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In Between the Numbers: Weddings, Child-Birth, and US Retailing

July 10, 2011 at 4:52 pm PST

 I learned long ago that demography is destiny for retailers.

 Baby booms mean more diapers and formula, more home remodels, more school supplies. The aging of Baby Boomers means more traffic for drug chains and grocers with pharmacies. Growing Hispanic populations mean different assortments in grocery and different scents in soaps and personal fragrance.

 Demographic destiny for retail certainly came to mind when I read an analysis on the composition of current US households in the June 23 issue of The Economist.

 Citing recent US Census Bureau data, the article noted that married couples, for the first time, make up less than half (45%) of all households.

 But what hit me – and ought to keep mid-price merchants from Bentonville to Hoffman Estates awake at night – is a now-yawning education-marriage gap.

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“Every Little Helps” – Cisco IBSG and Tesco

After working with Tesco for more than four years, I’ve learned that the company has a proven recipe for success: combine a strategy of unrelenting focus on customers with a mantra of better, simpler, cheaper—better for customers, simpler for employees, and cheaper for Tesco. The results speak for themselves. With operations in 14 countries, Tesco has become the world’s third-largest retailer by revenue, and second when measured by profits.  

 Tesco has a saying that it uses with customers—“Every little helps.” From the beginning, the Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) has embraced this phrase to guide our work. This is an important reason for our success as we team with Tesco executives and employees, in conjunction with other Cisco groups and technology partners, to develop innovative strategies that help Tesco grow internationally, improve collaboration, and, of course, operate more efficiently.

IBSG has worked in lockstep with Tesco on their journey to become the world’s most innovative retailer…..

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In between the Numbers: Fast Followers

July 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm PST

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a retail ICT leader describe himself as “a fast follower.”

Must admit – at least at first blush – there is a lot to admire about fast followers.

They’re risk averse. Not given to over-hyped fads (especially RFID). Careful with the budget. They’re don’t make a scene in management meetings, and accept with a nod the usual flat-to-five-percent down allocation.

And, of course, they’re certainly smart enough to catch up quickly to any big innovation the competition might bring to the industry.

Which leads us to the issue for fast followers in today’s retail climate: Who, specifically, do you follow?

Is it your traditional competition? Circuit City for Best Buy? May Co. for Macy’s? (Oops – guess not.)

Is it the new competition? Amazon for Best Buy? Amazon for Macy’s?

Is it the new tech-shaped shopper? Facebook? Twitter? Smart phones? Does a Best Buy follow Google? Macy’s follow Apple? 

In a retail world that is being completely re-shaped by digital commerce and personal technology, by product commoditization and globalization, the old rules simply don’t apply.

Fast follower?  In this day and age, that means simply being a follower. And nothing more.

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On The Edge: Increasing Online Sales with the Future of Shopping

“If there’s one reason we have done better than of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word of mouth is so very, very powerful.” Jeff Bezos

In today’s business climate, any sector that has doubled revenues in the past five years is considered a wonderful outlier to the economic norm – particularly in an industry as big as fashion retailing. How are they doing it? By changing the business model and selling more on-line. In fact, according to the Telegraph, over one third of all consumers have purchased clothing over the Internet in the past year, a 26% increase over the previous one.

So how can savvy retailers build on this momentum and do it again? By taking the on-line experience to the next level. Here’s one likely future of shopping experience solution. And you can see it only at Cisco Live! July 10-14 in Las Vegas:

Imagine being able to shop virtually from anywhere much more quickly and efficiently. No more crowded, clunky dressing rooms, or trawling racks of jumbled clothes in a sprawling megastore. No more changing ten times to find the perfect color combination. Simply scroll through the menu to see an unlimited amount of inventory in one place, and see how it looks on you virtually using the latest augmented reality and network technology.

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What Cisco is doing to help retailers and merchants secure customer credit card data

Recently there has been a series of news items as enterprises announce they have been breached and their sensitive customer and financial records compromised.  According to Verizon 2011 Breach report 92% of the attacks were external and 76% of all data breached came from servers.  The PCI Security Standards Council is an open global forum formed in 2006 that is responsible for the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a standard that is designed to protect cardholder data.

I sat down with Lindsay Parker, Cisco global retail industry director about Cisco’s current investments and efforts to help retailers and merchants secure customer credit card data and maintain compliance with PCI DSS.

Here are some key points from our conversation:

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