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To Compete in the Retail Revolution, Mobility and Analytics Are Critical

Today, mobile devices are everywhere — and vying for the attention of just about everyone. On a train, in a café, or in the park, people are gaming, connecting with far-away friends, and watching TV shows.

Increasingly, they are also researching, browsing, and buying products.

Such tech-savvy mobile shoppers are driving a retail revolution that has left many brick-and-mortar retailers scrambling to catch up. In fact, mobility and apps have created an industry disruption similar in scope to what we saw with e-commerce in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

For many traditional retailers, the stakes are high and the challenges daunting. However, I see tremendous opportunities. Read More »

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Navigating Dark Data To Find Hidden Value in a Digital Era

Our world is rapidly connecting people, process, data, and things in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. The Internet of Everything (IoE) is at the heart of this transformation.

As more dark assets are “lit up,” organizations will receive an influx of valuable data that can lead to insights, knowledge, and opportunities. However, much of the data generated will be just beyond reach, frequently referred to as “dark data.” Read More »

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When Clicks Meet Bricks: the Future of the Retail Store

Today’s retailers face a hard truth: their customers have embraced digital technologies faster than they have.

But I believe that retailers have an opportunity to elevate the shopping experience in exciting new ways. By integrating the digital and the physical — in effect, merging clicks with bricks — retailers can capture new revenue, along with loyal, satisfied customers.

First, retailers need to understand a changed landscape. In only the past five years, mobility, analytics, e-commerce, and other technologies have had a profound effect on the entire shopping experience, putting the customer in charge. Traditional retailers must respond with highly relevant experiences that drive greater efficiency, savings, and engagement.

Recently, I shared some thoughts on this topic with Cisco, both for a new global study on retail trends and also in a podcast titled The Last Checkout Line. The U.S. and U.K. findings of Cisco’s study were released early this year and showed some surprising results. As Cisco’s paper emphasized, customers demand a hyper-relevant shopping experience, in which past shopping histories, current contexts, and future plans drive real-time interactions with the retailer, in-store or out.

Some retailers are already excelling in these areas. Sephora, the French cosmetics franchise, is a good example of a retailer that is offering digital and mobile experiences in-store, enabling customers to interact and discover products in new ways while also bridging a seamless connection with the online experience. Other retailers have leveraged analytics to ensure stock availability for individual customers, integrating with other store locations to ship products to the customer’s home or a more convenient store location.

I believe that all retailers will need to assess their current capabilities. The mobile experience in the store is essential, both to interact with customers on a deeper level and to empower in-store associates with real-time contextual information. This requires enabling Wi-Fi and expanding bandwidth to accommodate new digital experiences.

Analytics, of course, is critical to understanding customers, in-store and out. Retailers will need accurate information at all stages of the shopping journey. That includes accurate data on inventory and customer browsing habits; there is no faster way to disappoint a customer than not having the item he or she expects, or to make the customer wait.

But retailers will also need to be sensitive to how much information customers are willing to share. There’s a fine line between an appropriate “opt-in” incentive and one that is perceived to be intrusive. If retailers get it right, customers will see the clear benefits and value in sharing their data.

As Cisco’s retail paper stressed, technology has accelerated changes in customer behavior, and traditional assumptions around age demographics are outmoded. Gen Y can enjoy the store experience, for example, while older customers may be highly connected and mobile. Retailers will need flexible, future-proof infrastructures that enable them to respond to ever-shifting customer demands.

I see the winners in retail succeeding on three key fronts:

  • They will provide breakout innovations that set market expectations for new kinds of customer interactions, new ways of sorting and tracking products, and new ways of fulfilling customer needs. These will be highly relevant and situationally aware; that is, aligned with customers’ current contexts.
  • They will have flexible systems and architectures in place to support these new kinds of interactions, and adapt to changes in customer behavior.
  • And they will ensure a consistent, seamless experience, whether the customer is engaging via email, call center, online, a mobile device, or with an in-store customer associate.

In the end, winning retailers will shift their focus from short-term profits to a customer-centric strategy. After all, the more relevant, streamlined, and seamless the customer experience, the more likely it is that those customers will return — again and again.

Future of IT Podcast: The Last Checkout Line- How the Internet of Everything Can Transform the Retail Experience from Cisco Business Insights

 

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Connected Valet Robot “Lights Up” Airport Parking

Connecting Dark Assets: An ongoing series on how the Internet of Everything is transforming the ways in which we live, work, play, and learn.

If you’re like me, you usually arrive at the airport for a business trip with no time to spare. Often, I find myself rushing to the airport from a meeting that ran late, or arriving at the crack of dawn after not getting enough sleep. So the last thing I want to deal with is trying to catch the shuttle from long-term parking — or even finding a space in the short-term lot. Some airports now offer valet service, but I’m always hesitant about picking up a scratch or dent when I give my keys to the parking attendant.

But if I were flying out of Düsseldorf, Germany, it would be a different story. This past summer, Düsseldorf introduced ParkingPLUS, which uses a valet robot called “Ray” to park your car safely and efficiently — with no risk to your paint job! Travelers just drive into the ParkingPLUS lot, and Ray takes it from there, measuring the vehicle and picking it up with a forklift-like mechanism. The robot transports the car to a back parking area, efficiently squeezing it into a tight space without trouble. And for travelers, the drop-off point is just a quick walk to the terminal.

Not only is Ray a very skilled parking attendant, it’s also a great example of how the Internet of Everything (IoE) “lights up” dark assets by connecting the previously unconnected. Because ParkingPLUS is connected to the airport’s flight data system, Ray knows how long you’ll be gone. This enables Ray to park your car in the best spot for easy retrieval. And if you change your return flight, you need only enter your new flight information into a mobile app to let Ray know when to have your car ready.

The Düsseldorf airport is the first real-world application of this technology from German company Serva Transport, which does not want to stop with airport parking. By installing its system into busy and congested urban parking garages, the company estimates it can increase parking capacity by 60 percent — saving time, energy, and aggravation as it reduces congestion and improves productivity.

But I’d be happy with the airport version, especially if it came to San Jose! With a connected robot valet, my travel days would be less stressful and more productive. The robot parking valet is just one more way IoE is lighting up dark assets — even dark parking garages.

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IoE and the Shape of Things to Come

“May you live in interesting times,” the old saying goes. With its explosion in intelligent connections, the Internet of Everything makes this one of the most exciting times to be alive — ever.

But you already knew that.

The real fun begins when we consider that as dynamic as technology change appears to be in 2015, this is only the beginning. Mobility, video, analytics, and other technologies have already transformed our jobs, our home lives, the ways we socialize, access entertainment, you name it. But now IoE is accelerating change at an even faster rate as people, culture, innovation, technology, get added to the mix.

With that in mind, let’s explore some key predictions to see where I believe IoE will take us in the next ten years or so.

The way I see it, IoE will drive an unparalleled level of social and business consciousness, as the Internet evolves far beyond its current state and limitations. This transformation will center on three core capabilities to be Hyperaware, Predictive, and Agile.

Top Predictions for the Internet of Everything Era from Joseph M Bradley

Hyperaware Read More »

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