Remember when moustaches were cool? For those who weren’t paying attention, it was back in the 1980s when Tom Selleck–sporting that signature facial hair–ruled the T.V. airwaves as private investigator Magnum, P.I. Most guys old enough to shave (or who thought they were) tried to proclaim their manliness with a Magnum-style moustache. We thought 128 kB of RAM and the 5 1/4″ floppy drives on our IBM XT personal computers were pretty neat, too.
The early 80s were also the last time many consumers thought that contact centers–or call centers, as they were known then–were cool. People appreciated being able to call businesses if they had a question about their bill or needed product information (remember, those were the Dark Ages before the internet). But as related in a noted white paper, contact centers soon became more about minimizing costs than providing exceptional customer care. And of course we started getting annoying telemarketing calls in the middle of dinner.
In the last couple of years, however, customer care has begun to swing back in favor of the customer.
“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).
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.
One of the challenges we’re seeing in business today is the need to re-learn the problem solving process. This need is increasing demand for creativity as a critical competency of the consultant of the future – driven by how businesses capture value harnessing the connectivity and intelligence enabled by the Internet of Everything (IoE). Read More »
You order a movie online and additional suggestions pop up, based on a deep knowledge of your likes and dislikes. You plan a vacation and similar suggestions appear, reflecting your financial state, the climate in which you live (and may hope to escape for a time), and past travel history. These convenient, personalized interactions are common today — and even expected.
Yet according to a Cisco survey of 7,200 retail banking consumers in 12 countries, customer expectations for financial services are not being met. Many of the most valued customers — and not just tech-savvy Gen Y ones — feel disconnected from their financial services institutions. They state that their banks do not know them personally, and are providing advice only on the bank’s terms — in the branch, during banking hours, when staff is available, — if at all. Read More »