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Turning the Retail Store into a High-Octane Digital Experience

Digital innovations have upended many assumptions about the art of buying and selling. But the brick-and-mortar retail store is far from extinct. And while digital technologies continue to disrupt traditional business models, they also present retailers with exciting opportunities to make their stores more immersive, interactive, and, well, digital.

Recently, I had the privilege of discussing the future of the retail store with Doug Stephens, one of the world’s foremost retail industry experts and author of the book, The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism. Listen to the full interview here.

As Doug describes it, “media is becoming the store and the store in essence is becoming media.” In short, he argues that the store itself has to embrace many of the capabilities and services that have made online retailers so successful, while retaining and enhancing some of the advantages of the physical retail experience. The store should become a “high-octane experience,” as Doug puts it.

Cisco_RetailStoreHighOctane_5.16.14

I wholeheartedly agree. In the Internet of Everything (IoE) era, an explosion of new connections is driving new sources of value. And the physical retail store can capture these new sources of value — just as their online counterparts have.

The key lies in blending the two experiences in a seamless manner.

As in-store consumers, we expect to interact with a product viscerally in a physical retail setting; online we enjoy access to rich product content. Combining the two will go far to engage and convert consumers while cementing brand loyalty.

Here are a few of the ways in which retailers are creating new digital in-store experiences:

  • Data analytics present a precise picture of an individual shopper, their online research and shopping history, and their real-time, in-store browsing, as tracked through their smart device and/or in-store video.
  • Wi-Fi and mobile technologies enable new connections during each step of the shopping journey, offering real-time prompts, expert advice, and incentives to “seal the deal.”
  • RFID tags and other sensors — combined with data analytics — provide precise tracking of products and inventory and enable such in-store experiences as “magic mirrors” and digital signage. These utilize detailed information on individual shopper behavior and buying history to transform the real-time experience.

Doug and I agree that, moving forward, it will be essential for retailers to gain the trust of consumers. If they are to be tracked in-store and engaged in real time, customers will need to feel confident that retailers are fully transparent throughout the shopping journey.

Surveys show that consumers have their doubts about sharing data. But when trust is established and clear benefits and value are established, they are willing to op-in. In effect, the nature of the exchange has to be clear, and education is crucial. Then, the full power of merging digital technology with the brick-and-mortar world will be evident.

The end result, I believe, is a win-win for retailers and customers alike.

But the key for retailers is to lead not follow. Waiting to see what other retailers are doing is not an option. Through data and analytics, they can get to know their customers better than ever. And by knowing their wants and desires, create a digital in-store experience that is more exciting than ever before.

For more on innovation in retailing check out our new BizWise video to learn how one mall owner has transformed relationships with shoppers using an omni-channel approach.

Future of Mobility Podcast Series: Turning the Retail Store into a High-Octane Digital Experience from Cisco Business Insights

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As Technology Changes ‘Everything,’ Don’t Forget About People

In a constantly changing world, getting the right talent focused on the most pressing challenges is essential — not just for companies, but for service providers, cities, and countries.

Today, the key driver of that rapid change is technology, particularly the explosion in connectivity known as the Internet of Everything (IoE). Cisco predicts that IoE will have connected 50 billion “things” by 2020, compared to 10 billion today. But for all the talk of things, IoE is not just about embedding sensors in shoes, jet engines, refrigerators, and shopping carts. The true opportunity arises when people, process, data, and things are connected in startling new ways.

In such an environment, collaboration is critical. Indeed, IoE-related innovations have the potential to improve and transform our world in profound ways. But no one company can solve these challenges. They will require partnerships and the open sharing of ideas and talent.

Technology companies, in particular, will need to change the ways in which they utilize their talent. For many decades, there was one way to access talent — by hiring it. Today, workforces are flexible and may be spread across time zones and continents. Knowledge workers still contribute as employees on company payrolls, of course. But increasingly, they are just as likely to collaborate on a specific project as partners or as subject-matter experts sharing knowledge within cross-functional or cross-industry groups.

That is why I feel so strongly about a recent out-of-court settlement in Silicon Valley regarding the free flow of talent from one organization to another. Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe agreed to pay more than $300 million to 64,000 engineers who claimed that the companies’ hiring policies were hindering their career paths and access to higher salaries.

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Mining Copper Ore — and Digital Insights — in the Internet of Everything Economy

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is a juggernaut of change, transforming organizations in profound ways. It sows disruption, and it grants enormous opportunities. But this sweeping wave of change is not reserved for what we normally think of as “technology companies.” In the IoE economy, even seemingly “analog” endeavors must be bestowed with network connectivity, no matter how venerable a company’s roots or old its traditions.

In a world where Everyone Is a Tech Company, there are some great examples of older companies that are heeding this new reality. Retail, manufacturing, transportation, and education are just a few of the places where people, process, data, and things are being connected in startling new ways. Companies that are ahead of the IoE transformation curve will ensure their competiveness in marketplaces that are ever more vulnerable to disruption.

Dundee Precious Metals provides a great example of a company that is embracing change. A far-flung global organization, the company, for example, runs Europe’s largest mine in Chelopech, Bulgaria, from which it ships gold-rich copper ore to a smelter in Namibia. Yet through IoE-related technologies, executives at the company’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada, have gained unprecedented visibility into all aspects of their operations.

The end result? A boon in safety, efficiency, and productivity.

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Driving Serious Digital Disruption, with a Spirit of Fun

Not all workdays begin with a convoy of cyclists hailing from India, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and America. And fewer still wind up with creations made of LEGOs, spaghetti, string, and marshmallows.

Yet every workday — no matter how challenging — should have the same spirit of diversity, adventure, and assumption-busting repartee that I experienced at THNK — The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership.

Once our Cisco Consulting Services colleagues finished winding through the streets of central Amsterdam each morning, we got down to the serious business of “hacking” some key global issues, together with our friends at THNK.

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One of those issues has evolved into a Cisco/THNK partnership challenge, inwhich we will share Cisco’s expertise on the Internet of Everything (IoE) to solve some global problems around food safety and food distribution. I will speak more about the Internet of Food initiative in a subsequent blog.

Another key challenge was to foster digital disruption in the Internet of Everything (IoE) age — a time when our enterprise customers, and especially their end users, are demanding rapid transformation.

That level of change stems from the kind of open innovation and inclusive creative processes promoted by THNK in Amsterdam. Those processes are also being embraced by Cisco at our innovation hubs in such places as Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, and Songdo, South Korea. At these centers, IoE cornerstones such as cloud, mobility, Big Data analytics, and social media are already enabling digital disruption — and will continue to accelerate it.

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Video: the Super Sensor of the #InternetofEverything

A key advantage of the Internet of Everything (IoE) is the ability to “see” the world around us in unprecedented ways.

One way to do this is through the millions of cheap, tiny digital sensors generating data from shoes, tires, shopping carts, jet-engine parts, medical equipment, and just about anything else you can imagine.

But another type of sensor promises even deeper visibility and insight: video. Connected video — when deployed in the right situations and combined with other IoE components, such as analytics and mobility — can truly transform the ways in which we sense the world. And for organizations, video will provide rich, real-time insights that will drive hyper-aware decision-making and predictive strategies.

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