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Omnichannel Is Changing How You Do Business – Sort Of

This is the final installment of a series on how retailers can address the challenges of becoming an omnichannel business. I’d like to wrap up by talking about a deceptively simple stumbling block – accepting that being an omnichannel seller changes how people work.  I spend much of my time talking to retailers, and this really is a big issue.

For example, I have seen stores install – and then turn off – Wi-Fi deployments because they worry that associates will waste time surfing the web. And, yes, some might. But consider the cost compared to customers knowing more than your salesforce because they’ve been doing online research. It makes your team look uninformed, lowers the quality of service, and impacts sales. Obviously, you don’t want workers to play games all day. Instead, train them to find and use online product information, social media, and reviews that will help improve response to customers – and deal appropriately with the exceptions.

Related to this are issues around Wi-Fi access for customers. If you provide it for employees, please just go ahead and extend this to shoppers. Universal store access allows you to optimize your brand with both employees and customers (and enables far more effective analytics). I guarantee that you will lose relevance over time as consumers learn your store is one of the few without mobile service.

As well, I’ve met retailers who won’t add Wi-Fi because they are convinced that the only outcome will be showrooming and ultimate desertion. It’s time to shed the fear of this increasingly common customer practice. Instead, leverage it as a new marketing tool. You can drive sales by being part of the customer’s social media experience, delivering your own identity, branding, and incentives. A recent Accenture study shows that younger consumers still want the in-store experience, but they also expect retailers to integrate personalized shopping across all channels.

Let’s talk more about this at the NRF Big Idea Sessions in New York, where I and Jon Stine, Lisa Fretwell, and Kathryn Howe will be speaking on Jan. 13 and 14.  Visit Cisco’s NRF website to learn more about these popular seminars, and stop by Cisco Booth #1954 to say hello.

The idea of omnichannel selling can be daunting, and getting the benefit may entail learning to manage a certain amount of risk. But you know – it’s just retail. The environment is becoming more device-driven and the way stores look is changing. But giving consumers what they want; interacting with, understanding, and nurturing them: It’s still the business of retail. And you know how to do that.

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Pick the Low-Hanging Omnichannel Fruit

This blog is the third of a series on how retailers are addressing the challenges of becoming an omnichannel business. We’ve talked about how omnichannel selling is not really about rushing to invest in some whiz-bang technology – in fact, I think stores often try to do too much at one time.

Instead, a smart approach to your implementation is to find the low-hanging fruit – projects that have the highest probability of effectiveness and can be measured against business targets as a whole. Remember that every store has its niche, and one size does not fit all. By achieving rapid successes up front, you gain funding for the next piece of your strategy, building from success to success to achieve omnichannel entry.

For example, some retailers look at how to make it easier for shoppers to buy and return where they want. Stores don’t carry the same selections from region to region, and they need processes and systems to make such an approach successful. The key is inventory management: figuring out how to sell, reorder, and exchange products in stores that also serve as fulfillment centers.

Other retailers focus on building a strong relationship with shoppers through excellent customer service. For example, instead of picking up the red bat phone or having “Customer assistance on Aisle 3” called over the loudspeaker, consumers can contact remote experts on their own mobile device or through a kiosk. Still other stores may put resources into user interfaces, branding, and site useability. These personalized approaches also pay off in better information about the customer, allowing retailers to use video analytics and sensors to get help to the shopper faster.

To help stores define their best path forward, they often make use of “innovation platforms,” systems designed to allow you to quickly set up and try out new merchandising, practices, or seasonal locations.  Innovation platforms let you experiment with capabilities that leverage organizational strengths, hitting on the cylinders you want to address. Each success helps build the business justification for the next stage, supported by your cost/benefit analyses, baselines, and measurements.

Let’s talk more about this at the NRF Big Idea Sessions, where I’ll be speaking on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2:00-3:00 ET, in Room 4. My topic is “Detect, Connect, Engage: Enhance your Customer Experience with Mobility,” and I’ll discuss how to personalize the mobility journey and new strategies for delivering a meaningful customer experience. Visit Cisco’s NRF website to learn more about these very popular seminars. As well, please take time to attend some of the demos in Cisco booth #1954. These include several technologies that fulfill the requirements discussed above.

I’ll see you at NRF!

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Post-event: The Ultimate Omnichannel Experience – Cisco FSI at BAI Retail Delivery 2013

Enthusiasm was at an all-time high at BAI Retail Delivery 2013 in Denver, CO last week as we continue to see major transformation in the banking industry.  Within the Cisco booth, we demonstrated a series of solutions that enable digital and physical channels to become more interactive and sales focused, while improving the customer’s banking experience. Attendees were excited to walk through various live customer business scenarios – all enabled by the same infrastructure – and available today.

BAI Cisco Booth 1

Cisco’s Omnichannel Booth Experience
The Cisco Financial Services team led the booth tours that took attendees through an end-to-end omnichannel experience. Participants were asked to play the role of an existing customer for the entire demonstration and were shown how Cisco can assist financial institutions in their desire to be more intimate and responsive to their clients’ needs. We demonstrated a seamless customer experience that can drive increased satisfaction and wallet share. Read More »

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Omni-Tech for Omnichannel Selling

My last blog talked about the challenges of becoming an omnichannel retailer, and how stores are still learning how to make changes that cut across their entire business. We discussed how, appearances to the contrary, omnichannel selling is still about meeting a basic business requirement – finding the best outcome for you and your customer. However, finding these outcomes is a more complex proposition than it used to be.

Logically, to achieve consistent outcomes you need to achieve consistent consumer outreach, input, and sales approaches. But stores are also facing the demand to create a more personalized sales experience. How do you meet these seemingly contrary requirements? The key here is to find new ways to reach out to shoppers as part of the whole shopping experience, no matter what the channel.

For example, Cisco’s Remote Expert solution is a way to offer unique, personalized, yet centralized retail experiences for customers. It connects each shopper with a product expert wherever they are located, in real time, via mobile, immersive, or on-site channels. You save by leveraging your experts across single or multiple locations and devices using a pool of experts who may or may not be co-located, instead of providing expertise at every site or asking them to travel extensively. Retailers can also use the same solution to host training and corporate meetings, or to enable store feedback on products and merchandising. The result is a personalized shopping experience at a lower cost for the store.

Pretty sweet, don’t you think? To learn more, take the time to attend the webcast “Just Ask the Expert: Connect Your Shoppers to Virtual Experts, Anywhere, Any Time,” being held on Nov. 7. You can register here.

Truly omnichannel technologies are designed to support cost savings and efficiency, providing a more seamless interface for service that is customized for the shopper. As I said in my last blog, these approaches focus first and foremost on customer needs, making it easier to do business with your company.  A customer-centric strategy cuts across the business and all its channels, creating a different kind of relationship between you and your shoppers. See what Retail Systems Research has to say in their latest report about omnichannel strategies.

I love retail trivia! Comment below if you know the answer to this question: What is the second-most visited retail business in America? (Wal-Mart is first.)

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Visit Cisco FSI and Discover What’s Possible at BAI Retail Delivery 2013

On November 5, retail financial services business leaders from around the world will gather at BAI Retail Delivery 2013, the financial services industry’s most comprehensive and relevant event of the year. Cisco in collaboration with Intel® will showcase our solutions portfolio that enables the Omnichannel delivery model and how it applies to various consumer banking experiences whether at home, in the branch, or on the road, to support seamless customer experiences and grow your business.

Booth Demonstrations

Today’s empowered financial services consumers expect a seamless experience. They want to engage with their bank when, where, and how they choose. While innovating to meet their demands, banks also must increase sales, grow profits, and reduce operating costs. Cisco executives will be at the BAI Retail Delivery Conference to demonstrate our Omnichannel sales enablement solutions that will help you:BAI 2013 Booth Blog

Our demonstrations will show how Cisco can enable retail banks to be more intimate and responsive to their clients’ needs; driving increased client satisfaction and wallet share through seamless customer experiences, while at the same time enable business growth. Read More »

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