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Harnessing the Power of As-a-Service Cloud Offerings

When used wisely, consuming cloud as-a-service (aaS) can dramatically improve business outcomes. Primarily, cloud IT services can promote business agility, reduce expenses, and accelerate time-to-market. They also can provide access to highly trained professionals with focused technical expertise, solving a longstanding problem many IT leaders face with sourcing specialized talent.

Businesses today want speed and flexibility, and cloud IT as-a-service can help them achieve that because they don’t need to procure and deploy hardware and then build, test, and iterate software solutions. Although cloud offerings are attractive because they are readily available and can be deployed quickly, there are several factors to consider when deciding whether to build a solution in-house or outsource it to a cloud provider.

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The Future of Retail Banking

During your morning workout at the gym, a device on your arm measures each step and connects with…your bank. By monitoring your healthy lifestyle, the bank can then arrange a lower rate on your health insurance. Later, when walking toward your office, you notice an apartment for sale in a neighborhood you have been scouting for real estate deals. So you point your smartphone at the building to view an augmented-reality image superimposed on the building. In turn, you see the price, square footage, and a live link to your bank’s virtual mortgage advisor.

These kinds of scenarios could become commonplace, once banks embrace the opportunities of the Internet of Everything (IoE) era. While today’s digital consumers demand experiences that are relevant to their current context, many feel that banks don’t understand their needs. Contextual interactions may be common when buying books or streaming movies, but customers sense a “value gap” with their banks. And many are willing to trust disruptive innovators from outside the traditional realm of financial services to fill this void.

Banks can keep pace with customer demand by adopting IoE-enabled solutions that offer expert advice, value-added services and convenience, whenever and wherever customers need them — and do so securely. Wearables and augmented reality are among the more forward-looking innovations that banks should be exploring today. But there are many other ways for banks to reconnect with customers.

In a recent Cisco survey of banking customers in 12 countries, respondents were extremely receptive to five core IoE-enabled banking solutions centered on advice (virtual financial advice, virtual mortgage advice and automated financial advice) and mobility (branch recognition and mobile payments). Seventy-five percent would move their money to another provider for one or more of the five concepts. In emerging markets, respondents are twice as likely to move their money.

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

Cisco_Chat_Mobility_TWITTER

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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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 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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