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The Internet of Things: Retail without Boundaries at Synergy

Last week I was in Orlando attending NCR’s Synergy Conference, which, this year focused on “Inspired Commerce.”  At the show I heard a lot of dialog with retailers and technology partners about how the Internet of Things and the integrated use of mobility in our day-to-day lives is changing how retailers engage with consumers. I addressed this topic in my session at the show, but wanted to mention a few highlights in hindsight.

First, the use of mobile devices during the shopping journey is no longer for millenials and early adopters only. They are certainly the heaviest users, but across the board in the US, 55% of shoppers are making use of retailer-specific applications, and 34% are using independent shopping apps such as Groupon, Zulily, etc. More than 40% of consumers want to receive their loyalty points/perks and discounts in real time, while shopping in the store, vs. receiving the same information in snail mail or in email.

Second, mobile is becoming integral to the shopping process. Retailers are facing demands for greater convenience, transparency, and interactivity with their consumer base that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago. (As a side note, this is extending into other industries as well, such as healthcare and financial services.)  Consumer expectations are evolving, and with this, retailers need to be able to offer new and effective engagement opportunities with their brand.

Other disruptors include fast-changing technologies such as social media use (not just Facebook and Twitter, but now Pinterest and Instagram) and the need to aggregate social sentiment data; unstructured data such as photos, posts, Tweets; and structured data coming from legacy systems such as CRM, SCM, and POS to make real-time decisions at the edge of the network – in the store or online where the rubber meets the road.

So – high volumes of structured and unstructured data, exponentially growing sophisticated consumer demands, and the growing use of mobile devices in the shopping journey. How does the retailer leverage all of these opportunities to make the most of this evolution?

With billions of connections, sensors and devices lighting up the Internet of Things, the aggregation of structured and unstructured data to deliver real-time analytics on mobile devices for store associates and mobile engagement via apps aimed at consumers, the opportunities are endless.  Retailers that can deliver hyper-relevance – which, according to Cisco’s research, is increasingly what consumers prefer during the shopping process – will be the ones who stand out.  Hyper-relevance delivers to me, the consumer, what I want, when and how I want it, in the context where I am at that particular moment.

To succeed in this new paradigm, retailers must earn consumers’ trust and deliver consistently as a brand to get access to the data that lets them provide a truly relevant real-time experience. Once consumers are willing to share a certain amount of personal data – at Cisco, we call this the “trust cliff” – retailers can use real-time analytics to turn that data into actionable insights.

We have identified three key attributes that retailers must possess to deliver hyper-relevance and build a dynamic infrastructure and processes:

  1. Hyper-aware: By implementing and automating edge technologies such as sensors, cameras, beacons, and RFID tags, retailers can capture value from the intelligence and automation that is now available to them. This is the way to begin to gain true visibility into what the customer is experiencing in the store, how they are dwelling in the store, where they need help with the shopping process.
  2. Predictive: By overlaying intelligence and analytics on top of these edge technologies, retailers can gain real-time anticipatory insight into what is happening, what to expect, and how to meet customers’ real-time needs. If retailers can more systematically determine peak timeframes and loyal customers’ shopping patterns, they can anticipate the staffing needs to speed up the shopping process and assist customers through the checkout process faster.
  3. Agile: Agile, solid infrastructures, adaptive business processes, and associate training capabilities are critical to being able to deliver the kinds of dynamic experiences discussed here. When business processes can change dynamically and associates trained to respond and do what’s best for the customer, all while leveraging technology and insights gained from integrated systems, the customers’ shopping experience can delivered in an excellent manner.

This is obviously not as easy as it sounds.  Implementing a hyper-aware, predictive, and agile network to respond to your customer demands is very difficult.  We in the Cisco Business Transformation Team work with customers to help them explore where they are today and where they want to take their business in the future, and work arm-in-arm with them to look at what it would take to get from where they are today to this desired future state.

We recommend the following steps:

  1. Forget everything you thought you knew about the digital consumer – all the old paradigms are melting away and “segmentation” no longer applies
  2. Go to the edge for visibility into what customers are experiencing at that moment
  3. Build a dynamic infrastructure and create agile processes that to support the customer experience
  4. Develop new business models that drive innovation and enable hyper-relevance

If you would like to download the white paper from Cisco Consulting Services that I’ve referenced, please click here.

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Cisco CMX @ NRF 2014

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NRF 2014 was held last week at the Javits Centre in New York City. It’s the biggest retail event of the year where vendors show off the future of the industry to all the delegates both using inspiring key notes and exciting demos on the Expo floors.

2014 and beyond:

It wasn’t too hard to identify that there were some common themes. On Tuesday afternoon I stood on the main Expo floor and just looking around I could quickly see the industry’s top of mind phrases and buzz words popping out:

“Omni channel”,”Onmianalytics”, “Predictive”, “Insights”, “Customer science and Analytics”, “Precise Location Matters”, “Analyze Decide”, “Mobilize”, “Mobility solutions”, “Big data”, “Customer engagement”, “Adaptive offers”, “Personalized customer experience”, “Customer Experience Analytics”

We certainly are entering the era where using data, analytics and personalization is no longer just an interesting notion or “nice to have” for retail – it is now the KEY thing companies MUST do.

And a big common theme is that mobile is exploding and changing things rapidly, so retailers either need to keep up or inevitably fall behind their competitors. Read More »

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