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Finding New Directions for Retail: The Ever-Changing Store

Hello, everyone! My name is Anne McClelland, and I am the new director for Cisco’s retail and hospitality sales team in the U.S. I’m excited to have the chance to write for Cisco’s retail blog program, and you’ll be hearing from me regularly sharing some insights, musings, and speculations on trends as well as giving you information about Cisco’s resources for the industry.

One of the interesting discussions that I’m having with our customers right now is about the relationship between eCommerce and the physical store, and how this relationship is being significantly redefined. Retailers are wrestling with how to leverage the store to improve online sales (and vice versa) to create a truly omnichannel buying experience for their customers.

To better align these channels, I’m seeing just how much retailers want to do more with consumer analytics. Retail executives are talking to us about their interest in finding new ways to understand who exactly the shoppers are, who is actually coming in their stores (and who is not), why they are or are not responding to promotions, and when they do buy: what was on their list vs. what was incremental to their planned purchases.  Retailers are also anxious to better understand and leverage the technology at the edge – at the store entrance, on the end-caps, in aisles, on the shelves, and on the goods themselves.

To make this all this magic happen, retailers find they need to upgrade network infrastructures; those who were not ready for all of these potential edge analytics are now finding themselves feeling a bit “behind the times.”  We are hearing that many of our retail and hospitality friends are looking to find creative new ways to light up the aisles and the back office. We are hearing very strategic questions such as, “Do we have too many stores?” “Are we over-invested in inventory and store footprint?” “Is there a way to streamline our operations?”  “Can we better integrate online and brick and mortar to gain efficiencies?”  Many retailers are integrating online delivery and returns to stores, as well as testing new models such as third-party package-delivery firms.  I’ll explore these topics in future blogs.

Meanwhile in the store itself, where the rubber meets the road, how are retailers differentiating today?  Where are the crowds of the people congregating?  Why are they there?  I think of the Apple store in our local mall, I think of the Disney store in Times Square. These stores are literally jammed.  Why is this?  Why is Apple’s store so jammed?  What has the Disney store done to evolve to drive crowds and new business concepts?

Innovation is key: Disney has made a business model around glamorizing the Disney princesses for their customers running “The Disney Princess Store,” including new services, videos, games, products.  They have opened up a mega-category that is a logical extension of what their customers love to do… dress up.  Why aren’t the department stores similarly jammed?  It’s all about innovation; it’s all about thinking deeply about the consumer; it’s about driving brand association and attraction; and it’s about executing on the “theater of retail.”

We’ll be joining Cisco’s partner NCR at the Synergy User Conference, being held June 22-25. I’ll be speaking there on the “Internet of Things: Retail Without Boundaries” and discussing how seemingly futuristic technologies are changing the way retailers interact with their customers – I hope to see you there!

I look forward to getting to know you in person and through this blog in the coming months. In the meantime, I invite you to extend your knowledge by attending our free summer retail webcasts:

  • June 16: “Delivering Successful Store-of-the-Future Experiences,” held at 10:00-11:00 am PT/1:00-2:00 pm ET, with Forrester Research’s Adam Silverman on improving store infrastructures and bandwidth. Register today.
  • July 14: “Make Your Data Meaningful: New Strategies for In-Store Shopper Experiences,” held at 10:00-11:00 am PT/1:00-2:00 pm ET, on new analytics capabilities for retail environments. Register today.

Feel free to connect with me at

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Why Your In-Store Web, Mobile, and Video Experiences Matter

The lines between offline and online experiences are blurring. Customers no longer go online, they are online 24/7, and that includes inside your stores. In fact according to recent Google research, 89% of smartphone users leverage their smartphones while shopping in stores. And close to 70% of those used it to look at the retailer’s site and 21% look at apps.

Furthermore, according to Laura Wade-Gery, executive director of Multi-channel eCommerce for Marks & Spencer, “Shoppers who shop on our website as well as in our stores spend four times as much; throw smartphones into the mix and they spend eight times as much.” Enabling web, mobile, and video experiences in the store represents a huge opportunity – whether it is interactive, connected digital signage; Wi-Fi; employee-focused endless aisle apps; and so on.

Yet the majority of our customers face the reality that digital innovation is overwhelming their enterprise network. Everything from web apps, HD video, software updates, mobile apps, and even digital signage are traversing the network eating up valuable bandwidth. In addition, most retailers subscribe to doing more with less – particularly when it comes to IT – so upgrading enterprise network bandwidth across every store every few years is often just not viable, both from a budget and agility perspective. That is not to mention that a lot of Cisco customers can’t upgrade their bandwidth due to store location even if they wanted to.


But bandwidth constrained enterprise networks are only one side of the story. Latency is the other, whether caused by distance or amplified by enterprise network architectures such as backhauling Internet traffic over the WAN through the datacenter and out to the Internet. Currently, the vast majority of retailers use this network topology for store Internet access.


And as we all know, high latency is particularly detrimental to web application performance.


Just look at the difference in latency and bandwidth between in-store and residential Wi-Fi. In fact, latency for in-store Wi-Fi is higher than latency for LTE.


The bottom line is that congested, high-latency, low bandwidth enterprise networks result in slow HTTP applications, video, and software updates.


And we all know that video or apps that are slow or not working properly are bad for business. There has been plenty of research highlighting the fact that as web apps get slower, conversion rates decrease, abandonment rates increase, and employee productivity plummets.


In other words, slow apps – whether inside or outside the store – equals unhappy customers and unproductive employees. The answer to this problem? Retailers need to focus on accelerating HTTP/S applications, video and software updates while maximizing enterprise network bandwidth to ensure fast, high-quality experiences to all of your end users.

To learn more, be sure to register to join us on June 16 for a free one-hour webcast.

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Mobile Location Based Services Trends of 2013

The holiday season which began with Cyber Monday on December 2nd 2013 has just ended and analyzing the impact on mobile commerce sales and location based services unveils some very interesting trends.

Firstly, at the macro level:

  • Online shopping increased in the USA in 2013 by over 16% compared to 2012.
  • From a mobility perspective, almost a third of all online sales (29%) were made from Smartphones or Tablets.

Clearly there are changes in the online marketplace, but in order to examine this a little further, let’s look at a few key questions to help understand what is happening in this marketplace:

  1. What are the major trends?
  2. Is mobile commerce just a US phenomenon?
  3. What impact does location based services have?
  4. Where are the main benefits coming from analytics?
  5. How is privacy fitting in to all this and how is the attitude of mobile consumers evolving?

Trends 2013:  Read More »

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An Architectural Approach to Location-Based Services

When was the last time you looked at your mobile device? Minutes ago? Seconds ago? We can’t seem to live without them, and in the consumer space, new mobile services are popping up it seems faster than your Twitter feed can handle. Below are mobile consumer services trends from the latest VNI Service Adoption Forecast (2012 – 2017) – you can see Mobile SMS, Mobile Commerce, Mobile Video, and Mobile Social Networking are on the rise, as is the number of devices per consumer.


Many organizations are looking for ways to leverage this upward trend in mobility and innovative mobile services for business benefit – whether it be for increasing customer satisfaction and communicating how the general population wants to receive communication, or offering Wi-Fi so users are able to consume the mobile services they want.

Cisco has made a big investment in mobile location-based services (LBS) over the past year with the introduction of the Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) solution. CMX enables mobile users to adopt new innovative mobile services with an added benefit of relevance. Businesses can conduct mobile commerce, send texts, extend mobile video, or integrate mobile services with social media now based on the user’s location. Read More »

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The Internet is Booming in Latin America, Especially Among Younger Users

JasonHeadShot,croppedBy Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

Looking for the world’s hottest markets for Internet and social media activity? It’s not North America, or Europe, or even Asia. The real action is in Latin America.

ComScore recently released a study detailing some of these trends. Among the most impressive: Latin America had the fastest-growing Internet population of all regions in the world, growing 12 percent between 2012 and 2013, and reaching more than 147 million unique web visitors as of last March.

Read More »

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