7 Ways To Make Your Online Virtual Conference Successful

LinkedIn
Virtual conference with many laptops and technology background and assortment of images with people wearing headsets

The COVID-19 global pandemic has upended the conference and events industry. While some events have been canceled or postponed, others are being moved to an online, virtual setup in order to safeguard the health of attendees and presenters.

Virtual conference events aren’t new (indeed, some very large ones are held each year). However, they are unfamiliar to many meeting planners, and it’s important to understand that the keys to a successful virtual conference event are a bit different than those for a traditional live event. Keynote speakers need to recognize this, as well, since keynote programs that work well onstage might not translate well to an online format.

As a keynote speaker who’s headlined both live and virtual conference events for over a decade, here are 7 tips I’ve learned about how to make digital events successful, from large online gatherings to small eLearning sessions:

1. Use video if at all possible.

Even when delivered by the best speakers, it can be difficult to hold a virtual audience’s attention with a slide-based presentation, alone. Most webinar platforms support videoconferencing, and virtual conference speakers should absolutely make use of that capability. When your audience can see the speaker at a virtual event, it makes for a more engaging, more personalized attendee experience. If video is not available, then consider shortening the speaker sessions from a standard one-hour keynote to something more abbreviated, in an effort to maintain audience engagement throughout the entire presentation.

2. Carefully consider the best available audio option.

One surefire way to disengage a virtual audience is to subject them to poor audio quality. If they’re unable to hear the speakers clearly, they’ll tune them out (if not actually disconnect from the live feed). In contrast to a live event, with carefully controlled, professional A/V equipment – audio quality for a virtual session can be negatively impacted by a wide variety of factors: the quality of the speaker’s microphone, the platform used to capture the audio (landline phone, cell phone or VOIP), and network quality/connectivity (for cell and VOIP audio). The most reliable, high quality alternative is a landline phone – encourage your speakers to use that device, if at all possible. If a landline isn’t available, the second-best option will vary depending on the speaker’s equipment setup and connectivity. Test out those different options well before the event, and select the one that provides the best listening experience for the audience.

3. Make sure your speakers have customized their presentations for a virtual audience.

A speech that works well in a live venue may not translate perfectly to a virtual one. Speakers may not at first realize it, but gestures and other visual cues that they (sometimes unknowingly) use during a live speech won’t work in the virtual event. For this reason, speakers skilled in virtual events will utilize special materials for that delivery medium, such as a modified slide deck which helps convey information or emotion that wouldn’t otherwise be communicated effectively across a digital medium.

4. Keep the session interactive.

Depending on the size of the audience, the degree to which the virtual session can be made interactive will vary. Even large virtual conferences, however, can be made more interactive simply by using the audience polling features which are available in many online event platforms. Explain to the audience how to submit questions via the platform, and encourage them to do so, be it during a designated Q&A period at the end of the session, or during the program. Make sure speakers keep an eye on questions as they are submitted, so they can address some of them on the fly during their prepared remarks.

5. Do a comprehensive A/V check – and take it seriously.

Most speakers can do A/V checks at live events in their sleep, as it’s an exercise with which they are exceedingly familiar. That’s not the case with virtual events. Even if a speaker has done virtual sessions in the past, there’s no guarantee their next virtual event will use the same technology platform as their last. Great speakers leave nothing to chance when preparing for an event, and that approach is especially important with virtual sessions. Check everything in advance – audio/video quality, screen sharing, host-to-speaker private messaging, audience Q&A – and do it all with the same equipment and internet connection that the speaker will be using on event day.

6. Plan for technical issues.

Live events are conducted in well-controlled environments, where skilled A/V technicians are overseeing the entire endeavor. That’s not the case in a virtual conference event, where there are a host of potential breakpoints (network connectivity among them) that nobody has to even think about when putting on an in-person meeting. Develop contingency plans for whatever technical issues might crop up during the session. For example, if speakers are using slides, have them send their presentations to the event host in advance – so if the speaker loses connectivity, the host can at least step in and advance the slides for them.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Two Upcoming Webinars-Business Resource Group Leadership Development and the Impact of Supplier Diversity Outreach Activities

LinkedIn
NUDC-web series

Join Us for Our FREE Webinars on 3/25 and 4/21!

MARCH:

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 10am PDT/1pm EDT

Developing Business Resource Group Leadership

Kristine Maciolek Small, PPL Corporation and Deb Dagit, Deb Dagit Diversity

Business/Employee resource groups can be one of a company’s hidden treasures, helping to identify new sources for the talent pipeline, shining a spotlight on current and high potential leaders and creating a cross-functional multi-level team of advocates to help retain valued employees. BRGs are also a key component of a successful diversity and inclusion strategy, helping to improve culture, serving as advocates and allies for awareness and change.

Successful BRGs have effective leaders who know how to connect and collaborate with members, colleagues and more importantly, the company’s leadership.

Join Kristine Maciolek Small, PPL and Deb Dagit, Deb Dagit Diversity, to understand how leadership development opportunities for BRG leaders and members can improve professional skills and foster BRG collaboration across demographic and business lines, thereby increasing the effectiveness of not just the BRGs, but the enterprise. Register today!

This webinar will offer useful insights and ideas for BRG leaders and members, human resource professionals, business managers and both formal and informal executive sponsors.

APRIL

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 10am PDT/1pm EDT

Impact Analysis: Supplier Diversity Supporting Activities
How does data inform the impact of outreach activities to advance opportunities for diverse suppliers?

Jose Espinoza, CalWater
How do you prioritize activities? Why measure impact? What does impact look like? Join Jose Espinoza, as he reviews a data-driven program: the importance in measuring impact, top-five activities; he will share tips for supplier diversity managers, advocacy organizations, and diverse suppliers. He’ll conclude with how to implement a similar approach.

In addition to going beyond demonstrating diverse spend, this webinar will illustrate the importance of each step in the supplier diversity process including why it’s important to know where diverse suppliers are coming from, so you can identify barriers. More importantly, when you have current metrics on suppliers, those metrics can be used to encourage supplier diversity growth. Register today!

The webinars and the work of NUDC is made possible in part by grants from Academy Securities, ACT-1 Group, AG Tools, Alcoa Traffic Control, American Association of Blacks in Energy, American Water, Anonymous, Arnita Smith, Burns Environmental Services, Inc., C.L. King & Associates, California Water Association, Center for Energy Workforce Development, Conitsha Barnes, Connecticut Water, Consumers Energy, Damian Rivera, Diversity Comm, Donna Ruff, Dr. Alexander Washington, Duke Energy, Edison Electric Institute, Exelon Corporation, Gainesville Regional Utilities, Gunster, Heather McCreary, Hispanics in Energy, Jesse Castellanos, Liberty Power, Loop Capital, MFR Securities, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, New York Power Authority, NRG Energy, Osceola Consulting, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Penserra, Philadelphia Gas Works, PJM Interconnection, PPL, Ruben Strategy Group, S&H Metal & Fabricating Co. Inc., Salesforce, Sanjay Kucheria/Trinus, Southern California Edison Company, Southern California Gas Company, Southwest Gas, SouthWest Water Company, TAS Strategies, TechSoup, The Dowling-Woo Company, The ELITE SDVOB Network, Utility Workers Union of America, Yolanda Pollard; Support for the Diversity Toolkit also received from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Economic Impact and Diversity; the Supplier Diversity webinar series is sponsored in part by generous support from Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Internet companies won’t disconnect people for unpaid bills for 60 days, FCC says

LinkedIn
Mom and her two children in the kitchen on the computer

The Federal Communications Commission has won commitments from phone and broadband providers to support the swelling numbers of adults and children working and attending classes from home, respectively, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of broadband and telecommunications firms signed up to the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” which asks connectivity companies to postpone termination of services for the next 60 days on homes or small businesses because of an inability to pay bills because of the outbreak.

Among the companies to endorse the pledge are major and minor internet providers including AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Google Fiber, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel asked the FCC to go farther by asking companies to also lift and eliminate data caps and overage charges, and get hospitals connected and make sure there are hot spots for loans to school children.

Internet service providers are beginning to advertise temporary discounts, including for students whose schools are closed because of the coronavirus.

Charter Communications said Friday it would offer free broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students who do not already have a broadband subscription. Cox Communications said it was offering one month free service to new customers of its low-income service beginning Monday, and increasing the service’s speed beginning Tuesday.

AT&T said Thursday it was waiving internet data overage fees for customers who did not already have unlimited home internet access. Comcast said it would give its Internet Essentials service away for free for 60 days. (Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)

The FCC said Friday that Chairman Ajit Pai was “calling on broadband and telephone service providers to promote the connectivity of Americans impacted by the disruptions caused by the #coronavirus pandemic.”

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

The No. 1 job of 2019 pays $140,000 — and its hiring growth has exploded 74%

LinkedIn
pictured is a human hand touching a robotic hand

Career and job site LinkedIn released its annual “Emerging Jobs” list, which identifies the roles that have seen the largest rate of hiring growth from 2015 through 2019. No. 1 on the list: Artificial Intelligence Specialist — typically an engineer, researcher or other specialty that focuses on machine learning and artificial intelligence, figuring out things like where it makes sense to implement AI or building AI systems. Hiring for this role has been tremendous, growing 74% annually in the past 4 years alone.

Hiring for this role has been tremendous, growing 74% annually in the past 4 years alone. “AI has infiltrated every industry, and right now the demand for people skilled in AI is outpacing the supply for it,” Guy Berger, the principal economist at LinkedIn, tells MarketWatch. “This is the third year in a row a role related to machine learning or artificial intelligence has topped the list, and we can only expect demand to increase.”

The pay is impressive too, with AI roles often commanding six figures. Jobs site Indeed notes that artificial intelligence engineers in San Francisco, for example, rake in $120,000 to upwards of $160,000. Sometimes AI roles can garner pay of $250,000 or more.

LinkedIn isn’t the only company to highlight an AI specialty role as a job to watch. Indeed’s annual list of the “25 best jobs of 2019” named machine learning engineer as No. 1, citing a 344% increase in job postings in the past few years and an annual base salaries of $146,000, among other perks.

So what’s behind this rapid growth in AI jobs? Berger says that “almost everyone” is hiring for these roles from the obvious (tech and automotive) to the more surprising (higher education and sports).

And these offer a real opportunity even for people who aren’t currently in AI: “We’re in an extremely tight labor market so companies are really looking to hire whoever can get the job done,” says Berger — who notes that learning skills like TensorFlow and Python, as well as diving into machine learning and natural language processing, could help you land the role. You can often take these kinds of classes as certificate programs from local universities, coding schools and more.

Rounding out the top 5 jobs on LinkedIn’s emerging jobs report are robotics engineers (40% annual hiring growth), data scientist (37%), full stack engineer (35%) and site reliability engineer (34%). “While many of these jobs are tech roles, they’re not necessarily in the tech industry. Every company has had to embrace tech at some level and we’re seeing that reflected in these high-growth jobs,” adds Berger.

But interestingly, there are also a number of client-facing roles that are experiencing rapid hiring growth, such as customer success specialist and sales development representative. Many roles like this “are heavily reliant on relationships, so being skilled in things like communication, problem-solving and collaboration are key,” Berger notes, adding that for these kinds of gigs companies “will rely on people skills that can’t be automated, successfully complementing new technologies.”

LinkedIn’s Top 10 Emerging Jobs
1. Artificial Intelligence Specialist
2. Robotics Engineer
3. Data Scientist
4. Full Stack Engineer
5. Site Reliability Engineer
6. Customer Success Specialist
7. Sales Development Representative
8. Data Engineer
9. Behavioral Health Technician
10. Cyber Security Specialist

Continue on to MarketWatch to read the complete article.

Apple’s Siri Disagrees With A Weatherman – On Live TV…And Other Small Business Tech News

LinkedIn
iphone screen showing small text on it

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 — Siri disagreed with a weatherman during a live forecast.

This past week, Tomasz Schafernaker—a meteorologist with BBC—was wearing his Apple Watch and delivering a live forecast when suddenly Siri spoke up. While Schafernaker shared information about a snowstorm that occurred recently in Minneapolis, Siri gave an opposing forecast, discrediting his delivery immediately. Although the meteorologist attempted to continue after the comedic snafu, Schafermaker found himself as the punchline of his co-host’s jokes for the remainder of the broadcast. It is unclear what prompted Siri but—regardless—BBC and viewers laughed the moment off while having some fun at the meteorologist’s expense. (Source: PCMag)

Why this is important for your business:

It’s a funny, yet ominous story. Siri and other voice enabled applications are already starting to insert themselves into our conversations. Soon enough they will be interacting with our customers in the same way – and it’s possible with the wrong information. Embrace this technology, but make sure to keep it in check.

2 — Facebook built a chatbot to help employees deflect criticism over the holidays

The New York Times reported this past week that Facebook has rolled out a new tool named “Liam Bot” which has been designed to help employees through difficult discussions regarding the many controversies the social media giant has been facing. The artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot was built by Facebook’s public relations team—although the company has not specifically disclosed why—and provides answers that coincide with public statements dealing with areas such as election meddling and free speech, to name a few. Liam Bot was first tested this past spring and was given to Facebook employees just before the Thanksgiving holiday. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your business:

This is another great example of how AI technology can deliver conversational bots that will help solve problems and answer customer questions. Coming soon: easy to use tools that will help small businesses configure similar chatbots.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Rapper Residente partners with scientists to create music with brain patterns

LinkedIn
Rapper Residente sitting on couch dresed in black and baseball cap

Grammy-winning rapper Residente has some new collaborators on his upcoming album: scientists. The Puerto Rican performer said he studied intensely with professors at Yale University and New York University to read brain patterns in worms, mice, monkeys, fruit flies and even hitmaker Bad Bunny to create his second solo project.

“(The album is) going to be about everything that I have inside of my head … because of that I kept brainstorming and I said, ‘Oh I have to study my brain, and then I have to study other people’s brains, and then I have to study animals’ brains,'” he said.

Daniel Alfonso Colón-Ramos, an associate professor of neuroscience at Yale, said Residente spent days at the school doing research.

“We were joking that we should give him a diploma,” said Colón-Ramos.

On campus, they used electroencephalogram (EEG) tests on worms to track and record brain wave patterns.

“Without harming the animals we can actually see as the animal is thinking, as it’s moving, as it’s exploring its environment, we can see individual cells talking into each other. It turns out when these cells, when these neurons talk to each other they’re using rhythms to communicate — we call it rhythms of activity. But, at the end of the day, those rhythms can be turned into music,” Colón-Ramos said.

The untitled album will be released in November. Residente, born René Juan Pérez Joglar, worked with Suzanne Dikker, a senior research scientist in NYU’s Department of Psychology, to use EEG tests on himself and Bad Bunny to produce the album’s first single, “Bellacoso.”

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

CBS Saturday Morning Debuts “Mission Unstoppable,” a New Weekly Series Executive Produced by Geena Davis and Miranda Cosgrove Who Also Serves as Host

LinkedIn
Miranda Cosgrove poses for Mission Unstoppable poster

CBS announced today that new series Mission Unstoppable, featuring female STEM superstars, is joining the Saturday morning block “The CBS Dream Team, It’s Epic!,” which returns for its seventh season Saturday, Sept. 28th (9:00-12:00 ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Each week, host and Executive Producer Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly) and an all-female leadership team showcase women on the cutting edge of science – including zoologists, engineers, astronauts, codebreakers, and oceanographers. Viewers will be inspired by female STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) superstars in leading fields including social media, entertainment, animals, design, and the internet – all categories key to the teen experience.

“Girls need to see themselves on and off the screen as STEM professionals, and as I always say, ‘If they can see it, they can be it.’ This new series strives to empower young women and showcase the many ways they can impact the world through careers in STEM.”

Academy-Award winning actor and advocate Geena Davis serves as co-executive producer of the series, bringing her passion for creating change in the portrayal of strong female characters in entertainment and media that positively influences young viewers.

“Strong female role models are essential to breaking down barriers and educating the next generation of leaders about gender equality,” said Geena Davis, Executive Producer, Mission Unstoppable. “Girls need to see themselves on and off the screen as STEM professionals, and as I always say, ‘If they can see it, they can be it.’ This new series strives to empower young women and showcase the many ways they can impact the world through careers in STEM.”

Serving as Showrunner is Anna Wenger, four-time Emmy-nominated producer for Billy on The Street, Between Two Ferns, and Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles. Wenger’s expertise in narrative television and sketch comedy television series will provide Mission Unstoppable with its core intent to bring fun and science to life for young viewers.

Continue on to Businesswire to read the complete article.

Mexican Scientist Creates Biodegradable Plastic Straw From Cactus

LinkedIn
Sandra Ortiz stands in kitchen behind table filled with vaiations of her new plastic

Researchers from the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico have created a biodegradable plastic from the juice of the prickly pear cactus.

The new material begins to break down after sitting in the soil for a month and when left in water, it breaks down in a matter of days. Plus, it doesn’t require crude oil like traditional plastics.

“There were some publications that spoke of different materials with which biodegradable plastics could be made, including some plants,” Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, the research professor who developed the material, told Forbes.

“In this case the nopal cactus has certain chemical characteristics with which I thought it could be feasible to obtain a polymer, that if it was combined with some other substances, all of them natural, a non-toxic biodegradable plastic would be obtained. The process is a mixture of compounds whose base is the nopal. It’s totally non-toxic, all the materials we use could be ingested both by animals or humans and they wouldn’t cause any harm.”

This means that even if any of this material made its way into the ocean, it will safely dissolve. It’s estimated that between 1.15 million to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. Last month, divers found a plastic KFC bag from the 1970s during an ocean clean-up off the waters off Bulcock Beach in Queensland, Australia and earlier this year, during a dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the ocean – a plastic bag was found.

According to Ortiz, the project was born in a science Fair of the The nopal cactus sitting on table with blender in the backgroundDepartment of Exact Sciences and Engineering, in the chemistry class with industrial engineering students of the career. They began to make some attempts to obtain a plastic using cactus as raw material.

“From that I decided to start a research project in a formal way. Currently in the project collaborate researchers from the University of Guadalajara in conjunction with the University of Valle de Atemajac.”

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Luis “Danny” Bathen of HENAAC: Becoming a Successful Engineer

LinkedIn
Luis "Danny" Bathen headshot

Being an engineer is like being that curious cat. The curious cat knows his or her curiosity may be the end of him or her, but he or she still needs to know how something works.

Without knowing how something works, we may not be able fix it, improve it, or simply innovate a new solution that makes that thing we think is cool obsolete.

Engineers built irrigation systems, engineers built castles, engineers got man to space, engineers built the world-wide web. Engineers are the reason we can see our loved ones across the sea in real time.

Engineers are the reason we can take selfies on a plane—flying across the sea, sharing them with millions of people while sipping our favorite drink thousands of feet up in the sky.

I became an engineer because I am a curious cat—I need to know how something works. I need to know how to build things from scratch. I need to know how to build more efficient things that will make my life and the life of people I care for easier. Being an engineer is rewarding, and also demanding.

It requires a lot of hard work. The cliché of “hard work pays” is indeed true, but to be a good engineer, you need to not only “work hard” but also “work smart.” Working smarter and more efficiently will help you complete tasks much faster. If I can write a computer program to automate a task that will help me work faster, I will. If I can build an Artificial Intelligence system that can automate most of my tasks, it will free my time to do more pressing matters. Artificial Intelligence is a hot and controversial topic today; there is a lot of excitement and fear. I am personally excited about it, because Artificial Intelligence is here to stay, it is in our future, and my job as an engineer is to make sure I help engineers and Artificial Intelligence, which will be good for me, my kids, and humanity.

In short, being an engineer is like being a curious cat who will work hard and work smart to make sure the next innovation he or she builds is an innovation for good rather than an innovation that may cause his or her doom.

How do we become good and successful engineers? Well, for starters, we must persevere.

Perseverance is perhaps one of the best traits to have. As engineers, we will fail—we will fail many times. It is not about failing—failure is inevitable—it is about how we deal with failure. The old “fail fast, recover fast” saying is true. We want to be able to fail, learn, and resume our work. Some days will feel like there is no solution, so we need to take a breather, sleep on it, and get back at it the next day. When we try different approaches and learn from our failures, we are bound to find a solution, or at least a partial solution that will help us move along.

Complacency is our enemy. As an engineer, we cannot, and should not, fall into the trap of complacency with our everyday tasks. As an engineer, if you reach a point where you stop trying to improve things, you are not being a good engineer. A good and successful engineer will look at better ways of doing things, improving on existing processes, and innovating.

Finally, to become a successful engineer, you must have a strong and positive attitude. You must not keep quiet when you see something is not quite right, when you feel something will not work, or something may endanger yourself or others. You must be strong and accept criticism— take it as an opportunity to learn rather than take it personally. We have all been criticized at some point in our lives for our work. Criticism is an opportunity to come back stronger and show that we can improve our work. However, do not let criticism get you down. And always give good feedback and positive criticism, because like you, others will also need that opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Be proactive, help when you can, and ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some people say to let our work speak for us, this is true, but you must also be your own marketing department. Good engineers will do great work, as good or better than yours. It is your responsibility to showcase your work, push your work, and market your work, so that others appreciate it and it does not fall on deaf ears. Yes, good work speaks volumes, but there is nothing wrong with adding amplifiers.

So, be a curious cat, be an innovator, be a creator, persevere, never be complacent, and have a great attitude. Don’t just be an engineer, be an awesome engineer!

Luis “Danny” Bathen was awarded HENAAC’s 2018 Most Promising Engineer Advanced Degree – Ph.D.

Yes, tech companies may listen when you talk to your virtual assistant. Here’s why that’s not likely to stop

LinkedIn
alexa machine sitting on a counter

Big tech companies don’t like to talk about it. And when users find out it’s happening, they’re often surprised — and disturbed. Yes, if you talk to a virtual assistant, such as Amazon’s Alexa, a human may listen to a recording of your chatter.

Recent reports have highlighted what is actually a longstanding practice meant largely to improve the artificial intelligence that underpins the virtual assistant-powered gadgets and services that are popping up throughout people’s homes and lives.

The practice raises privacy concerns for smart-speaker users in particular, who might have known that Amazon, Google, and Apple create recordings each time you speak to Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, respectively, but not that people might review them.

The companies have said only a small percentage of recordings are listened to by humans. Still, Google and Apple have temporarily halted human reviews of their recordings, while Amazon recently changed its settings to make it easier for people to avoid such review at all.

Last week, Facebook said it, too, had paused human review of some users’ audio clips, such as those sent as audio messages via the social network’s Messenger app. Facebook had been using humans to listen in, as part of an AI-transcription feature.

Lost in the shuffle of these revelations is whether people are truly needed to make these AI-dependent systems work, and how much companies should tell users about this process.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

How technology is changing the face of retail

LinkedIn
Group of women shopping

The concept of “retail tech” might bring to mind a Jetsons-like shopping experience of glowing screens, biometric scanners, and robotic personal assistants. But the reality is more along the lines of traffic-tracking sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, handheld scanners, and heat maps, all technology designed to provide a real-time snapshot of how the modern consumer is shopping. This wealth of data unlocks an understanding of the in-store customer journey that’s deeper and more insightful than ever, and retailers that can successfully leverage this information are the ones that will thrive.

Still, none of this technological wizardry matters if retailers don’t get the basics right. “We have all of these [great] technologies,” says Bjoern Petersen, president of Sensormatic Solutions, the global leader in enabling smart and connected shopper engagement. “But the No. 1 rule is: Don’t destroy the shopping experience.”

For Petersen, that starts with inventory accuracy, which is essential to getting shoppers to come back. “If I am coming in to buy or pick up something and it’s not there, that’s a terrible experience,” he says. “Yet almost all retailers have issues with inventory.”

RFID eliminates manual inventorying by electronically accounting for items packed inside shipping cartons, which are scanned upon arrival. Here’s how yoga-workout outfitter Lululemon puts the RFID-based TrueVUE technology to work: When a customer pays for a shirt, it triggers software that calls for a replacement to be pulled from the store’s back room. If the item is in stock, it will quickly appear on the floor.

“That’s a great customer experience,” Petersen says. “And the retailer can sell down to the last unit at full price because they know where every item is. If you don’t have that kind of deep visibility, you end up doing unnecessary markdowns—and when your store is full of racks of discounted items, the feel is very different.”

Not every retailer leverages RFID or other technology to create this deep inventory knowledge. Petersen says those brands will fall behind, particularly with services like Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) on the rise. Petersen points out that more than 10% of BOPIS items are unavailable when customers arrive to pick them up, leading to order cancellation. “The percentage is unnecessarily high,” he says.

ACHIEVING A SEAMLESS SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

Almost all retailers try to optimize costs, often through labor. But Petersen warns that cutting too much here runs the risk of losing the “all-important customer experience.” No shopper wants to wander the aisles in search of assistance, though retailers don’t want to pay for associates to stand around during slow periods.

So how does one staff the right amount of sales associates at the right time? The answer lies in technology that analyzes foot traffic, tracks transactions, and optimizes the ratio of staffers serving customers compared to those conducting replenishment tasks.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.