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New Study Tells Retailers: Win Consumers’ Trust to Deliver the Hyper-Relevant Experiences They Want

As Cisco’s chief marketing officer, an important part of my role is to build and maintain the trust of Cisco’s customers.In fact, “brand promise” ultimately relies upon the trust consumers have placed in a brand. Customers who are loyal to a brand will trust that the next product or service introduced under that brand will fulfill the brand promise. However, trust can also have more widespread impacts that affect an organization’s ability to compete and to provide the innovative customer experiences required in the Internet of Everything (IoE) era.

This week at the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” in New York, Cisco released a new study that uncovered some unique insights about shopping behaviors and attitudes among U.S. and U.K. consumers in the digital age. The findings point to the need for retailers to provide “hyper-relevant” shopping experiences that deliver value to the consumer in real time throughout the shopping lifecycle. Hyper-relevance comes with the ability to dynamically compare real-time customer information with historical data, and the resulting insights allow retailers to improve operations and the customer experience. At stake, according to our research, is an estimated profit improvement of 15.6 percent for an illustrative $20 billion retailer that builds agile business processes for turning these insights into value.

Our research shows that consumers are looking for retailers to deliver hyper-relevance via three value proposition categories: efficiency, engagement, and savings. In the area of efficiency, for example, 77 percent of respondents said they would be “somewhat” or “very likely” to use a solution to optimize the checkout process. In terms of savings, 79 percent indicated a willingness to take advantage of in-store offers provided via digital signage, while 73 percent said they’d like to receive special offers through augmented-reality solutions. And, in the area of engagement, 57 percent indicated a desire to learn more about products in the store by using augmented-reality capabilities.

One of the points I found particularly interesting is that consumers are relatively willing to provide certain types of personal information to retailers—such as name, age, past purchasing history, interests, and hobbies—in order to get a more personally relevant shopping experience. But beyond this basic information, there is a “trust cliff,” a steep drop-off in willingness to share certain types of personal information. A significant 16 percent of respondents were not willing to share any personal information at all.

This trust cliff presents an interesting conundrum for retailers. On one hand, our study shows that customers want personalized and contextually relevant shopping experiences. But on the other hand, they are reluctant to share the very information that can help provide these “hyper-relevant” experiences.

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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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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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How U.S. Banks Can Transform Customer Interactions to Increase Profitability

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 »

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IoT Tipping Point Propels Digital Experience Era

Call me an optimist.

We are fortunate today to watch the dawn of the Digital Experience era as the world becomes digitally more and more connected.

Consider that there are already 3 billion of us connected to the Internet. Imagine what the next 4 billion can help us do as they connect.

Even greater change could result as the everyday “things” around us – bus stops, parking spaces, and street lights – get connected. I’ve seen predictions that 20, 50, even over 200 billion more things will be connected in the next couple years. Just think of the tremendous possibilities that could result from that amount of connectivity and collaboration happening around this planet.

What’s rapidly unfolding before us is the Internet of Everything – the intelligent connection of people, process, data, and things. Studies show that the Internet of Everything can drive $19 trillion worth of economic benefit for this planet. To put that into perspective, that’s almost as large as the U.S. and China economies combined. What is your country’s, community’s, or business’ portion of that?

But what fuels my optimism are the social, cultural, and environmental benefits waiting on the horizon — if we accelerate and if we change. With more efficiency and less waste, we human beings can benefit, as can our planet.

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