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In Between the Numbers: Less than a Third, and Less than Half.

Less than a Third, and Less than Half.

I was reminiscing with a friend recently about NRF shows past, and the graveyard of consumer-facing retail technology ideas.

Yikes. Lots of ghosts. Even a few zombie ideas that refuse to die (cart tablets, anyone?). The big question is why – with the exception of self-service – have so few new “breakthrough” ideas found acceptance?

Here’s a hypothesis: Caught in an ever-fast cycle of innovation, the sales and engineering departments – understandably – always seek more. More headroom. More functionality. More interoperability.

We dream of the possible. We dream of platforms, of vendor lock-in, of recurring streams of high-margin revenue, of bosses pinning ribbons to our medaled chests. Ignore the cost implications for a moment.  (As grave as they may be, given the expense of rolling something out to all stores.)

Here’s what we too often forget: Shoppers dream of ease and simplicity.  

A 2009 McKinsey study on consumers’ use of electronics devices sheds some light on the matter.  Less than one-third of all consumers use the advanced features of any CE device – and less than one-half even know that the features exist.  

Allow those factoids to simmer for a moment. Think of the hours of brilliant engineering innovation that most consumers simply ignore – that for most is too complicated, too complex. Brilliant engineering innovation that brings joy to the engineer, but immediate dismissive frustration from the consumer who simply wants to watch a movie.

Simplicity is the byword of the McKinsey paper. Simplicity in functionality.  Simplicity in usability. A quick glance, and you know how to use it and what to do.  A quick glance, and you know why it matters. The learning curve: a straight line north.

But it’s not just simplicity. Just as important is the usability – perhaps defined for retail as simplicity in context. Who’ll use it? When? Why? To what benefit? Consider the mother-of-two-in-a-hurry at the modern mega-grocery/mass retailer.  Consider, for a moment, the value of a cart tablet to her.  See wailing children pounding on the screen. Weep.

The very smart and always wise Bob Anderson, former CTO at Best Buy, points us to the “popcorn” button on the microwave as a perfect guide for consumer-facing technology.  No questions.  Immediate understanding of value.  One push and sixty seconds equals hot buttery-salted goodness.

Food for thought.

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The Future of Shopping Malls

 Recently my colleague Jon Stine, wrote on his blog In between the numbers – Big Changes for Stores about amount of retail square footage that is available today and the need for stores to evolve with changing consumer patterns.

This change is also reflected in shopping malls that needs to change to make the destination attractive to shoppers and for retail store operators.  In a recent trip to the local shopping mall in San Bruno, California, I noticed how the retail shopping mall has changed in the last few years to adopt to the new shopping trends.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5NIOrIOmhs

Some of the changes include:

  • Mixture of services and store formats in the main mall aisles
  • Use of vending machines to dispense higher end products such as cosmetics and electronics
  • Integration of digital video inside the store and at the display window to draw traffic/interest
  • Store exclusive offerings from personal appearances to store only merchandise that is not available online
  • More services offering in the mall from child care to education and entertainment. Read More »

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In between the numbers – Pay Me Now or Pay Me (More) Later

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Midwest.   But I just don’t like writing checks to lawyers.

 I’ve lots of friends in the legal profession, and all are lovely people (well, most of them, anyway).

 But as the pragmatic sort, it pains me to spend money to resolve something that might have been settled at a lesser price well before.

 Which leads me to the topic of PCI.

 Just reviewed a 2010 study from the data security experts at The Ponemon Institute that looked at the post-incident cost of data breaches.  Forget, for a moment, the brand humiliation, the CEO news conferences, the critical whiplash in the blogosphere and throughout Facebook.  Ignore, for a moment, that research suggests that 30% of consumers who were victimized by retailer data breaches promise never to patronize the offending brand again.

 The Ponemon research found that 42% of all data breach incidents led to the involvement of a third party (there to provide additional, independent investigation, resolve disputes, and soak up consulting fees.)

 The average cost of that third party involvement in the United States was $1.52 million, with final resolution costs ranging from $750,000 to upwards of $31 million.   That’s on top of lost business estimated at $4.47M per incident.

 Total:  $6M.  Perhaps not fatal to a billion-dollar business, but not a check I’d like to request.

 Yes, I know that active, careful PCI compliance is no guarantee.   And that active, careful PCI compliance doesn’t put revenue on the top line.  And that there’s ongoing confusion about PCI for mobile.  And everyone thinks it’s all too expensive.  And on and on and on.

 But I also know this:  active, careful compliance reduces risk.  Significantly. 

 And that the price of risk is not just a bruised brand. 

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Helping Retailers maintain compliance with PCI DSS 2.0

Last week Carol Ferrara Zarb, industry solution manager sat down with me and talked about the work being done at Cisco around helping merchants address the Payment Card Industry Data Security (PCI DSS) 2.0 standards released last year.

Cisco will be hosting a webinar april 14th 10:00am PT hosted by Lindsay Parker, global director of retail industry marketing with guests including:

  • Christopher Novak, Managing Principal, Investigative Response, Verizon Business Security Solutions
  • Danny Dhillon, Principal, Security Engineer, RSA
  • Rob McIndoe, Senior Security Consultant, Verizon Business Security Solutions

where Carol Zarb and Cisco retail architect Christian Janoff  will discuss Cisco’s solution to help merchants address and maintain PCI compliance.

Some  facts about Cisco and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS)

Read More »

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In Between the Numbers – Transparency, Privacy, and Another New Normal for Retail

750 Million, and 0.00002%

My mother, bless her soul, would have never thought it was proper.

There’s perhaps no better evidence that we live in a transparent, open-the-kimono digital world than the news that 750 million photos were uploaded to Facebook over this past New Year’s celebration weekend.   (That’s an average of 4,330 per second.)

One might guess that a good number of the 750M were not images you’d want to show Mom, let alone include with your latest job application.

Place that in the mind blender with some other food for thought:  L. Gordon Crovitz’  column “The 0.00002% Privacy Solution” in the March 28 Wall Street Journal.   Mr. Crovitz  brings to our attention the results to date of a advertising industry service called TRUSTe, which enables consumers (through a click-through icon to online advertisements) to learn more about how they are being tracked – and to opt out.

According to Mr. Crovitz, a recent study by DoubleVerify found that of five billion recent advertising impressions, only 100,000 clicked to learn more – and only about 1,000 opted out.  An opt-out rate of 0.00002%.

Seven-hundred and fifty million.   Two out of one hundred thousand.  

Don Tapscott called it early in his 2008 book Grown Up Digital.   We’re  entered an era  where transparency – the sharing of previously private information, and the expectation that previously private information will be shared – is the normative rule of the realm.   Where personal data privacy concerns (beyond those of credit card theft) are increasingly thrown to the wind. 

What does it mean for retailers?  First of all, it’s time to recognize that the era of  information asymmetry  — that we, the retailers,  know more than consumers, and thus enjoy an advantage that translates into gross margin  — has ended.   It’s a tie game now in the information wars, and the tie-breaker goes to the shopper.

Second, transparency is increasingly equated with authenticity.  Credibility.    Believability.  Be transparent in your sourcing, manufacturing, sustainability, pricing, say consumers, and we might friend you.   Maintain the old opacity?  We’ll go somewhere else.   You (and your brand) just don’t get it.

Welcome to yet another new normal.

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