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How the Heck Do You Omnichannel?

The buzz in retail these days is “omnichannel” – we see slogans such as “Engage with Today’s Omnichannel Consumers,” “Develop Your Omnichannel Business” frequently. Cisco itself uses this word often. But in all honesty, I don’t think many people fully grasp the concept and its potential. And I don’t know of any retailer that has a complete approach to it. That’s right: None. 

Omnichannel retailing is about opening the store, its products, and services to shoppers in an immersive way that drives customer interaction across any point of access, at any time. “Omnichannel” is not just about connecting existing systems, it’s a transformational way to look at how you conduct business.

Becoming an omnichannel retailer is a broad undertaking, and many retailers are creating new executive positions to lead this strategy. However, I think these companies may be missing the boat. When thinking about omnichannel strategies, consider three key points:

First, a customer-centric strategy cuts across all organizations in the business – it can’t be sidelined into one business function such as IT. I often consult with retailers who experiment with different capabilities in a disconnected way; essentially, they throw technologies at the wall and wait to see what sticks. Instead, why not start by asking, “What does my customer want? How can I build a loyal relationship with them?” It’s all too easy to assume that showrooming is the enemy. But, really, why, for example, is Amazon successful? It’s not because they are available on a mobile phone. It’s because they are easy to do business with, offer good pricing, and deliver quickly. It’s about the way they address customer needs.

Next, I think stores often try to do too much at once (see wall-sticking, above). Instead, I recommend a phased approach that starts with the low-hanging fruit – projects that have the highest probability of effectiveness and can be measured against business targets as a whole. Every store has its niche, and one size does not fit all. By achieving rapid successes up front, retailers gain funding for the next piece of the strategy, building from success to success.

Finally, accept the fact that an omnichannel business will change how people work. Are you avoiding Internet access because you think associates will waste time surfing the web? Some may – but your good salespeople will be able to leverage online information to help them serve shoppers. Concerned that showrooming on the floor will drive customers away as they find lower prices online? Build your own identity, brand, and incentives into the online environment to drive sales. Worried that an online storefront or call center will undercut in-store sales? Run the numbers on losses over time as consumers find your store is the only one without convenient mobile customer support.

Omnichannel is not about the technology. Rather, it’s about finding the best outcome for you and your shoppers. To achieve success, IT and business must work together to solve customer problems for the store as a whole – there’s no other way to do it with complete success. Check out this great blog by Cara Waters, Five Lessons in Retail Trends.

I love retail trivia! Comment below if you know the answer to this question: What is the oldest US retail company?

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Marketing: Trading in Fluff for Buff

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”

-- Coco Chanel  

 I love that quote by fashion maven Coco Chanel. In today’s B2B marketing world, challenges can’t be addressed using outdated marketing tactics – hoping they will magically open new opportunities along with new revenue and ROI.

Growing trends in customer buying behavior and the technology used to make purchases are driving major changes for the role of marketing. As marketers, this gives us a fantastic opportunity. We can transform from what has sometimes been seen as simply “fluff” (and what many sales executives see as a cost center) into a revenue-generating center. Read More »

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The Internet is Booming in Latin America, Especially Among Younger Users

JasonHeadShot,croppedBy Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

Looking for the world’s hottest markets for Internet and social media activity? It’s not North America, or Europe, or even Asia. The real action is in Latin America.

ComScore recently released a study detailing some of these trends. Among the most impressive: Latin America had the fastest-growing Internet population of all regions in the world, growing 12 percent between 2012 and 2013, and reaching more than 147 million unique web visitors as of last March.

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Reducing Broken Links on Cisco.com

You probably encounter broken links on the web.

We are working hard to minimize broken link experiences on Cisco.com. Over a year ago we started using a new tool that helps us shield Cisco.com users from broken link errors. This process has resulted in a steep reduction in the number of broken links reported.

We track what you encounter as avoided broken link experiences. Last month we were able to resolve and direct 215,750 attempts to access broken links and old articles and send you to the right place. The highest resolved broken links for a single month was over 354,300 links.

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Our progress so far is encouraging even though we have more to do.

Can you help?

When you find a new URL, change your bookmark so future access to the page will be faster. And if you do hit a broken link drop us a note in the feedback tool found on every page of Cisco.com

Razzle Dazzle v2.0

During World War I, British artist and navy officer Norman Wilkinson proposed the use of “Dazzle Camouflage” on ships. The concept behind Dazzle Camouflage, as Wilkinson explained, was to “paint a ship with large patches of strong colour in a carefully thought out pattern and colour scheme …, which will so distort the form of the vessel that the chances of successful aim by attacking submarines will be greatly decreased.” The Dazzle Camouflage was not intended to hide the presence of the ships themselves, but instead was created to hide the ships size, shape, direction, and speed from would-be attackers.

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Razzle Dazzle Camouflage applied to a ship

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