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How the Heck Do You Omnichannel?

The buzz in retail these days is “omnichannel” – we see slogans such as “Engage with Today’s Omnichannel Consumers,” “Develop Your Omnichannel Business” frequently. Cisco itself uses this word often. But in all honesty, I don’t think many people fully grasp the concept and its potential. And I don’t know of any retailer that has a complete approach to it. That’s right: None. 

Omnichannel retailing is about opening the store, its products, and services to shoppers in an immersive way that drives customer interaction across any point of access, at any time. “Omnichannel” is not just about connecting existing systems, it’s a transformational way to look at how you conduct business.

Becoming an omnichannel retailer is a broad undertaking, and many retailers are creating new executive positions to lead this strategy. However, I think these companies may be missing the boat. When thinking about omnichannel strategies, consider three key points:

First, a customer-centric strategy cuts across all organizations in the business – it can’t be sidelined into one business function such as IT. I often consult with retailers who experiment with different capabilities in a disconnected way; essentially, they throw technologies at the wall and wait to see what sticks. Instead, why not start by asking, “What does my customer want? How can I build a loyal relationship with them?” It’s all too easy to assume that showrooming is the enemy. But, really, why, for example, is Amazon successful? It’s not because they are available on a mobile phone. It’s because they are easy to do business with, offer good pricing, and deliver quickly. It’s about the way they address customer needs.

Next, I think stores often try to do too much at once (see wall-sticking, above). Instead, I recommend a phased approach that starts with the low-hanging fruit – projects that have the highest probability of effectiveness and can be measured against business targets as a whole. Every store has its niche, and one size does not fit all. By achieving rapid successes up front, retailers gain funding for the next piece of the strategy, building from success to success.

Finally, accept the fact that an omnichannel business will change how people work. Are you avoiding Internet access because you think associates will waste time surfing the web? Some may – but your good salespeople will be able to leverage online information to help them serve shoppers. Concerned that showrooming on the floor will drive customers away as they find lower prices online? Build your own identity, brand, and incentives into the online environment to drive sales. Worried that an online storefront or call center will undercut in-store sales? Run the numbers on losses over time as consumers find your store is the only one without convenient mobile customer support.

Omnichannel is not about the technology. Rather, it’s about finding the best outcome for you and your shoppers. To achieve success, IT and business must work together to solve customer problems for the store as a whole – there’s no other way to do it with complete success. Check out this great blog by Cara Waters, Five Lessons in Retail Trends.

I love retail trivia! Comment below if you know the answer to this question: What is the oldest US retail company?

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Strength in Numbers: Meet the CMX Partner Ecosystem

Since the launch of Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX), we have seen tremendous interest from our customers to monetize their investment in Wi-Fi Solutions and enable new line-of-business applications to gain insights, deliver efficiencies and engage end-users.  This week Cisco is announcing a collection of technology developer partnerships, as managed through the Cisco Developer Network (CDN), that help us bring a “whole offering” to our Customers with the addition of domain expertise, geographical focus and technology feature infusion that gives our Customers confidence, security and operational excellence to move forward in this nascent market.

The foundation of this technical integration begins with the connection to the Cisco WLAN & Unified Access Architecture through the Mobility Services API, which exposes context-aware information gathered by the Cisco Mobility Services Engine (MSE) for the integration with following disciplines: Read More »

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Growing up with Sensors and Smart Devices: How will the Internet of Everything Impact Our Children?

“Growing up is never easy. You hold onto things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come.”  - The Wonder Years

I’ve always liked this quote from one of the best TV shows of all time. And in an age where things are constantly changing, it’s never been more relevant. Today’s grandparents and parents spent their childhood in a world without sensors, smart phones and network capable devices at their fingertips. Our children, however, are growing up in a drastically new world. A world where everything is instant, where networked devices are part of their everyday lives and technology is in everything they do. This world enables unlimited potential and unlimited connections that can impact a child’s life for the better. So how will the Internet of Everything (IoE) prepare children for the smart people network they will live, learn, work and play in?

Read More »

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Is the Future of Mobility a Disappearing Act?

October 2, 2013 at 2:39 pm PST

As a mobile expert and thought leader, I’m frequently asked about what the next big thing in mobility will be, and my answer often surprises inquirers – mobile’s future is a disappearing act.

When most people think about the future of mobility, they think of larger, possibly flexible mobile screens, thinner and lighter designs, and the incorporation of new, currently unavailable technologies, but the reality isn’t so black-and-white.

Mobile Device

In past posts, I’ve explained why mobile devices gained ubiquity – in sum, they’re submissive to us (they’re easy for us to handle and manipulate), and the future of mobility is no exception. Think about it – what could be easier to handle than nothing at all? In time, we’ll begin to see technologies that virtually disappear until we need them, at which point we’ll see them front-and-center, or discretely in our periphery, depending on the optimal viewing location and utility offered. In the interim, mobile devices (both their hardware and software) will hybridize in an effort to complete the transition to virtual disappearance. Read More »

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Working Smarter: The Paradigm Shift in Business Collaboration

For the last few years I have had a growing conviction that my workplace collaboration tools were fundamentally broken and needed to be reinvented. So, last year when I was given the opportunity to join Cisco as the leader of their collaboration business I jumped at it. The way we work has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. The expectation that you can work from anywhere, at any time, has become the norm. Change is always hard within IT, but, as you read in my last post, it is the companies that embrace these new models of work who will benefit from a more innovative, efficient, and happier workforce.

Let’s face it, our primary collaboration tools were invented over twenty years ago when “working” looked very much like what you see in the popular TV show Mad Men – what I call the “Don Draper era.” A time when you went into the office, sat at your desk, had a physical landline, and a desktop PC loaded with legacy business tools; an environment that assumed we would always be in the office during normal business hours and behind the walled garden of IT. Fast forward to 2013 and look around, the way we work today is fundamentally different than the way we worked twenty years ago, yet many of our business IT systems and tools have been slow to catch up. In frustration, many employees are turning to the collaboration tools they use in their personal lives such as Dropbox, FaceTime, Gmail, Evernote, and Facebook to get their work done.

The rise of cloud and mobility have driven an acceleration in consumer technology so quickly that today, ironically, Read More »

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