with Avaya Engagement Development Platform Snap-Ins like WebRTC, Work Assignment, Context Store, Real-Time Speech Analytics, and the new Avaya Agent for Chrome.

To see this solution in action, please contact your local Avaya representative to arrange a personal demo.

For a deeper dive into the Avaya Engagement Development Platform, read Mark Fletcher’s interview with Gary Barnett, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Engagement Solutions at Avaya.

Marine Corps Marathon Races to the Finish Line

An estimated 30,000 marathoners from 50 countries took to the streets of our nation’s capitol Saturday for the 39th annual Marine Corps Marathon. So did 120,000 spectators who were there to cheer them on and enjoy a gorgeous fall day.

They lined a route that wound past a host of scenic monuments and historic sites – from the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and National Mall to the Arlington National Cemetery.

Avaya Government Solutions was out in full force and proud to be a sponsor. We staffed water stations along the 26.2-mile course and even fielded our own team of runners.

Retired Marine and Medal of Honor winner Kyle Carpenter kicked things off by parachuting to the starting line carrying a 7,800-square-foot flag you could see from miles away. He shed his flight suit and then ran the race. That’s quite the feat, considering the severe injuries he suffered just four years ago diving onto a grenade to save a fellow Marine.

There were dozens of other inspiring stories around every turn – from the disabled vet who lost his legs and ‘ran’ the marathon on a hand-propelled skateboard, to the mother of a severely wounded Marine who competed to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund benefiting wounded warriors.

Those kinds of heroic stories have helped to make the event one of the largest marathons in the world. It has come to be known as the “People’s Marathon” since no prize money is awarded. Instead, runners compete for bragging rights and the love of the race.

And speaking of bragging rights… two Army runners took top honors this year, an outcome I’m certain will ratchet up rivalry among the services for years to come. Army Spec. Samuel Kosgei placed first in the men’s division, while Army Captain Meghan Curran led the women’s division. Congratulations to all!

For a closer look at the action:

Meet Avaya’s Marine Corps Marathon Runners: Anna, Kelsey and Phil

This week’s runners of Team Avaya come to us from New York, Florida and Virginia (just a stone’s throw from the starting line). Learn more about this athletic bunch and why they’re proud to represent Avaya. Meet Anna, Kelsey and Phil …

Meet Team Avaya: Anna Winters

Anna Winters Avaya

Training for the Marine Corps 10k gives Anna Winters, global management development program, a special sense of pride as she recalls her father’s time spent in the Navy. Traveling from New York, Anna is excited to visit Washington, D.C. and run amongst the nation’s history.

Why did you choose to run the Marine Corps 10k?
I really love to network within the company. It’s great to unite with colleagues and do something fun together for a great cause.

What does the event mean to you?
For me, this event represents our armed forces. My dad was in the Navy and I really respect those who have sacrificed for us daily. Getting the honor to run in something on their behalf gives me a sense of pride.

How far you traveling and what are makes this event worth it?
I’ll be coming from New York. I think it’s awesome that Avaya is sponsoring this, and it’s great to be connected with the community of Avaya. I feel that I’ll get a lot more out of working here if I put forth the effort to be a part of the community and culture. That’s something that means a lot to me.

Why are you proud to run as part of Team Avaya?
It’s fantastic to represent the company. I believe in what we’re doing, I think we make a difference and I’m excited to really start a career here. It’s a great feeling to be a representative of something you’re involved in every day. I’m a face of Avaya all the time in sales, but being part of Team Avaya is a truly unique and unifying experience.

What does running mean to you?
It’s always been a great outlet for me. In college, I developed a passion for it, and there was a beautiful trail beside our place. Over the years, running has become very therapeutic and I’ve enjoyed the numerous health benefits it offers me.

What are you most looking forward to on race day?
The energy! Being in the nation’s capital, experiencing the unity of the athletes and keeping our armed forces in mind is incredible. Remembering our armed forces is something that, as Americans, I think we often take for granted. It will be great to refocus on how much their service means to our country. I think the day in general will be very patriotic and I love that.

Do you do anything special/unique to prepare yourself physically or mentally on race day?
For this particular race, I plan to spend the whole weekend there in D.C. enjoying the sights and monuments.

Meet Team Avaya: Kelsey Heine

Kelsey Heine, Avaya

Kelsey Heine, national account manager, Avaya Government Solutions, is no stranger to the D.C. area. With her home just a short walking distance from the starting line, Kelsey has the added benefit of training in the nation’s capital. Learn more about Kelsey and her 10k journey…

Why did you choose to run the Marine Corps 10k?
I choose to run in the 10k because I thought it would be a great opportunity to represent Avaya Gov and I wanted to show support for my brother Kevin. He is a sophomore in college at Towson University and was accepted last summer into the Platoon Leader Class Officer Program. This summer, he completed his first increment at Officer Candidate School and now has one more increment to go. After graduating from OCS, he will be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant of the United States Marine Corps upon graduation from Towson. I am so incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication that he has shown toward achieving his goal of becoming a Marine and I am looking forward to running with him on the day of the event.

How far are you traveling, and what makes this event worth it?
I actually live in Arlington, VA in an area called Rosslyn, which is only a few minute walk to where the event starts and ends.

What does running mean to you?
As a member of the Avaya Gov team, it means a lot to be able to participate in this event. It is an amazing chance to be able to represent Avaya while showing support and appreciation for all the Marines who have valiantly served and are serving this country.

What has been your most memorable moment preparing for the 10k?
It would be hard for me to pick one memorable moment in the time that I have been preparing for the run, but what I love the most about living and training in Arlington/Washington D.C. are the views. I usually run on the Mount Vernon trail, which follows the Potomac River on the Virginia side, and from there I have a beautiful view of the monuments in D.C. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe that I get to call this beautiful place home.

What are you most looking forward to on race day?
On race day, I am most looking forward to completing the run and spending time with the other Avaya team members that are going to be at the event. Even though there are only a few of us running from the Avaya Gov team I know a lot of them will be there volunteering. One of my favorite things about working at Avaya is all the wonderful people that I have met and get to work with on a daily basis.

Do you do anything special/unique to prepare yourself physically or mentally on race day?
Lucky for me, I am only running the 10k so as soon as I am starting to get tired all I’ll need to do is think of the people running the marathon in order to feel a little better. If that doesn’t help, I’ll probably think back to the lessons that I learned during the four years I played lacrosse at Ohio State. Those years taught me a lot about the power of mental toughness. You truly can accomplish anything when you put your mind to it and you have a “won’t stop, can’t stop” attitude.

Meet Team Avaya: Phil Omi

Phil Omi, Avaya

When Phil Omi (photo, far right) begins his marathon journey it will be the second time in as many years hitting the streets of D.C. to complete the Marine Corps Marathon. What pushes him to run? Read on to find out.

Why did you choose to run the Marine Corps Marathon/10k?
I ran the Marathon last year with a good friend of mine and had so much fun that I decided to do it again.

What does the event mean to you?
This run will be my fifth marathon in five years.

How are you training for it?
I am actually training for the Disney Dopey run in January and the D.C. marathon falls on a 17-mile training day. I am running five days a week and cross training the other two days.

How far are you traveling, and what makes this event worth it?
I am traveling over 800 miles from Florida. Washington D.C. is also a great location for a family vacation.

Why are you proud to run as part of Team Avaya?
Running with a team gives you the motivation to train a little harder, knowing that others may be depending on you.

What does running mean to you?
My wife and I started running five years ago after my second back surgery. I could barely walk when we started. After 18 weeks of training, we ran our first half marathon with Team in Training, which is a charity group that trains for endurance events and raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. After that, I continued to run for my health. A few years later, we had a baby girl, Emma. She is my reason for running now.

What has been your most memorable moment preparing for the marathon/10k?
For me, there are really no memorable moments during training. It is usually just a blur.

What are you most looking forward to on race day?
I like the start of a race, when the energy level is high. In D.C., this is especially true with the Howitzer starting the race.

Do you do anything special/unique to prepare yourself physically or mentally on race day?
I am usually pretty quiet and focused on that morning. Anyone who knows me knows that running is the absolute last thing on my list of things I want to be doing. My goal is to get past the first three miles, and then I can start to focus on the rest of the day.