The retail industry is facing unprecedented changes. Since Amazon went online in 1995, technology has been blurring the boundaries between virtual and physical retail space. The third annual Cisco study of consumers found that nearly 80 percent of U.S. consumers use the Internet to shop. Armed with their smartphones, customers now walk into a store with much more knowledge and power in the palm of their hands than ever before, enough to keep retail executives up at night.
Nearly one out of three shoppers search on their mobile device before purchasing in store. Customers want to know if items are available in the right size, right color, and right now. These shoppers expect the same prices, products, and offers regardless of the channel being used (e-commerce websites, brick-and-mortar stores, or mobile devices). I’m surprised at how many stores really don’t know what’s in stock. To keep up with today’s savvy shoppers, retailers need to update their inventory systems using signals from their supply chains, online presence, back rooms, and front stores in real time. And all of this is the in the context of shrinking customer spending, rising business costs, and competition.
With these monumental shifts in consumer behavior, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the biggest Internet of Everything (IoE) Value at Stake opportunities reside in extracting customer insights and creating better experiences. For years, retailers have trusted Cisco innovations to help them improve the store experience, increase supply chain efficiencies, and deliver a consistent multi-channel experience to their customers. Just last month, on stage at Cisco Live with John Chambers, I demonstrated Cisco’s location-based services to help retailers improve planogram and measure campaign effectiveness through the movement of customers. But there is much more that the Internet of Everything can do to address the two main goals of retailers: revenue and loyalty.
In the fast-changing, thin-margin world of consumer products, new winners and losers are created every day. Speed of innovation, time-to-market, and employee productivity can mean the difference between the next hot trend and a warehouse full of excess inventory. Success in the highly competitive consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail industry depends on broad-ranging collaboration, accelerated innovation, and employees who are empowered and productive every step along the way—from product development, to merchandising and sourcing, to store management and customer service.
Last week I was honored to co-present with Parvez Patel, senior director of e-strategy at Grainger, on a session at Internet Retailer Conference 2013, titled “Social Marketing for B2B: It’s Not Just for B2C Anymore.”
In this session both of us discussed how we approached B2B social media from a Grainger perspective and from a Cisco retail industry marketing perspective. Some of the points that we discussed include:
I love shopping. I love traveling. I hate going to the hospital. I sometimes like going to the bank (only if it involves the depositing a large check). On the surface, it may seem that there’s no common thread about each of these experiences, however, there actually is a lot in common!
Each of these industries (retail, transportation, healthcare, banking) is becoming more passionate about truly delivering good customer experience and building customer loyalty. Why? Research has established that satisfied customers spend more money “now” and, in the longer term, become more loyal. For example, according to a J.D. Power survey, a delighted traveler is likely to spend 45% more money at the airport than someone who is disappointed with their experience.
Okay, sold! Let’s start delivering “good” experience and start counting the money…right? Not exactly. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
First of all, what exactly is “good” experience? The answers will vary greatly depending on the industry vertical and brands within a vertical. Hence, one of the major challenges is actually defining “good” experience.
While there are certainly unique attributes to “good” experience in different industries, there is a common theme emerging: the synchronization of physical and digital experience. For example, research by Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, revealed 93% of products sold in the United States are still bought in brick-and-mortar locations. In addition, over 50% of all consumers access (or would like to access) to digital content while shopping in a store, either through digital touch-screens or their own smartphones/tablets. This research reveals that more and more consumers are relying on real-time digital content to make purchasing decisions. In essence, consumers are becoming “informed buyers” during the shopping experience.
Unfortunately, with respect to customer experience, in many companies today the physical and digital worlds still sit across a great divide. Often, these two functions are housed in different organizations and are loosely coupled with respect to operations and culture. While we’ve made significant progress, digital experience is often an after-thought that peacefully co-exists with physical experience.
But, that’s not going to work any more. Consumers are expecting more, and they vote with their wallets. So, start truly synchronizing your digital and physical experiences…or else!
There are indeed a number of challenges in making smart stores, what do you think is most difficult in actually accomplishing this?