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Omni Channel Retailing—Connecting Anytime, Anywhere, Even at 30,000 Feet

At the National Retail Federation conference and expo this past week in New York, Cisco released its latest study on how consumers are hopping across multiple channels and how retailers can catch ‘Em and keep ‘Em. On my way from San Francisco to New York this week, I was shopping at the airport and did an e-book purchase and downloaded it to my tablet using the onboard wireless Internet service at 30,000 feet.

Think about the impact of this new consumer reality to retailers such as Sport Chalet, who needs to build a strong foundation to support customers anytime anywhere.

Sport Chalet CEO, Craig Levra, and CIO, Ted Jackson, discuss how they are satisfying shoppers and improving operations with Cisco technology.

Some of the capabilities that retailers need to provide going forward in the omnichannel world include:

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Retail Therapy for the Modern Shopper: Cisco at NRF 2012

This week I am delighted to once again be in the city that never sleeps: New York. In addition to enjoying the shopping and dining of New York, I am excited to be attending this year’s 101st National Retail Federation Convention & Expo (NRF). With over 22,000 retail professionals from 82 countries attending to discuss the industry’s most critical topics, this year’s NRF promises to be full of innovations that will seamlessly integrate technology into everyday shopping.

Cisco will be demonstrating several new products of its own at NRF this week — Cisco StyleMe, Cisco Interactive Services for Retail, Cisco Architecture Experience Theater, Cisco Store in a Box, Cisco and Agilence Point-of-Sale Video Auditing, and Cisco Cius™ Tablet for Retail.  With the combination of these and today’s release of our survey revealing consumer’s shopping behaviors, retailers will have a much easier time providing a more pleasant experience for the customer while increasing sales and employee productivity.

As a woman who loves fashion, I am particularly excited by the NRF demonstration of Cisco’s StyleMe, a virtual fashion mirror that would allow me to explore the store’s inventory database to find what I want, virtually try it on, and accessorize. While creating my outfit I can also capture images to send for approval by my personal fashionistas -- my daughters.

How much more fun and easier can shopping get?

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Catching channel hoppers to boost sales

 Using stores as showrooms for online purchases is the “new normal” for today’s tech- and Internet-savvy shoppers. So how do retailers “catch” these channel-hopping customers and “keep” them buying within their own brand?

The Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) believes retailers can increase sales both in stores and online by creating “mashops” that combine immersive online content with engaging in-store experiences. This idea is backed up by Cisco IBSG’s latest research, which revealed that digital content has reached a new level of influence.

Surprisingly, shoppers now prefer online sources to people when making buying decisions. Read More »

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Cisco StyleMe: Virtual Fashion Mirror Inspires Sales Across All Age Groups

One of the key questions I get from retailers is “How can I use technology to create experiences that inspire my customers to buy more, both in the store and online?” In the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group’s (IBSG) work with leading worldwide retailers, we uncovered what we believe is the answer—the “inspire” trigger. Specifically, inspire triggers are emotionally charged shopping experiences that make customers exclaim, “I never thought of that, let’s buy it,” or, “Wow, I want to by that now.”

From this work, Cisco IBSG developed Cisco StyleMeTM—a virtual fashion mirror that combines augmented reality with the latest mobile and networking technologies to create a fun, new, interactive way to try on clothing and accessories virtually. Cisco StyleMe lets customers visually browse a wide range of products; build outfits; receive expert recommendations; capture images of what they look like to share with friends and family; create a digital wardrobe of items in which they’re interested; and buy their selections in the store or online.

Customer testing shows that Cisco StyleMe is a hit with all types of consumers, but especially with a group that surprised us—shoppers over 50 years of age. The older generation clearly sees the benefits of easily trying on new outfits and getting expert advice, which far outweighs any apprehensions they might have about using the technology.

For retailers, Cisco StyleMe has the potential to 1) grow cross-channel sales by giving customers access to an extended range of inventory and enabling them to buy in-store and online; 2) strengthen customer loyalty by creating differentiated in-store experiences and enabling follow-up with customers after their store visit; and (3) increase conversion rates by allowing customers to receive relevant recommendations and interact with friends and family who influence their buying decisions.

Given the success of Cisco StyleMe, we believe creating rich, digital, cross-channel experiences in the store represents a powerful new way to inspire customers to buy. To get started, ensure your technology infrastructure is up to the task of supporting interactive rich-media experiences. By starting now to ensure your technology infrastructure is up to date, you’ll be in a strong position to capture more sales from customers both online and in your stores.

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In Between the Numbers: New Year’s Resolutions

January 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm PST

OK, retail technologists. It’s the new year. Time for resolutions.

Grab the pencil (so you can revise, not erase) and the notepad, plug in the earbuds, and settle into your thinking chair. And take the first step in getting rid of those old bad habits.

Resolve to address those big, ugly, long-standing structural weaknesses that weigh you down like a ball and chain. Weaknesses like the non-integrated, multiple databases residing within the legacy applications. Like the oft taken-for-granted time-to-capability performance (caused by a legacy store architecture) that measures all-store roll-outs in years and gets a constant eyeroll and deep sigh from the SVP of Ops.

Resolve to look that ancient, deeply-customized application that you prop each year with more people and money squarely in the eye.

Resolve to lose weight. Heavy, power-sucking, PO-abusing CPU weight. Virtualize the data centers and start the process of removing CPUs (and all the break-fix maintenance costs) from the store. Thin is in. So is operational simplicity.

Resolve to demand value from your vendors – which, as we all know, is different from the lowest price. Demand that they help you solve specific business problems. Demand that they bring their best strategists and thinkers to the table.

Resolve to ignore all the one-off shiny technologies du jour. Easier said than done, especially with NRF around the corner, the marketing SVP sputtering that “everyone else is doing it,” and the CEO remarking that his nephew had one at Christmas. (Mobility! Smartphone apps! Tablets! Interactive kiosks! Ooooh!)

Resolve to embrace BYOD, and push it forward. Your corporate leaders of tomorrow won’t necessarily thank you. It’s just that they’ll be willing to work for you instead of the competition.

Resolve to toss out of the room any consultant or vendor sales rep who talks about “customer experience” without detailed considerations of your segment, your price point, your brand promise, and the overall customer journey by persona – all the way through service and loyalty. Resolve to ask them how many times they’ve visited your stores.

 What am I missing?

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