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2015 Is the Year of Hyper-Relevant Retail: Winning Shoppers with Efficiency, Savings, and Engagement

“Mike” may be an avid golfer who enjoys meandering through the sporting goods section of his local retailer. But he would be a very different shopper the morning his plumbing fails and threatens to flood his basement. In such a context, efficiency rules, and it is critical for the retailer to speed his shopping journey — from product research to fast checkout and payment. Friendly, by-name greetings offering prompts for new golf products on Mike’s smartphone would seem irrelevant at best, and intrusive at worst.

Checkout optimization, in-store sensors, augmented-reality solutions, and real-time analytics at the “edge” of the network are just a few of the capabilities that could give the retailer a clear picture of Mike’s shopping habits in that particular context — time, place, and situation — while helping Mike meet his plumbing crisis in a timely and efficient manner.

In effect, Mike is one customer, but he can be many different shoppers. And retailers need to know them all. Technology — specifically Internet of Everything (IoE) solutions that connect people, process, data, and things — is the way to do it.

To better illuminate the competitive dynamics and opportunities for retailers, Cisco this week shared its fifth annual retail consumer survey. Released at the National Retail Federation (NRF) “Big Show” in New York, the study includes a survey of 1240 consumer respondents from the United States and United Kingdom. Later this year, Cisco will release the complete global findings from 6,000 respondents across 10 countries.

At NRF, we also met with retailers from around the world, who shared their successes and challenges. Technology, of course, can be a headache for retailers. From disruptive innovations to rapidly changing customer behaviors, today’s retailers are challenged on multiple fronts. As the Cisco study found, however, IoE-enabled solutions offer retailers an opportunity to provide their customers with hyper-relevant experiences that blend the best of online shopping with the advantages of the in-store experience.

The key is to gain insight into the real-time nuances and context of the many shopping journeys available to consumers. That requires investments in the right technology. But how can retailers avoid the kinds of investments that have not paid off in the past?

In the Cisco study, we tested 19 IoE-enabled shopping experiences, spanning all stages of the shopping journey and addressing many maturing digital enablers, including video, mobility, and analytics. Overall, consumers indicated that they are very interested in using these applications to get more value. The table below illustrates our respondents’ interest level in the 19 individual concept tests, along with the financial opportunity from each of three value proposition categories: efficiency, savings, and engagement. Our economic analysis revealed that roughly two-thirds of the total potential opportunity (or $208 million for an illustrative retailer with $20 billion in annual revenue) comes from applications that deliver greater efficiency for consumers.

In the United States, disruptive innovators (e.g., Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt) have successfully targeted consumer savings, which has served to exacerbate margin compression for retailers in some categories. We are now exploring these trends in Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. We find that most incumbent retailers, by contrast, are investing heavily in solutions that engage consumers at all points of their shopping journey, including bringing them into the store and cross-selling and up-selling to them (indeed, this is the underlying strategy of today’s discount wars).

Consumers have always been preoccupied with savings. So 
it is no surprise that savings remain the area of most interest to our survey respondents. Efficiency, however, is a close 
second in terms of interest. When asked about the areas where they would 
like to see improvements, 39 percent of our respondents 
identified the process of selecting and purchasing goods, showing a need for greater 
ease and efficiency. By contrast, only 13 percent sought improvements that would create a more personalized
shopping experience.

In this year’s survey, consumers made it clear that experiences must be efficient, contextual (that is, reflecting a shopper’s individual situation, real-time environment, history, and so forth), relevant to real-time needs, and easy in which to participate. In the retail environment, such situational awareness is essential to creating a better customer experience. Retailers must increase the value to the consumer throughout the shopping journey, demonstrably providing a combination of efficiency, savings, and engagement.

By exploring these solutions today, retailers can begin to realize a new level of innovation and competitive dynamism. And customers like Mike can look forward to getting their plumbing fixed ASAP (and maybe even return to the store later that day to try out some of those new golf products).

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Fog Computing: The New Model for the IoE

Last month, we proudly announced Connected Analytics for the Internet of Everything (IoE), easy-to-deploy software packages that bring analytics to data regardless of its location. It is a continued part of our commitment to delivering on our vision for fog computing, also called edge computing, a model that does not require the movement of data back to a centralized location for processing. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve seen me write about this as the concept of ‘Analytics 3.0’ or the ability to do analytics in a widely distributed manner, at the edge of the network and on streaming data. This capability is unique to Cisco and critical for deriving real-time insights in the IoE era.

To perform analytics using a traditional computing method, once data is generated it is aggregated, moved and stored into a central repository, such as a data lake or enterprise data warehouse, so it can be analyzed for insight. In the IoE, data is massive, messy, and everywhere – spanning many centralized data repositories in multiple clouds, and data warehouses. Increasingly, data is also being created in massive volume in a very distributed way…from sensors on offshore oil rigs, ships at sea, airplanes in flight, and machines on factory floors. In this new world, there are many problems that arise with the traditional method – not only is it expensive and time consuming to move all of this data to a central place, but critical data can also lose its real-time value in the process. In fact, many companies have stopped moving all of their data into a central repository and accepted the fact that data will live in multiple places.

Slide1

Analytics 3.0 creates a more appropriate model, where the path to derive insight is different by combining traditional centralized data storage and analysis with data management and analytics that happen at the edge of the network…much closer to where the huge volume of new data is being created. Analytics involves complicated statistical models and software, but the concept is simple…using software to look for patterns in data, so you can make better decisions.  It makes sense then to have this software close to where data is created, so you can find those patterns more quickly…and that’s the key concept behind Analytics 3.0. Once it’s analyzed, we can make more intelligent decisions about what data should be stored, moved or discarded. This model gives us the opportunity to get to the ‘interesting data’ quicker and also alleviates the costs of storing and moving the ‘non-interesting data.’

Analytics 3.0 is not about replacing big data analytics, cloud analytics and other centralized analytics.  Those elements are all part of Analytics 3.0, but they are not sufficient to handle the volume of massively distributed data created in the IoE, and so they must be augmented with the ability to process and analyze data closer to where it is created. By combining centralized data sources with streaming data at the edge, you will look for and find new patterns in your data. Those patterns will help you make better decisions about growing your business, optimizing your operations or better serving your customers…and that is the power of Analytics for the IoE.

 

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Bringing Mobile Analytics and Location Innovations to Retail’s Biggest Show

It’s NRF time again! NRF, the retail industry’s biggest conference, is back in NYC this week. Big data and analytics are still top of mind this year in retail, but the hot topic added to the mix is the use of beacons powered by Bluetooth low energy (BLE), enriching your engagement with customers and helping you make smarter business decisions.

Once again, Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) is here at NRF this year. We’re ready to show you how you can leverage real-time analytics, location innovations (including BLE technology), and our app development platform to optimize operations, boost customer satisfaction, and increase revenue.

If you’re coming to NRF this week, check out our demos at Booth 2052 and learn how Cisco CMX can transform your retail business.

 

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In Retail, Insight Is Currency, and Context Is King

Today’s retailers face a rising tide of change, disruption, and challenges, all driven by technology. As their business landscape is upended, many are struggling to adapt to changing consumer behaviors, competition from disruptive innovators, and exponentially increasing complexity.

The source of much of this disruption is the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the networked connection of people, process, data, and things, and Cisco projects these connections to surge from 13 billion today to 50 billion in the next decade. For retailers, that means a sharp increase in the potential channels, devices, and shopping journeys that are available to consumers. Increasingly, retailers must meet new demands for relevant, efficient, and convenient shopping experiences, whether in-store or out.

IoE_Retail_Figure_Journey_3-2

But for traditional retailers, IoE also presents tremendous opportunities. At the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” in New York this week, I have seen a great openness to change and innovation. As I see it, traditional retailers are ready to step into the IoE era, but they will need the right ecosystem of partners to guide them through the transformation and help them make the right investments.

To better understand these opportunities and the changing competitive dynamics in retail, Cisco recently undertook a comprehensive, three-pronged study consisting of original research, economic analysis, and interviews with retail industry thought leaders. Released this week, the first wave of primary research findings includes 1240 consumer responses from the United States and the United Kingdom.

A key theme that emerged from the research was that today’s consumers demand new kinds of digital experiences, both in-store and out. In our survey, we presented respondents with 19 concept tests — everything from digital signage and same-day delivery to mobile payments and augmented reality. Above all, we found that shoppers seek a hyper-relevant experience — more so than a hyper-personalized one. In short, efficiency and savings are more important to them than personal engagement.

In our survey, 38 percent of respondents identified greater efficiency in the shopping process (e.g., ensuring items are in stock, speeding checkout times) as the area retailers most need to improve. By contrast, 13 percent sought improvements that would lead to a more personalized shopping experience. Read More »

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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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