Big data seems to be everywhere these days. Everywhere you look there are new companies and technologies that promise to crunch up enormous databases and instantly extract from them knowledge and understanding. Although that sounds impressive, it raises the question – how can that help me and my business? How does fitting an N degree polynomial to a CRM database help me grow my business?
At Cisco, we’ve taken a very practical approach to big data. We started by asking our customers: what do they want to know? What information would help our customers’ better manage their sites, optimize their operations and grow their business? We took those questions and built Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) Analytics around them.
Wouldn’t a store manager want to know how many of his customers were new? Did that new marketing campaign launched last month really drive new visitors to the store? Or another example, let’s say the layout of the store was just changed, wouldn’t the manager want to know if it was effective? Did people spend more time in the store? How about better understanding your customer base? Which web sites do my visitors visits? And of course retail isn’t the only segment that would like to know things. Wouldn’t an airport want to know how long people wait in the security line? Would a train station like to know how long before the train leaves people come into store?
Cisco’s CMX Analytics takes anonymous device location data gathered by the Cisco Mobility Services Engine (MSE), and leverages that data to provide clear, concise and relevant information. In order to make the data easier to visualize, we have recently enhanced our user interface adding many features that help users immediately and intuitively grasp the data. Our new dashboard enables every user to customize the views they wish to see and prioritize which data is meaningful to them. Our new Path engine enables customers to visualize how many people walk through the different paths in their venue. Our new reports can tell our customers everything from how many people are using their Wi-Fi to which floor people spend the most time in. These are just a few examples of the many innovations pouring into out CMX Analytics platform. Read More »
Ever step into a small-town “mom and pop” store? The owners seem to know everyone in the community, along with their individual needs, likes, dislikes, and current life situations.
It’s not easy to scale that kind of old-fashioned customer intimacy to a larger retail setting, online or off. But in the Internet of Everything (IoE) era, the same technology that is leading us headlong into the future may also help us take a step back. In the process, it may go far to improve customer experience and cement brand loyalty.
While IoE can’t conjure a kindly couple to help with a purchase, someday soon you may enter a store, bank branch, or car dealership and be guided through the steps of the process via your smart device. You’ll be greeted at the door with a personalized message. And while you’re browsing, talking to a salesperson, or engaging with an expert, you will receive content automatically to support your customer journey and your eventual buying decision. All of these suggestions will be rooted in your past purchases and browsing history, and reflect your individual needs, likes, dislikes, and current life situation (sound familiar?).
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?
Black Friday. Holiday Travel. Consumers have a more Enjoyable Experience and Businesses are Successful
Thanksgiving is around the corner and the holiday season will be upon us. What will Black Friday look like this year? I know that this is a time when things get more chaotic in my household. As my kids get excited for a break from school, and we all look forward to extended time with family and friends, we must first get through all the holiday preparations and planning. Am I better off ordering gifts for my wife and kids online versus going to the store? Do I want to deal with crowds and getting lost in a retail haze on Black Friday or Christmas Eve? And where will we spend our holiday vacation this year? Will we have access to Wi-Fi wherever we go should I need to check email, or so my kids can watch their favorite shows on Netflix?
This also got me thinking about the questions that keep businesses up at night during the holiday season. These include:
How can I have a one-to-one engagement with every customer or guest?
How can I get more customers into my venue?
How can I avoid showrooming?
How can I efficiently use my physical assets and human resources to ensure my venue is set up to maximize customer flow and staffing?
How can I stand out from the crowd and compete with rival brands?
And advertisements – how can I make them specific to the consumer in my venue rather than generic for many?
Taking these business concerns into account and listening to our customers have prompted Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Group to team up with Facebook to enable businesses to turn their challenges into opportunities. We’ve looked at how consumers can have a more connected experience while in business venues and at the same time how the business can improve the engagement with consumers while they are in the venue. We want to make this year’s holiday season more pleasant for everyone.
For that last few years, Cisco has been watching the impact of the Internet on transforming the retail industry. As more people, processes and things are connecting to the Internet, retailers can capture more data to better predict when and where consumers will want to buy and capture more revenues.
Today, Cisco released Internet of Everything research that equates to $81 billion globally in 2013. But this represents only 45% of the opportunity that could be gained by the Internet of Everything. Retailers could have realized an additional $99 billion this year if they were more connected across their operations. The good news is that retail IT executives are confident that can capture this value. On average, retail IT executives rated their ability to capture Internet of Everything at 7.2, on a scale of 1 to 10.