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The Next Step in Your Store Analytics Strategy: Sensor Fusion

Retail has entered an era of unprecedented competition and accelerated evolution worldwide. Retailers in every category, both brick-and-mortar and online, face larger and more unpredictable threats than ever before, from digitization of goods and distributed manufacturing to autonomous, near-instant delivery, service robots, and online experiences with unprecedented realism, as disruptors such as virtual reality, 3D printing, drones and wearables take root.

While e-commerce growth is outstripping physical store expansion, the in-store experience is still a powerful part of the shopping experience. The Internet of Everything (IoE) offers new opportunities to make physical store shopping a better experience for the consumer and more lucrative for the retailer. By lighting up “dark assets,” retailers gains unprecedented insights into shopper behavior and operations, and can impact every piece of the value chain from merchandising and sales to workforce optimization, shopper experience and service.

Retailers light up dark assets by instrumenting physical stores with sensors and actuators such as Wi-Fi access points and shopping cart tags, beacons, video cameras, and even mechanical devices such as weight sensing shelves or humidity sensors. While these sensors themselves provide valuable new insights, often the greatest advantages are derived from combining multiple types of sensors and data through “sensor fusion.”

As just one example, pairing Wi-Fi location data showing a shopping path with point-of-sale data can highlight opportunities to improve conversion, where shoppers linger but don’t purchase. Likewise, combining video analytics of traffic entering the store with shelf sensing of the rate at which refrigerated goods are being picked up provides a more accurate forecast of staffing needs.

The business value of sensor fusion can be staggering – our studies show that a 1,500 store big box chain could save up to $100 million per year in cashier cost, at the same time as reducing checkout wait times by up to half – in fact, we predict that IoE could ultimately end up eliminating the checkout line. IoE also helps with the stubborn problem of on-shelf availability, where the largest retailers can lose more than $1 billion annually.

But that’s not all – sensor fusion is already being used to evaluate campaign effectiveness, optimize merchandising, and help suppliers and partners become the captains in their categories, as well as to reduce shrink and improve shopper and employee safety.

Please join us to learn more on Sept. 25 during my 45-minute webcast being held at 12:00 noon ET/9:00 am PT. It’s called “Why You Need Sensor Fusion in Your 2016 Retail Analytics Strategy,” and it’s jointly sponsored by Cisco and our partner RetailPoint, which offers POS solutions. I’ll speak for just half an hour about IoE in action in retail and the technologies enabling it, from video (the “supersensor”) to wearables to precision location and the single pane of glass for retail – the ultimate view of your business. Then we’ll spend 15-20 minutes in open discussion on how sensor fusion can help your store take the next step. Please register today!

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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

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Join Us on Oct. 22 for Our Final Analytics Webcast

Hello, retailers everywhere! My name is Dianne Lamendola, and I am a senior retail practice advisor here at Cisco. My role is to work closely with store operators and merchants to help understand your business and how technology can help you reach critical goals.

I hope you have been following our three-part series of one-hour webcasts that Cisco has been hosting this year on retail analytics. In the store, online, and across data sources, retailers have been increasingly focused on how to gather and analyze the metrics that help provide insights to run a tighter operation and provide a more exciting experience for your shoppers.

On Oct. 22, we’ll wrap up this series with a session on “Technology that Gets Down to Business: Develop Your Action Plan for Retail Analytics Success.” Held at 10:00-11:00 am PT/1:00-2:00 pm ET, this candid discussion lets you learn how to:

  • Implement innovative retail analytics technologies
  • Drive added value from traditional and new data sources
  • Deploy mobility, wireless, video cameras, sensors, and services to jumpstart your action plan

Register today! By registering, you will also earn a free introductory analytics enablement meeting and additional tools to help you think more about your program.

While it’s not necessary to attend the previous sessions to join us, please feel free to review the recordings of our prior events:

  1. Part I: Understanding the Basics of Setting Up Your In-Store Analytics Program – Recording
  2. Part II: Case Studies of Analytics Programs in Real-World Stores – Recording

We welcome all retailers, including IT staffers, who want to know more about how analytics fit into and enhance your store environment.

I’ll see you there!

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Revamping the MSE User Interface

As part of the WLC 8.0 release, we addressed customer comments and revamped the user interface (UI) for the MSE. We wanted to make it easier for customers using both MSE and PI to adjust to larger deployments. We also wanted to quicken the pace at which we could deliver features to the customers. Today I want to walk you through the landing page and configuration of the new MSE UI.

Landing Page

The landing page is the first thing one sees when logging into  the MSE UI. This page provides the user with a basic snapshot of system health, an easy way to launch the apps, and a quick status of the various services on MSE.

System Health

The new UI highlights important parameters like CPU and Memory usage in order to give the user an indication of the stress being handled by the MSE.

 mseui1 Read More »

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Show Me the Retail Data

retailSuccess in retail often comes down to a counting game.  How many people pass by your store?  How many come inside?   How long do they stay?  And most importantly how many ultimately buy?

Today, the retail counting game has gotten a lot easier because we can now count devices as proxies for people, since many potential customers today, myself included, won’t leave home without their smartphone.  As soon as they enter a store, the beacon on their cell phone effectively announces its arrival to the Wi-Fi network and voilà, we have a count.

With the help of CMX Presence Analytics, these smart devices can help answer many key retailing questions with a single access point.

  • Who?
    Who is passing by the store versus coming in?  Presence Analytics uses both the cell phone’s signal strength as well as the time spent in the area to determine the number of people walking by versus in-store visitors.  Presence Analytics provides simple, quick reports on retail conversion metrics.   You can also track how often visitors return to a store in a given time period can be tracked, which can be key for customer loyalty programs.

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