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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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Making the Branch Core to Omnichannel, and a Hub for Financial Expertise

I recently returned from a Financial Services Summit event in China, where I discussed trends in an omnichannel delivery strategy with an audience from 30 banks. A central part of my discussion was the notion that things are not changing, they’ve already changed. Consumers across the globe have a heavy appetite for digital services.

Digital consumers across all age groups are adopting new digital behaviors at a faster pace. For example, it took one European bank 10 years to have 20 million hits per month on their website, but when they introduced their new mobile banking app, it only took 1.5 years to reach 20 million hits per month.

In a recent Internet of Everything (IoE) in Financial Services consumer study conducted by Cisco across 12 countries, we saw that in China, there is a high interest for alternative banking solutions. However, this same group of respondents (72 percent) put the branch as their first preference for opening up an account. We saw similarly high scores across Brazil, India, Russia and Mexico. The U.S. consumers came in at 60 percent.

So, what does this tell us? For one, it tells us that we need to not only evolve our mobile strategy but also see the branch as a valuable asset that is complementary to mobile and still core to any omnichannel banking delivery model.

Yes, the branch still matters. From opening up an account, to applying for a car loan or even a mortgage, there is an educational and personal interaction component to that journey. Consumers often feel that they are not fully equipped to make decisions about financial products and services alone and often seek advice and guidance from a trusted banking specialist. Read More »

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Make Collaboration a Key Part of Your Litigation and Claims Handling Strategy

For those of us who have been in this industry awhile, the Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance market continues to be plagued by inefficiencies in claims handling and litigation management. Adjusters assigned to manage the claim are geographically dispersed, have varying degrees of expertise about the loss event, and handle multiple claims simultaneously. Disparate legacy systems still exist, and silos are prevalent between business, technology, and lines of business. This can result in wasted time and compromised claim performance.

Industry leading insurers should consider applying unified communications and collaboration technologies to lower claim expenses, while transforming the entire claims process into a seamless experience for all parties involved. Insurers continue to be challenged with diverse collaboration methods, especially for long-tail, complex claims in litigation, frequently with high monetary exposure potential and multiple collateral sources involved. A well-defined collaboration strategy can benefit customers, self-insureds, defense law firms handling insurer claims in litigation, agents, brokers, third-party administrators, government entities, court systems and reinsurers. Read More »

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Enabling “The Easy” Button for Insurance

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a blog titled, “Mayday for Insurance and Financial Services,” where I detailed how next-generation customer experience capabilities, such as virtual interactions between business experts and customers, are transforming business processes – such as the “Mayday” button technology offered on Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX. The purpose of that blog was to explain virtual interaction capabilities and discuss how they are likely to become integrated into the insurance industry in the near future. So what’s changed? Well, I’ve gone from blogging about the changes to come, to speaking at insurance industry conferences about how virtual transactions are now transforming how the industry does business and how Cisco is helping fuel these virtual interactions.

I attended the Property Insurance Report National Conference, and had many great discussions. The focus of the conference was on ways the property insurance world is changing, through consideration of new ideas and the utilization of new tools being built. It’s widely considered that with the arrival of better information and tools, the most sophisticated insurers will be able to separate themselves from those who don’t take these changes as seriously or employ them as skillfully. Features such as online video sales and support are working in the real world for other industries, so how they can be applied to insurance?

At the conference, I gave a keynote presentation titled, “Omni-Channel for Insurance – Virtual Enhanced Distribution & Service Channels”. The presentation specifically focused on how virtual interactions are transforming the insurance industry and improving customer experiences.

Read More »

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Back to the Future in 2015: Marty McFly’s Contact Center

In the 1989 movie Back to the Future II, Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly travels to the year 2015. He sees a future with hover boards, holograms, flat-screen TVs, and video calls. Not bad for predictions made over 25 years ago!

But the movie didn’t give us a glimpse of what a contact center might look like in 2015. Based on the trends over the last year, let’s consider what Marty may have seen had he traveled to a contact center in 2015 instead of Hill Valley.

Moving from Multichannel to Omnichannel

And 2015 will be the year that the “omni” will be cemented into omnichannel. Multichannel customer care has been around for some time now.

Customers can reach out to contact centers via the channel they choose: voice, video, web chat, email, or social. But what if a customer uses more than one channel to complete a single transaction over a period of time?

Each time the customer makes contact, all the information and context from previous contacts, regardless of channel, will be available. Each subsequent agent or resource can get right to the issue at hand to complete that customer’s journey and fulfill their request.

Speaking of customer journeys, omnichannel allows you to Read More »

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