Cisco Blogs

Cisco Blog > Retail

Determining the Value of the Virtual Shopping Experience

We are increasingly hearing about the value of improving the shopping experience by adding virtual expertise to the store. As head of Cisco’s Retail & Hospitality practice, I frequently talk to customers who are exploring this concept – though what I mainly hear are questions! While many are interested in the idea, they are still trying figure out whether or not a virtual customer expert is going to add more revenue to their bottom line.

Putting a collaborative expert into the store – virtual or physical – can actually be critical to meeting the needs of the consumer, especially during the purchase of a high-priced product or for a purchase where it is very important to make the right decision. However, very often this level of expertise is not available in the aisle when the consumer is dwelling there. And yet, the presence of such an expert can be extremely important. For example:

  1. A mother is shopping for an over-the-counter decongestant late in the evening for her child, who is also taking medication for ADD. A pharmacist is not available, but getting the wrong medication could be life-threatening.
  2. A couple is buying a printer for their college-age daughter, who shares an apartment with three other students. They need a printer that can be networked so all four girls can print their assignments and research papers.
  3. A party host would like to purchase several cases of wine that complement the menu, but are not overwhelmingly expensive.
  4. A couple is browsing the latest assortment of home security devices, trying to make sense of what will work with their current network configuration.

Savvy retailers debate how to solve the problem of providing highly paid experts to be immediately available to consumers, without footing the bill for an employee who may be idle part of the time. Additionally, it may be necessary to provide a level of privacy while engaging the expert. The retailer’s quandary is how to attractively offer this service in a way to increase basket and justify this use of valuable selling space.

Forward-looking retailers recognize that this capability is part of providing a truly integrated omnichannel experience. Shoppers are no longer either in the store or online… they are both, and sometimes at the same time. Thanks to our mobile devices, consumers can research, compare prices, and shop with our mobile devices in the aisle. According to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, retailers need to adopt a “digical” strategy – a term coined by Bain & Company’s Darrell Rigby and Suzanne Tager – meaning the seamless integration of digital with physical retail. (For more, check out the article, “The Future of Retail Will Be Won or Lost in ‘Digical.’”)

In any channel in this digical world, retailers will lose revenue if they are unable to differentiate themselves by providing excellent value, combined with the appropriate amount of customer service. And here is where the virtualized experience can drive a new level of engagement for the brick-and-mortar store. Via video collaboration on a consumer’s mobile device, a kiosk display, online, or an associate’s tablet, shoppers looking for advice can easily connect with your centralized or outsourced pool of experts for immediate assistance. Let’s go back to the scenarios above:

  1. A QR code is posted on a sign that reads: “Photograph this sign with your mobile device and you can speak to one of our pharmacists on call 24×7.” The pharmacy service immediately calls the mother’s mobile phone number to discuss which medication will be safe for her ADD son.
  2. An associate in the printer aisle approaches the couple and boots up an expert session on his tablet to discuss feeds, speeds, and price points. This helps the family determine which printer will best fit their daughter’s needs.
  3. The party host approaches a kiosk to engage a wine expert. He enters the date and time of the party so that weather can be taken into account, the centerpiece menu items, and his desired price range. He then engages with a virtual expert who provides options as well as a special discount based on the number of cases. Additionally, he is offered a 50% discount on disposable wine goblets.
  4. As the couple browses an array of home security options, the retailer pushes a promotion to their mobile device: “If you would like a complementary home security assessment, follow this link to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.” This in-home expert then cross-sells and upsells products from a tablet in the home, and schedules an in-store meeting when products arrive to discuss installation.

When used in conjunction with brick and mortar, virtual in-store and online expertise complement the natural selling journey with consumers to fill an important gap in the omnichannel experience. Click here to learn more about Cisco’s thinking in this area, or contact me at

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Using Video to Grow Your Small Business – Melinda Emerson @SmallBizLady Shares Tips

Melinda Emerson, aka “SmallBizLady” is a veteran entrepreneur; small business expert and social media coach who specializes in helping small businesses thrive. Today hosted a WebEx offering tips for using video to help grow your business.

Watch her on-demand webinar on using video for your business.

Why should you use video?

Here are a few interesting stats about video Melinda shared with us:

  • Online video is expected to grow 55% this year and is the top format for content marketing.
  • Videos have a 41% higher click-through rate than plain text context.
  • 58% of consumers ages 18-34 who follow brands on social media would watch a video posted by that brand.
  • 57% of Smartphone users polled say they’ve streamed video on mobile.
  • Videos are integral to the success of any SEO strategy.
  • 90% of web traffic is predicted to be video by 2014.

With all that good news, there’s one important point Melinda makes about using video: don’t waste people’s time. To be effective, keep it short. 88% of people say they would watch a video that educated them for at least one minute.

Use video to create a deeper relationship with your customer.

Here are 12 ways you can use video to market your business (be sure to watch the on-demand presentation to learn more).

1. Blog content. 5. Video training. 9. Live video streaming.
2. Customer testimonials. 6. Interviews. 10. Webinars.
3. Product demos. 7. Commercials. 11. Viral video.
4. Email video. 8. Video news release (VNR). 12. Product reviews.

Melinda went on to explain how to create videos that are interesting to customers. Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Free Webinar with Melinda Emerson – 12 Ways to Use Video to Grow Your Small Business

If you aren’t using video, you are missing out.

It can be incredibly useful for business, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post:

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, video can be worth millions to your company. Video allows your brand to get under potential customers’ skin and put the product in front of their eyes. They will hear your message and feel the excitement of your services, while you smell the profit. Here are five examples you can apply to your own brand.”

On August 21, we will host seasoned small business expert and bestselling author Melinda Emerson for an online event.  She will share 12 ways to use video to grow your small business.

Reserve your spot today: register here

As a business owner, you know staying relevant online is a must for your business. Video is a powerful tool that can be used in a wide variety of ways to expand business opportunities. With the right online channels, you can use video to reach employees, customers and brand ambassadors. Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ask The Expert: AnyConnect Configuration – December 14th

Join us on Tuesday, December 14th, for our upcoming live Ask The Expert event, inside Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual.  This event will be coming to you live from India, the first in our international Ask The Expert Series.  Ask the Expert events are part of our content partnership with the Cisco Support Community. Take advantage of these opportunities to get answers to your questions live, in real-time, by a Cisco expert.

Join Cisco expert Vikas Saxena, a customer support engineer (CCIE security number 19971) at the Technical Assistance Center, Security and VPN team in India as he provides information on configuration basics of AnyConnect SSL VPN Client on ASA through ASDM. He will also provide information on concepts of profiles, tunnel groups, group policies, and troubleshooting of common problems associated with AnyConnect SSL VPN client.

Speaker: Vikas Saxena
Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Time: 2:00 a.m. Eastern / 11:00 PT [13th] / 12:30 p.m. JST / 4:00 p.m. JST

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ask The Expert: Cisco Nexus 5000 Series – October 7th

Join us on Thursday, October 7th, for our upcoming live Ask The Expert event, inside Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual. Ask the Expert events are part of our content partnership with the Cisco Support Community. Take advantage of these opportunities to get answers to your questions live, in real-time, by a Cisco expert.

Topic:  Cisco Nexus 5000 Series: Configuration & Troubleshooting

Join Cisco expert Lucien Avramov, a customer support engineer at the Cisco Technical Assistance Center who currently works in the data center switching team supporting customers on the Cisco Nexus 5000 and 2000 for this live webcast session. Lucien will cover Data Center Switching with the Cisco Nexus 5000 Series Switches and Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders. The session will encompass configuration and troubleshooting on various topics such as Cisco’s virtual PortChannel (vPC) technology (including vPC designs), performance, and various other common topics frequently addressed.

Event: Cisco Nexus 5000 Series

Date: Thursday October 7, 2010

Time: 10 a.m. Pacific Time


This event is open to all customers and partners. We look forward to your participation.

By participating in each webinar, you will have a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card, or a one-year Premiere Pass in Cisco Live & Networkers Virtual ($395 value).

Register for this and future events here:

Tags: , , , , ,