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It’s About Retail, Not Technology

Hello, and welcome to my inaugural blog! I am happy to be here sharing my thoughts and experiences with you, because I have to tell you: I have the coolest job in the world.

I’ve spent my entire life in retail, starting as a part-time worker while in school and moving up through merchandising and operations to regional vice president at Shopko Stores, Inc., overseeing the work of 12,000 employees. Over more than 20 years, I fell in love with the whole process of retail. When I was invited to work in the retail technology sector, it seemed a natural extension of the work I was already doing. Relatively few tech companies build their solutions around store needs – too often, they tend to focus on technology for technology’s sake. In fact, sometimes retailers do the same thing! I saw an opportunity to impact how vendors – and retailers – think about technologies that truly add value to the business.

Today’s trend toward mobility, or BYOD, is a great example. I’m sorry if this shocks you, but mobility without a strategy has no value at all for the retailer! I have seen stores invest in Wi-Fi networks while continuing to build cell-based apps – this despite Wi-Fi’s higher speeds, more flexible capabilities, and ability to improve the shopping and selling experience. They don’t want employees surfing the Internet, so they block employee access to the network and information that could help improve sales. They understand that shoppers are “showrooming” – sharing opinions and comparison shopping online from the store – but do not leverage the same behavior to promote products and analyze customer trends.

Mobility is a vehicle for improving the business, an extension of overall strategy. (You might like to check out this Lippis Report on “Monetizing Public Wi-Fi in Business to Consumer Relationships.”) I work with companies to help determine how to use such vehicles to define the customer experience, collect and manage large masses of data, and make store operations more efficient. I also help design the Cisco solutions that solve these retail business problems.

Join me on a journey to learn how stores are approaching, managing, and dealing with today’s innovations and how they are meeting customer needs. We’ll talk about how stores are using today’s systems, the most recent trends, the latest research, and how retailers are dealing with this very rapidly changing industry. Please get back to me with your own stories and questions in the comments section.

One more word: I love retail trivia! Comment if you know the answer to this question: What retailer in the country has the highest amount of sales per square foot of its stores?

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The importance of retailers understanding consumers and delivering great customer experience

Recently at the  Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals in New York on June 26,  Graham Atkinson, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at Walgreens, spoke about his work to transform the company from one that traditionally differentiated based on location to one that differentiates based on experience.

As reported in a recent blog by Harley Manning of Forrester, Graham talks about three customer experience initiatives underway, including:

  • Delivering the well experience
  • Transforming the community pharmacy
  • Taking the Walgreens brand to the world

You may have seen a recent Cisco video commercial on the area of customer experience called “Weekend Warrior”:

Here at Cisco, we believe that customer experience is part of the connections made possible by what Cisco describes as the Internet of Everything (IoE).

To further our knowledge in this area, Cisco recently released the Cisco Connected Customer Experience Report focused on the retail shopping experience.

In this report, we discovered that:

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BYOD: The Newer-Better-Faster Edge You Need in Retail and Consumer Products

In the fast-changing, thin-margin world of consumer products, new winners and losers are created every day. Speed of innovation, time-to-market, and employee productivity can mean the difference between the next hot trend and a warehouse full of excess inventory. Success in the highly competitive consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail industry depends on broad-ranging collaboration, accelerated innovation, and employees who are empowered and productive every step along the way—from product development, to merchandising and sourcing, to store management and customer service.

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Summary of B2B social media session at Internet Retailer 2013

Last week I was honored to co-present with Parvez Patel, senior director of e-strategy at Grainger, on a session at Internet Retailer Conference 2013, titled “Social Marketing for B2B:  It’s Not Just for B2C Anymore.”

Parvez Patel, Grainger, Kenneth Leung, Cisco

 

In this session both of us discussed how we approached B2B social media from a Grainger perspective and from a Cisco retail industry marketing perspective.  Some of the points that we discussed include:

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Cisco presenting at Internet Retailer Conference on June 6th in Chicago

Internet Retailer Conference and Expo 2013, being held this year in Chicago from June 4th to 7th at the McCormick Convention Center, is expected to draw more than 9,500 attendees.

Cisco retail industry marketing has grown from the initial Twitter feed to now include a comprehensive portfolio of social media properties, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and blog.

I am excited to be presenting with Parvez Patel, senior director of E-marketing at Grainger, on the B2B Social Media Track this Thursday, June 6th from 1:45pm to 2:30pm CT on the topic “Social marketing for b2b: It’s not just for b2c anymore.”

 Internet Retailer Conference & Expo

In this session, Parvez and I will present and take questions on the following:

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