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In Between the Numbers: Bring Your Own Device Do we know what that means?

I was at a technology conference in London late last year, and the topic was mobility – and, inevitably, BYOD: bring your own device.

The mobility evangelists (and they dominated the four-person panel) waxed poetic as to all the fabulous things that iPhone- and Android-armed employees could bring to the business. Rich content! Social networking! Collaboration! Meeting each other for lunch!

Then a grouchy American analyst walked to the podium, and growled two words: “Data Security.”

And silence fell like a thick blanket over the room.

BYOD is one of technology’s topics du jour, an issue that will create a few tons of PowerPoint and a fresh revenue line for consulting firms in the next 18-24 months.

Cynicism aside, it’s a very important issue – and not just for ICT shops. And, it’s an issue that will be easily misunderstood.

Yes, BYOD is about data security. Yes, there’s a need for hard and high corporate security walls. Clearly-stated rules. And devout attention to PCI.

But beyond that, let’s pause and reflect.

BYOD is not about the devices. The devices will continue to evolve at Moore’s Law speed, and the stuff the kids are bringing into the office today will be obsolete by the time your new policies reach the governance committee.

Truth be told, BYOD is about the big tech-driven generational change in expectations and behavior. It’s about the new normal of life with the Internet. Life in the Internet.

It’s about Millennials who use technology like I use a knife and fork. It’s about a tsunami wave flooding every phase of business life – from the headquarters office to the distribution center to the store.

And this tsunami will not just touch devices. It will drive change in the cloud content that employees will use. It will drive change in their willingness to sit in cubes (versus do the work at home or at Starbucks or wherever there’s a fast wireless pipe). It will drive change in their expectations for interaction and participation, for education and training.

It will even touch the glowing third rail of data security. (As this is the generation of Wiki-Leaks and unbridled transparency on Facebook.)

Agree? Disagree?

 Let me know what you think.

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Catching channel hoppers to boost sales

 Using stores as showrooms for online purchases is the “new normal” for today’s tech- and Internet-savvy shoppers. So how do retailers “catch” these channel-hopping customers and “keep” them buying within their own brand?

The Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) believes retailers can increase sales both in stores and online by creating “mashops” that combine immersive online content with engaging in-store experiences. This idea is backed up by Cisco IBSG’s latest research, which revealed that digital content has reached a new level of influence.

Surprisingly, shoppers now prefer online sources to people when making buying decisions. Read More »

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Cisco StyleMe: Virtual Fashion Mirror Inspires Sales Across All Age Groups

One of the key questions I get from retailers is “How can I use technology to create experiences that inspire my customers to buy more, both in the store and online?” In the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group’s (IBSG) work with leading worldwide retailers, we uncovered what we believe is the answer—the “inspire” trigger. Specifically, inspire triggers are emotionally charged shopping experiences that make customers exclaim, “I never thought of that, let’s buy it,” or, “Wow, I want to by that now.”

From this work, Cisco IBSG developed Cisco StyleMeTM—a virtual fashion mirror that combines augmented reality with the latest mobile and networking technologies to create a fun, new, interactive way to try on clothing and accessories virtually. Cisco StyleMe lets customers visually browse a wide range of products; build outfits; receive expert recommendations; capture images of what they look like to share with friends and family; create a digital wardrobe of items in which they’re interested; and buy their selections in the store or online.

Customer testing shows that Cisco StyleMe is a hit with all types of consumers, but especially with a group that surprised us—shoppers over 50 years of age. The older generation clearly sees the benefits of easily trying on new outfits and getting expert advice, which far outweighs any apprehensions they might have about using the technology.

For retailers, Cisco StyleMe has the potential to 1) grow cross-channel sales by giving customers access to an extended range of inventory and enabling them to buy in-store and online; 2) strengthen customer loyalty by creating differentiated in-store experiences and enabling follow-up with customers after their store visit; and (3) increase conversion rates by allowing customers to receive relevant recommendations and interact with friends and family who influence their buying decisions.

Given the success of Cisco StyleMe, we believe creating rich, digital, cross-channel experiences in the store represents a powerful new way to inspire customers to buy. To get started, ensure your technology infrastructure is up to the task of supporting interactive rich-media experiences. By starting now to ensure your technology infrastructure is up to date, you’ll be in a strong position to capture more sales from customers both online and in your stores.

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In Between the Numbers: New Year’s Resolutions

OK, retail technologists. It’s the new year. Time for resolutions.

Grab the pencil (so you can revise, not erase) and the notepad, plug in the earbuds, and settle into your thinking chair. And take the first step in getting rid of those old bad habits.

Resolve to address those big, ugly, long-standing structural weaknesses that weigh you down like a ball and chain. Weaknesses like the non-integrated, multiple databases residing within the legacy applications. Like the oft taken-for-granted time-to-capability performance (caused by a legacy store architecture) that measures all-store roll-outs in years and gets a constant eyeroll and deep sigh from the SVP of Ops.

Resolve to look that ancient, deeply-customized application that you prop each year with more people and money squarely in the eye.

Resolve to lose weight. Heavy, power-sucking, PO-abusing CPU weight. Virtualize the data centers and start the process of removing CPUs (and all the break-fix maintenance costs) from the store. Thin is in. So is operational simplicity.

Resolve to demand value from your vendors – which, as we all know, is different from the lowest price. Demand that they help you solve specific business problems. Demand that they bring their best strategists and thinkers to the table.

Resolve to ignore all the one-off shiny technologies du jour. Easier said than done, especially with NRF around the corner, the marketing SVP sputtering that “everyone else is doing it,” and the CEO remarking that his nephew had one at Christmas. (Mobility! Smartphone apps! Tablets! Interactive kiosks! Ooooh!)

Resolve to embrace BYOD, and push it forward. Your corporate leaders of tomorrow won’t necessarily thank you. It’s just that they’ll be willing to work for you instead of the competition.

Resolve to toss out of the room any consultant or vendor sales rep who talks about “customer experience” without detailed considerations of your segment, your price point, your brand promise, and the overall customer journey by persona – all the way through service and loyalty. Resolve to ask them how many times they’ve visited your stores.

 What am I missing?

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Retail Lessons from Las Vegas Vacation Part 3 of 3 – Selling the Experience

In Part 1 of the blog I wrote about video technology, part 2 on omni channel, for the third and last part of the blog series I would like to show what Las Vegas is doing in terms of selling the total consumer experience rather than just products and services.

In one sense Las Vegas has always been about selling the experience when it comes to gambling.  You don’t get a tangible product for your bets (unless you win) but people gamble for the experience.  As gaming is legalized in many countries as well as states, Las Vegas has adapted itself to market the Las Vegas experience beyond gaming.

While I was on vacation I visited the Stratosphere hotel and casino which is the tallest structure in Las Vegas which features casinos, restaurants and thrill rides on top.  Its latest offering SkyJump  (package costs including video via wrist cam and photo) allows participants to jump off the tower at the 850 ft and free fall down and land via decelerator wire.  Certainly a customer experience not easily forgotten :-)

Other examples include Read More »

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