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The Delivery Experiment: My Week of Living Digitally

One of the hottest topics at NRF this week has been delivery systems. Recent research by Cisco Consulting has found that delivery is one of the top concerns of not only retailers, but of shoppers as well. I now have personal experience of this: Just before the holidays, my husband and I ran an experiment: Living digitally for a few days, shopping online, using only available delivery systems.

Day 1 – Now, I order just about everything online except for groceries. However, my husband orders very little online, although he is a fan of eBay. The first question he asked was, “What about groceries?” I said we would order from Safeway (where I used to work before coming to Cisco). His next question was, “Well, that’s great for our basics, but what about the specialty items we get from Trader Joe’s, how are we going to get those?” He solved this problem himself by finding Envoy, a store-agnostic delivery service.

Amazon, Amazon Fresh, Google Express, Instacart, eBay Now!, Deliv… so many delivery options, though not all available in our area. The first order of business was to buy groceries. However, I needed to sign up for a delivery service – up until then I had purchased everything online except for perishables, and I must say that I was a little embarrassed that I had never ordered from my alma mater, Safeway.  So, I started there and was pleased to see that my Safeway id/password combination worked as well as giving me the option of free delivery, free water, and paper towels if I ordered within 24 hours. I love promotions and rarely pay full price for anything, but even more I love FREE.

Next, I signed up for Envoy to cover our Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods order, but found that I could only order from one at a time for $10/month each, with a service fee of $10 + 10% of my grocery bill. That seemed a little pricey.

That same evening, the washing machine broke, and my husband proceeded to determine how to best to repair it. Here we had a pleasant surprise, as we found that we could order a new part online for $35 (as opposed to or purchasing it locally for $90). So, that was a no-brainer… he placed the Amazon order with a scheduled arrival of mid-next week, labor not included.

Day 2 – I had scheduled our grocery order to be delivered between 11:00am and 3:00pm, and for my flexibility received a $6 discount. At 4:00pm, after a day of continuous meetings from home, I wondered where our order was and asked my husband to contact Safeway. At 5:00pm, I learned that our very first grocery order was stranded on a broken-down truck with no ETA. Finally, at 6:30pm a very apologetic driver contacted me, indicating that he was picking up all of the orders from the broken-down truck and would be arriving in about 30 minutes or so depending on traffic and the pelting rain. Then, I paused on our experiment to go get a pedicure (can’t order this online, yet).

That evening, all the groceries were delivered as ordered, with the exceptions of one item out of stock (one of the Just for You offers) and the condition of the avocados, which were definitely overripe.

Then we discovered we were out of firestarter logs. A quick check on Amazon found what we were looking for, with a promise of a Sunday delivery. Sunday, really?

Day 3 – My email box was becoming overwhelmed: I had received no less than 126 unique retail offers during the last 48-hour period. The most popular promotion was free shipping by online and multichannel retailers, with discounts on shipping from 20% to 50%. With all the noise, it was hard to tell which retailer or service was which.

Now I needed to deal with a few returns on the holiday presents I had been buying online. The easiest included free returns with a shipping label included in the package or printable online, or the ability to return directly to the store. The most difficult required a phone call, followed up by an email with an RMA (return merchandise authorization), and a requirement me to pay for the return. (I won’t be buying from that retailer again.)

Next, I was ready to mail my holiday cards. I thought since the mail is delivered every day to our house, I would be able to order stamps online. Guess how many days it takes to deliver stamps to your home: 7 to 10 days, plus 1 to 2 days extra due to the holiday season. There is certainly a disconnect between departments at the USPS. I hate to send out my holiday cards late!

Day 4 – Fortunately, I had remembered to order all of the items I needed to prepare my appetizer for a party that evening. And, Amazon delivered on its Sunday promise! Our firestarter logs appeared on the doorstep before noon.

Day 5 – Done! We lived for 5 days entirely digitally (except for the pedicure). How did it go? We found that:

  1. Living digitally requires planning ahead; even when new services are intended to provide same day service, they are not widely available
  2. Living digitally needs to be a family affair with extra coordination
  3. Service and delivery fees vary widely
  4. Returns can be challenging and time-consuming
  5. You’re dependent on the selections of the in-store shopper (i.e., the avocados)

Differentiation is still a major challenge. However, I would say that customers want the same thing they want in the store: a friendly, convenient shopping environment. Delivery services need to meet customer expectations on timing, and keep returns simple and convenient. Products ought to be in good condition, and fees need to be minimized. The challenge, obviously, is how to make this work financially.

Other delivery options are increasingly available, such as in-store pickup of online orders, locker-based pickup systems, etc. Keep an eye out for my upcoming paper on delivery systems – Cisco has some exciting ideas coming around this!

In the meantime, check out the new white paper on shopper trends.

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Joe Bradley: In Retail, Insight Is Currency, and Context Is King

Hi, everyone! Please be sure to check out Joe Bradley’s blog on how retailers face a rising tide of disruption driven by rapidly changing technologies. Joe presented yesterday at NRF to provide the results of Cisco’s annual shopper survey (see the white paper here) and has some great comments to how to adapt to today’s transforming retail landscape.

Coming to NRF: Lisa Fretwell on Shopping Trends, New Frontiers

Cisco will be featured in two Big Idea sessions at this year’s NRF conference starting tomorrow, and I’m happy to introduce guest blogger Lisa Fretwell, who will be leading one of these two seminars. Lisa is the Managing Director of Retail at Cisco Consulting Services, specializing in the Internet of Everything and analytics, and how these new capabilities can transform and differentiate retail and consumer product businesses:

In today’s digital era, stores are clearly challenged in terms of sales and profitable growth. Every retailer is faced with needing to change and innovate their store to deliver results.

Overall, the majority of stores across all categories are demonstrating flat or declining like for like, exacerbated by price deflation. Cisco’s recently concluded annual survey on shopper behavior of 10,000 shoppers highlights the ongoing shift away from the store to online. Twenty percent of consumers now make more than 50% of their purchases online, and this number is expected to continue to grow.

However, when you dig down into the data, you may be surprised by some of the changes. As just one example, we asked shoppers which categories they had significantly moved from store to online. We learned that 41% of the consumers surveyed have somewhat or significantly increased their online purchases of apparel in the last two years – clothing, shoes, and accessories. Traditionally, these products are the life blood of why shoppers go to a store – to touch, feel, try on.

So is it all doom and gloom for shops? No, not if you’re up for innovation and change. There are still significant reasons for shoppers to visit stores. Our research highlights some key insights that retailers must leverage to drive healthy results and make the store experience hyper-relevant.

Our experience from retail engagements suggests the answer lies in two areas: being able to deliver dynamic experiences, and to improve ways of working. From instant response to customer needs to improved process digitization, we are seeing that retailers are increasingly relying on a combination of sensors, analytics, automation, cloud, and edge computing.

If we apply this model to a $20 billion turnover retailer with 900 stores, Cisco estimates that there is $312 million of incremental benefit to be had: $170 million from digitizing ways of working: staffing optimization, store routine digitization, and colleague collaboration; plus $142 million from improved customer conversion through insight, digital offers and loyalty, service, and cross-channel selling. We believe this approach offers the next much-needed step change in store economics.

To learn more, please join us at NRF on Sunday for Cisco’s Big Idea sessions:

  • The first, at 10:15 am in Room 4 of the Expo Hall, covers more on our annual survey results. It is led by Cisco Vice President Joe Bradley (replacing Anabelle Pinto due to a family emergency).
  • Then, at 2:00 pm in Room 4, Cisco’s Shaun Kirby and I will discuss how retailers are taking advantage of the “Internet of Everything: New Horizons in Retail.”

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Join Us on Oct. 22 for Our Final Analytics Webcast

Hello, retailers everywhere! My name is Dianne Lamendola, and I am a senior retail practice advisor here at Cisco. My role is to work closely with store operators and merchants to help understand your business and how technology can help you reach critical goals.

I hope you have been following our three-part series of one-hour webcasts that Cisco has been hosting this year on retail analytics. In the store, online, and across data sources, retailers have been increasingly focused on how to gather and analyze the metrics that help provide insights to run a tighter operation and provide a more exciting experience for your shoppers.

On Oct. 22, we’ll wrap up this series with a session on “Technology that Gets Down to Business: Develop Your Action Plan for Retail Analytics Success.” Held at 10:00-11:00 am PT/1:00-2:00 pm ET, this candid discussion lets you learn how to:

  • Implement innovative retail analytics technologies
  • Drive added value from traditional and new data sources
  • Deploy mobility, wireless, video cameras, sensors, and services to jumpstart your action plan

Register today! By registering, you will also earn a free introductory analytics enablement meeting and additional tools to help you think more about your program.

While it’s not necessary to attend the previous sessions to join us, please feel free to review the recordings of our prior events:

  1. Part I: Understanding the Basics of Setting Up Your In-Store Analytics Program – Recording
  2. Part II: Case Studies of Analytics Programs in Real-World Stores – Recording

We welcome all retailers, including IT staffers, who want to know more about how analytics fit into and enhance your store environment.

I’ll see you there!

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Retailers Lying Awake at Night – Who’s Next?

In the past few weeks, I’ve received two replacement credit cards. And, no, this does not indicate I’ve done too much shopping! It means that hackers are continuing to target retailers and the bank decided I needed to be protected by new credit card numbers.

I’m Carol Ferrara-Zarb, and as the leader of Cisco’s Security Solutions team, I’m joining the Cisco Retail blog today to talk to you about security and compliance in the store. While consumers certainly worry about security, the concerns of retailers are magnified because you are among the highest-profile targets right now for professional hacker attacks. Store owners and operators are just about lying awake at night wondering who is going to be next.

At the same time, change is continuing on the security front, particularly in the area of PCI compliance. At the end of this calendar year, the new 3.0 version of the PCI DSS mandate will come into force. Are you ready for the new requirements?

If you’re a Cisco customer, you very well may be. Join us on July 23 for a free, one-hour webcast called, “Straight Talk about Reducing Complexity and Maintaining Compliance in Retail.” Cisco Security Architect Christian Janoff, who sits on the PCI Security Standards Council Board of Advisors, and Aaron Reynolds, PCI Managing Principal for Cisco partner Verizon, will lead a candid discussion on retail security. The session covers:

  • The changes in the PCI DSS 3.0 mandate and their impact on your retail business
  • How to satisfy three standards—PCI, SOX, and HIPAA—by configuring one control
  • Implementing the latest, simplified strategies for PCI scope reduction, and how they can be superior to traditional methods for many retailers

You’ll come away with an overview of today’s threat landscape, and we’ll put it all into perspective to support your continued pursuit of compliance and retail success. Registrants will also receive the Simplifying Compliance Answer Kit, a set of documents and tools to help you understand compliance better.

The webcast takes place on July 23 at 10:00 am PT/1:00 pm ET. Please register today! Be sure to bring your questions to take part in the discussion.

We’ll see you there!

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