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Turning the Retail Store into a High-Octane Digital Experience

Digital innovations have upended many assumptions about the art of buying and selling. But the brick-and-mortar retail store is far from extinct. And while digital technologies continue to disrupt traditional business models, they also present retailers with exciting opportunities to make their stores more immersive, interactive, and, well, digital.

Recently, I had the privilege of discussing the future of the retail store with Doug Stephens, one of the world’s foremost retail industry experts and author of the book, The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism. Listen to the full interview here.

As Doug describes it, “media is becoming the store and the store in essence is becoming media.” In short, he argues that the store itself has to embrace many of the capabilities and services that have made online retailers so successful, while retaining and enhancing some of the advantages of the physical retail experience. The store should become a “high-octane experience,” as Doug puts it.

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I wholeheartedly agree. In the Internet of Everything (IoE) era, an explosion of new connections is driving new sources of value. And the physical retail store can capture these new sources of value — just as their online counterparts have.

The key lies in blending the two experiences in a seamless manner.

As in-store consumers, we expect to interact with a product viscerally in a physical retail setting; online we enjoy access to rich product content. Combining the two will go far to engage and convert consumers while cementing brand loyalty.

Here are a few of the ways in which retailers are creating new digital in-store experiences:

  • Data analytics present a precise picture of an individual shopper, their online research and shopping history, and their real-time, in-store browsing, as tracked through their smart device and/or in-store video.
  • Wi-Fi and mobile technologies enable new connections during each step of the shopping journey, offering real-time prompts, expert advice, and incentives to “seal the deal.”
  • RFID tags and other sensors — combined with data analytics — provide precise tracking of products and inventory and enable such in-store experiences as “magic mirrors” and digital signage. These utilize detailed information on individual shopper behavior and buying history to transform the real-time experience.

Doug and I agree that, moving forward, it will be essential for retailers to gain the trust of consumers. If they are to be tracked in-store and engaged in real time, customers will need to feel confident that retailers are fully transparent throughout the shopping journey.

Surveys show that consumers have their doubts about sharing data. But when trust is established and clear benefits and value are established, they are willing to op-in. In effect, the nature of the exchange has to be clear, and education is crucial. Then, the full power of merging digital technology with the brick-and-mortar world will be evident.

The end result, I believe, is a win-win for retailers and customers alike.

But the key for retailers is to lead not follow. Waiting to see what other retailers are doing is not an option. Through data and analytics, they can get to know their customers better than ever. And by knowing their wants and desires, create a digital in-store experience that is more exciting than ever before.

For more on innovation in retailing check out our new BizWise video to learn how one mall owner has transformed relationships with shoppers using an omni-channel approach.

Future of Mobility Podcast Series: Turning the Retail Store into a High-Octane Digital Experience from Cisco Business Insights

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Mobile Retail Evolution and Location Based Services

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This is part of a series of how location services is a core part of the mobile evolution in various industries. In a previous post I looked at the growth of mobile  location, data and context based advertising, and there is no doubt from the evidence that this market space is already big, and predicted to grow exponentially over the next 4 or 5 years.

While this is very interesting at a macro level, for most of us what does that really mean, what can it be used for, how can we get some value or benefits from it….

Let’s look at this from the point of view of various industries, both looking at the uses of the consumer and of the business in a practical manner.

Today we look at the Retail Industry, and ask a few questions to understand the landscape.

  • How are consumers habits changing
  • What are retailers doing about this
  • What can we expect to see in the coming year(s)?

How are consumer habits changing?

We already know that today over two-thirds of all U.S. consumers have a smartphone (expected to be >90% in about 3 years) and the capabilities that this brings is changing the face of retail business as we know it. Specifically looking at mobile retail and advertising the patterns are undeniable, we as mobile retail consumers are doing things differently and happy to engage and be engaged in new ways.

◦    Remember the coupon cutting days…well mobile coupons are starting to become the norm…recent research among mobile users shows significant numbers redeemed mobile coupons… 41% at grocery stores, 41% at department stores, and 39% @ clothing stores (source: Business Insider 2014) Read More »

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Video: the Super Sensor of the #InternetofEverything

A key advantage of the Internet of Everything (IoE) is the ability to “see” the world around us in unprecedented ways.

One way to do this is through the millions of cheap, tiny digital sensors generating data from shoes, tires, shopping carts, jet-engine parts, medical equipment, and just about anything else you can imagine.

But another type of sensor promises even deeper visibility and insight: video. Connected video — when deployed in the right situations and combined with other IoE components, such as analytics and mobility — can truly transform the ways in which we sense the world. And for organizations, video will provide rich, real-time insights that will drive hyper-aware decision-making and predictive strategies.

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Girls Among the Geeks: Why Women Should Absolutely Seek Careers in Tech

Choosing a career in technology turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. At one time, however, it seemed counterintuitive to enter such a male-dominated industry. I’m not an engineer. I don’t have a degree in computer science. The only traditional tech skill I possessed was a small knowledge of HTML programming language, which I at one time used to put up static web pages. Today, that skill is useful only for editing blog posts.

What I was trained for was design. I moved into technology because it offered me a fresh way to leverage those talents while having a bigger impact. As a designer, I was taught to understand the context of a problem and to generate insights and creative solutions. I switched from a career in print design because technology was providing exciting new ways to reach people. I found it fascinating and wanted to be a part of it.

Apparently, I’m in the minority. A Forbes article cited research from Maria Klawe, a computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College, in listing some of the main reasons women don’t choose tech careers. Many believe that they won’t find a career in tech interesting, while others fear they won’t be good at it. A third concern is working in such a predominantly male bastion.

I have to say that my experience on all three counts has been just the opposite.

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How Retail’s New “4 P’s of Performance” Will Transform the Industry

Retail success has always been about delivering on the “4 Rs”: getting the Right products to the Right place at the Right time and for the Right price. While that success formula remains valid, technology-enabled advancements promise to disrupt how — and how well — retailers will be able to deliver on each element.

“Omnichannel” is a theme that has dominated retailers’ mindshare the last several years as digital influence and mobile connectivity become bigger and bigger elements in the shopping journey. Now emerging are the Internet of Everything (IoE) and Big Data analytics. While pervasive IoE connectivity generates a deluge of data, new analytics tools are helping to turn this raw data into actionable insights. The mashup of omnichannel, Big Data, and IoE is positioned to drive new operational benchmarks through a focus on the retail industry’s new “4 Ps of Performance”: Precision, Personalization, Prediction, and Platforms.

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