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During the 2008 year-end post Christmas shutdown, as we checked out the Great Mall of the Bay Area, I wasn’t really expecting a lot of shoppers given the state of the economy. I was pleasantly surprised and a bit annoyed at finding the parking lots full, and having to circle the mall quite a few times before I could finally park, complimenting my quicker set of reflexes as another middle-aged man was trying to get the same spot from the opposite direction. Walking in, I saw that most of the shops did have fairly lengthy lines, especially those that were offering huge discounts. On closer look, some of these long lines were at the returns counters, where customers were either exchanging gifts they’d received for the holiday season, or in some cases, returning them back. Whether the lines are for purchasing products, or for returning them, the efficiency with which the store is able to service these people is what leads to customer satisfaction, and eventually customer loyalty. Nobody loves standing in long lines. So, given that customer satisfaction is inverserly proportional to lengthy lines, how do you use technology to “keep the lines moving”. That essentially forms the problem statement here. Barcode scanners, point of sale terminals, RFIDs, loyalty cards -- all these have helped in bringing technology to the retail environment to help keep lines moving quickly. What is the role of the network here, and how can embedded network-aware application help?In this demonstration, Ed Collins, one of our Enterprise Architects explains how integrating the conceptual”Credit card floor limit” application into the network is one cool way of bringing the network and application convergence through Embedded Event Management API.. This was one of the demos we shared on tradeshow booths, much before we launched the Cisco ‘Think Inside the Box’ Developer contest, and needless to say, it resonated very well with our customers.And do you know what’s cool?What’s really cool is that such simple applications let a non-IT decision maker (i.e. the retail store manager), make customer-focused decisions based on the underlying network, thereby having a huge impact on customer satisfaction. Retail solutions from Cisco partners like Precidia also demonstrate this concept and offer saleable retail solutions, on the Integrated Services Router.What’s also cool is how technology can be used to hedge risk -- in this case risks associated with potential fraud, and balance it against the overall customer experience. Thoughts?

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  1. On earlier look, some of these long lines were at the returns counters, where clients were either exchanging gifts they’d traditional for the holiday season, or in some cases, returning them back.

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