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To Compete in the Retail Revolution, Mobility and Analytics Are Critical

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Today, mobile devices are everywhere — and vying for the attention of just about everyone. On a train, in a café, or in the park, people are gaming, connecting with far-away friends, and watching TV shows.

Increasingly, they are also researching, browsing, and buying products.

Such tech-savvy mobile shoppers are driving a retail revolution that has left many brick-and-mortar retailers scrambling to catch up. In fact, mobility and apps have created an industry disruption similar in scope to what we saw with e-commerce in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

For many traditional retailers, the stakes are high and the challenges daunting. However, I see tremendous opportunities. Read More »

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#CiscoChat Explores Mobile Data as the New Currency for Today’s Retailers

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The Internet of Everything (IoE) is driving remarkable change and opportunities across nearly all industries. But few are as visible — and rapid — as the upheavals affecting retail. Today, retailers aren’t just competing with the store across the parking lot. Industry leaders face an expanding universe of mobile and virtual shopping possibilities vying for the attention of their customers.

Recent Cisco retail research shows that mobile commerce grew forty-seven percent in 2014 (Q2), far out-pacing e-commerce (ten percent) and total retail overall (three percent). And it’s not surprising, with nearly every customer using a mobile device of one type or another. Today, eighty percent of shoppers are now classified as “digital.”

Mobile devices — and rapidly evolving customer behaviors — are driving expectations for more fully optimized digital shopping experiences, in store and out. Yet traditional retailers have an exciting opportunity to meet this demand by offering hyper-relevant customer experiences that drive savings, efficiency, and engagement. In merging the best attributes of the physical store with the online experience, brick-and-mortar retailers can drive their own industry disruption. Read More »

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Why Compromise Your Public Cloud Experience?

Have you used a public cloud? The experience as a developer is truly fantastic. Enter your credit card information and go. Need more resources? Click. Tear down a server and start over? Click. Want APIs for granular access to configure and automate every part of your deployments exactly the way you need them? No problem. Built-in integration with the modern tools and platforms you’re using? Of course.

Traditional IT vs Cloud

Compare that to traditional infrastructure where it takes phone calls or tickets, approvals, and many different platforms that typically aren’t integrated just to get access to servers. Automation is difficult or impossible. Moving fast as a developer just isn’t something you can do. You spend your time wrangling the infrastructure instead of building your app.

The public cloud experience for a developer is liberating. It’s easy, fast, and predictable. It helps them deliver on their promises to the business by removing any obstacles to the resources they need.

Smart companies are freeing their development teams from traditional IT models and helping them move fast by taking advantage of cloud.

Read More »

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When Clicks Meet Bricks: the Future of the Retail Store

Today’s retailers face a hard truth: their customers have embraced digital technologies faster than they have.

But I believe that retailers have an opportunity to elevate the shopping experience in exciting new ways. By integrating the digital and the physical — in effect, merging clicks with bricks — retailers can capture new revenue, along with loyal, satisfied customers.

First, retailers need to understand a changed landscape. In only the past five years, mobility, analytics, e-commerce, and other technologies have had a profound effect on the entire shopping experience, putting the customer in charge. Traditional retailers must respond with highly relevant experiences that drive greater efficiency, savings, and engagement.

Recently, I shared some thoughts on this topic with Cisco, both for a new global study on retail trends and also in a podcast titled The Last Checkout Line. The U.S. and U.K. findings of Cisco’s study were released early this year and showed some surprising results. As Cisco’s paper emphasized, customers demand a hyper-relevant shopping experience, in which past shopping histories, current contexts, and future plans drive real-time interactions with the retailer, in-store or out.

Some retailers are already excelling in these areas. Sephora, the French cosmetics franchise, is a good example of a retailer that is offering digital and mobile experiences in-store, enabling customers to interact and discover products in new ways while also bridging a seamless connection with the online experience. Other retailers have leveraged analytics to ensure stock availability for individual customers, integrating with other store locations to ship products to the customer’s home or a more convenient store location.

I believe that all retailers will need to assess their current capabilities. The mobile experience in the store is essential, both to interact with customers on a deeper level and to empower in-store associates with real-time contextual information. This requires enabling Wi-Fi and expanding bandwidth to accommodate new digital experiences.

Analytics, of course, is critical to understanding customers, in-store and out. Retailers will need accurate information at all stages of the shopping journey. That includes accurate data on inventory and customer browsing habits; there is no faster way to disappoint a customer than not having the item he or she expects, or to make the customer wait.

But retailers will also need to be sensitive to how much information customers are willing to share. There’s a fine line between an appropriate “opt-in” incentive and one that is perceived to be intrusive. If retailers get it right, customers will see the clear benefits and value in sharing their data.

As Cisco’s retail paper stressed, technology has accelerated changes in customer behavior, and traditional assumptions around age demographics are outmoded. Gen Y can enjoy the store experience, for example, while older customers may be highly connected and mobile. Retailers will need flexible, future-proof infrastructures that enable them to respond to ever-shifting customer demands.

I see the winners in retail succeeding on three key fronts:

  • They will provide breakout innovations that set market expectations for new kinds of customer interactions, new ways of sorting and tracking products, and new ways of fulfilling customer needs. These will be highly relevant and situationally aware; that is, aligned with customers’ current contexts.
  • They will have flexible systems and architectures in place to support these new kinds of interactions, and adapt to changes in customer behavior.
  • And they will ensure a consistent, seamless experience, whether the customer is engaging via email, call center, online, a mobile device, or with an in-store customer associate.

In the end, winning retailers will shift their focus from short-term profits to a customer-centric strategy. After all, the more relevant, streamlined, and seamless the customer experience, the more likely it is that those customers will return — again and again.

Future of IT Podcast: The Last Checkout Line- How the Internet of Everything Can Transform the Retail Experience from Cisco Business Insights

 

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IoE Can Help Banks Can Restore Trust and Close the Value Gap with Customers

“Let the buyer beware” is a sentiment that dates back well before consumer protection and truth-in-advertising laws. Yet, the issue of trust continues to permeate all areas of society today. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the “trust cliff” that affects the amount of information consumers are willing to share with retailers in order to have more relevant interactions.

Now, a new Cisco study on retail banking in 12 countries reveals a different kind of trust problem: consumers are getting less value than they expect from their banks, and this “value gap” is impacting customer trust.

The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 greatly damaged consumer trust in financial institutions, and brand equity has fallen along with it. In 2009, one year after the financial crisis, the world’s top 500 brands saw the value of their brands drop by 32 percent. For many banks, their brand value has yet to recover from pre-crisis levels.

But the roots of distrust go deeper than that. Our study shows that there is a fundamental disconnect between banks and their customers, and many customers no longer look to their banks to help them meet their financial goals. In fact:

  • 43 percent of customers say their bank doesn’t understand their needs
  • One in four would choose another provider for their next account or service
  • Only 40 percent of respondents worldwide turn to a financial professional for advice, and of these, 28 percent believe the advice is ineffective

IoE Trust and Value Gap graphic

Meanwhile, a growing cadre of disruptive “non-bank” innovators is exploiting this value gap between banks and their customers. They range from technology companies such as Apple and Google, to retailers such as Amazon.com and Tesco, to mobile and digital-only banking services, payment companies, and automated investment services. A surprising 80 percent of consumers surveyed said they would trust a non-bank for their banking services. In eight out of the 12 countries surveyed, more consumers would actually trust a non-bank than their own bank.

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