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Feb. 2: NRF16 Wrap Up at Live CiscoChat

Retail’s Big Show offers ideas and insights into the ever-changing industry of retail. This year’s NRF 2016 drew a large and influential group of the most innovative retail leaders. Throughout the show, these leaders held extensive one-on-one conversations and hosted general sessions by some of the industry’s starring professionals.

If you missed the show (or if you want to discuss it with your peers), please invite your accounts to join us at #CiscoChat on Twitter next Tuesday, February 2, at 10:00 am PST/1:00 pm EST to talk about the changes trends emerging out of NRF and during the next year.

Together, we’ll provide highlights and consider questions such as:

  • What were the latest and most influential gadgets you saw at NRF16?
  • Where should retailers focus in this fast-changing economy?
  • How can retailers better compete with e-commerce retailers?
  • What are the most important upcoming trends, and where should you put your money in 2016?
  • And many more

I’m especially happy to be joined in this live discussion by Janet Schijns, Vice President at Cisco partner Verizon Enterprise Solutions (@channelsmart).  Janet brings a unique perspective to digitization and innovation in retail.  Whether you want to join in the chat or just listen to the discussion, it promises to be a lively and informative hour.

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To participate in the Chat:

  • Make sure you’re logged onto your Twitter account.
  • Search for #CiscoChat, and click on the Live tab.
  • The @CiscoRetail handle is the moderator and will welcome guests and post questions.
  • Please submit your answers in the following format: ex. A1: Write Answer. #CiscoChat

Follow @CiscoRetail and me @techguyshaun – you don’t want to miss this. Be sure to bring your questions!

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Digitization Offers Hope to Besieged Retailers

These are especially difficult times for the retail industry.

For starters, several of retail’s marquee names announced store closings or layoffs following a disappointing holiday sales season. Retailers simply haven’t benefited from cheaper gas and a relatively strong overall U.S. job market —retail sales declined 0.1 percent in December from the previous month, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Making matters worse, brick-and-mortar retailers are quickly losing ground to online giants like Amazon. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Amazon captured almost a quarter of all U.S. retail sales growth last year.

The retail industry’s comparatively low IT spending has also placed it at high risk of disruption by technology-savvy incumbents and digital-native upstarts. In fact, according to the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center), retail ranked third among 12 industries studied in terms of potential for digital disruption over the next five years.

Clearly, all of this should send a strong message to the retail industry. Yet, at least from a “digital transformation” perspective, the industry doesn’t appear to be listening. Although 56 percent of retail executives say digital disruption is a board-level or CXO concern, fewer than one-quarter are doing anything about it by actively disrupting their own businesses.

It is not altogether surprising, then, that according to a new Cisco study, retailers captured just 15 percent of their potential Digital Value at Stake in 2015. By comparison, financial services realized almost twice as much digital value.

There are, however, some excellent examples of effective digitization in the retail industry.

Digital Transformation in Retail from Cisco Business Insights

A perfect case in point is F&F, the clothing brand of U.K. grocery retailer Tesco.

F&F needed to address multiple challenges: limited floor space, little visibility into what customers did in stores, and poor customer awareness of F&F online.

Using a combination of in-store Wi-Fi and integrated mobile and tablet access for shop associates, F&F management can now track customer journeys and gain insight into customer behavior. Free Wi-Fi gave F&F the ability to track customer journeys in greater detail. It also provided a means to deliver curated content and context-specific offers directly to customers’ mobile phones, incorporating connected advertising.

Over three months, the number of customers logging onto Wi-Fi increased 50 percent. Customers spent roughly 30 to 50 percent of their physical dwell time online on personal devices, while also engaging with push offers. This engagement changed customer behavior, increasing dwell times and sales.

F&F was also eager to build its online customer base to augment its relatively small physical floor space. Key technologies in the store made this possible. Interactive kiosks allowed customers to order items online and have them delivered to the store or their home. This reduced the number of customers leaving empty-handed because their size or preferred style wasn’t in stock at the store. It also offered a strong introduction to F&F online—and to styles customers might not otherwise have seen. The brand has experienced a steady increase in online sales as a result.

F&F has also piloted “remote expert,” a means of providing virtual access to a style advisor who isn’t physically present in the store. Although associates on the floor are armed with tablets to help advise customers, remote experts offer personal styling advice. Using the same kinds of technology tools as next-generation workers, remote experts employ video conferencing to increase customer engagement—supporting sales, especially on higher-ticket items—and to promote F&F as a fashion brand.

For many retailers, the biggest challenge in becoming a digital business is figuring out where to start. Here are three steps to take:

  1. Evaluate where you are on the journey—are you using digital capabilities to enable operational efficiency, differentiate through improved business processes, or define new business models? There’s a good chance that you already have key elements of the required digital foundation.
  2. Build an investment plan to meet your business objectives. Prioritize the biggest areas of payback and plan short-term gains that can fund ongoing investment.
  3. Finally, use this investment plan to close the gap between the
digital capabilities you need and the outcomes you want. While the fundamentals will remain the same, your objectives and priorities may change over time.

The time for retailers to act is now.

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Presenting a Roadmap for Digital Transformation at NRF 2016

Life in the Digital Vortex is challenging—especially for retailers. In an environment where averaged across industries four of the top 10 incumbents will be displaced by digital disruption in the next five years, retail ranks as the third most vulnerable out of 12. Retailers are also being squeezed between online-only retailers and traditional competitors that are further along with their digital transformations.

But with the threat also comes opportunity. Cisco’s most recent Digital Value at Stake research highlights specific digital use cases that industries can implement now to drive new sources of value.

According to the research, six industries—manufacturing, financial services, retail, service provider, healthcare, and oil and gas—will account for 71 percent of the total private sector Digital Value at Stake over the next decade. Yet, retailers captured only 15 percent of their potential digital value last year.

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For more digital transformation stories in retail, click here.

It is clear that retailers need to begin their digital transformation journeys, and do so immediately. If you’re like many retailers, however, you may not know where to begin. What’s needed is a clear path to creating business value from digitization.

If you are thinking about digital transformation, just getting started, or well on your way, I invite you to join me at my Big Idea presentation at NRF on Monday, Jan. 18. Specifically, I will be detailing a roadmap to digital value for retailers, including how to:

  • Assess your current digital assets and capabilities
  • Understand and select specific digital use cases based on our economic analysis
  • Close the gap in digital capabilities to achieve your business goals

By attending my session and learning about a digital transformation roadmap for your business, you will avoid being part of the 40 percent of retailers that could be displaced by digital disruption. Instead, you will be on your way to capturing your share of digital value that’s there for the taking.

See you at the Big Show!

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We Hear You: Retail Security Should Be Simple and SAFE

Retailers are in the business to sell, not to be stolen from. And they don’t set up shop to buy security products from companies like Cisco. However, attackers who target retailers have discovered that it’s much more lucrative to shoplift virtually rather than physically. So even if you focus on security rather than selling, you face a daunting task.

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The challenge of retail security is that it gets more complex by the minute. The combination of mobile devices, distributed services, increased customer expectations, virtual systems, and changing business goals creates a huge attack surface for fraudsters. Add in a pantheon of security vendors offering specialized products that don’t always work well together as well as a dwindling supply of qualified security personnel, and feelings of frustration and futility are understandable.

Our industry desperately needs a resource that addresses the problem from end to end and makes security easier to understand. Enter Cisco SAFE, a comprehensive and credible solution portfolio. SAFE uses a model to organize retail networks into areas that can be more easily understood from a security perspective. It looks at the threats that exist and the best practices available to defend against them. It helps manage the design, build, and maintenance of today’s retail networks.

SAFE provides “how to” guides tested in Cisco’s laboratories for complex security challenges. It maps your threats to the security capabilities you need at this time, which can help you avoid overspending and overcomplicating the defenses you need to protect your business.

Come see me at the National Retail Federation show in New York. At a Big Idea session, I’ll be speaking about how Cisco SAFE helps simplify retail security. We’ll be in Room 4, Level 3 of the Expo Hall, on Monday, January 18, at 12:45 p.m.–1:30 p.m. Learn more.

I look forward to meeting you there!

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How to Create an Omnichannel Strategy that’s Worth Celebrating

This holiday season customers have more ways to shop than ever before. Retailers are making it easier to get the right presents by providing enhanced delivery options – from buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) to curbside pickup. While this freedom is empowering for customers, it creates a new level of complexity for retailers as seen by the hurdles experienced this holiday season. As this complexity becomes the new normal, the retailers that will thrive are those who deliver a consistent branded shopping experience across all channels.

No retailer has yet fully mastered the seamless omnichannel experience, but a few are well on their way:

Nordstrom gives customers access to advice from their favorite sales associate anytime through their TextStyle program. If a customer needs a personalized recommendation, a sales associate can scan an item, provide a photo and brief description, and send them a buying code via text. Once a customer types “buy,” the sale is charged to their preferred credit card and sent to the shipping address that’s on file.

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Kohl’s is seeing success with its mobile app which provides a consistent experience by allowing customers to access their virtual shopping bag, available loyalty points, and promotions while shopping in-store or online.

Coach does a fantastic job of integrating channels by allowing customers online to search in-store inventory in their area for the specific product they want. When a customer completes the purchase in store, the associate sends them a follow up email that includes personalized recommendations to encourage repeat purchases.

The shopping experience demanded in today’s competitive climate needs to be seamless. Retailers can be successful by creating one digital platform and pushing content and functionality across multiple channels, instead of trying to integrate a portfolio of different assets.

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One way retailers can start is to repurpose content from their online and mobile properties and bring it into the store using digital signage and tablets. This allows them to test which content increases conversions and apply changes instantly across multiple stores.

And content isn’t the only thing that can be duplicated across channels. Retailers can scale shopper engagement through digital experiences in the store. By using digital capabilities like remote expert, retailers can continuously offer high levels of service and expertise in a way that isn’t dependent on in-store staffing. Promotions can also be offered in real-time to improve conversion or maintain competitive pricing.

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Retailers should evaluate each step in the shopper journey and assess where digitization can improve the experience. They should also consider making use of the data that comes from digitizing those steps to make better decisions on what’s working and what isn’t.

While retailers have access to a mountain of data from online and mobile shopping journeys, they have a big opportunity to gather data from the in-store experience. Retailers will get a full picture of each customer’s journey when they combine data across all channels and build processes that allow them to deliver the right experience at the right time – whether shorter checkout, personalized assistance, or more relevant promotions. At Cisco we’re building the most advanced IOT solution in the industry by giving retailers access to information in the store that they can apply online and share across all channels.

What strategies do you think will be effective for creating seamless customer experiences? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

For more innovative retail strategies, see our Top 10 list of how you can create the ultimate shopping experience:

10 Ways Digital Technologies Can Create the Ultimate Shopping Experience from Cisco Business Insights

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