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Sales and Marketing in the Age of the Customer

Several members of my team participated in this month’s Forrester Sales Enablement Forum, an annual conference where sales enablement professionals from around the world gather to discuss industry trends and best practices. This year’s theme: Drive growth with a 21st-century selling system, centered on strategies for surviving and thriving in “the age of the customer.”

With information virtually at their fingertips, buyers are more informed, savvy and selective than ever before. And, the old approaches to sales and marketing no longer produce the results we need to grow revenue.

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Omni-Tech for Omnichannel Selling

My last blog talked about the challenges of becoming an omnichannel retailer, and how stores are still learning how to make changes that cut across their entire business. We discussed how, appearances to the contrary, omnichannel selling is still about meeting a basic business requirement – finding the best outcome for you and your customer. However, finding these outcomes is a more complex proposition than it used to be.

Logically, to achieve consistent outcomes you need to achieve consistent consumer outreach, input, and sales approaches. But stores are also facing the demand to create a more personalized sales experience. How do you meet these seemingly contrary requirements? The key here is to find new ways to reach out to shoppers as part of the whole shopping experience, no matter what the channel.

For example, Cisco’s Remote Expert solution is a way to offer unique, personalized, yet centralized retail experiences for customers. It connects each shopper with a product expert wherever they are located, in real time, via mobile, immersive, or on-site channels. You save by leveraging your experts across single or multiple locations and devices using a pool of experts who may or may not be co-located, instead of providing expertise at every site or asking them to travel extensively. Retailers can also use the same solution to host training and corporate meetings, or to enable store feedback on products and merchandising. The result is a personalized shopping experience at a lower cost for the store.

Pretty sweet, don’t you think? To learn more, take the time to attend the webcast “Just Ask the Expert: Connect Your Shoppers to Virtual Experts, Anywhere, Any Time,” being held on Nov. 7. You can register here.

Truly omnichannel technologies are designed to support cost savings and efficiency, providing a more seamless interface for service that is customized for the shopper. As I said in my last blog, these approaches focus first and foremost on customer needs, making it easier to do business with your company.  A customer-centric strategy cuts across the business and all its channels, creating a different kind of relationship between you and your shoppers. See what Retail Systems Research has to say in their latest report about omnichannel strategies.

I love retail trivia! Comment below if you know the answer to this question: What is the second-most visited retail business in America? (Wal-Mart is first.)

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Three Flavors of CMX Analytics: Onsite, Online & Social

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.

iStock retailWouldn’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 »

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Model “A Day in the Life …” for Better Collaboration

There’s a lot of collaboration technology out there and deciding which technology to invest in can be daunting.  How often have you heard of a company making a major investment in technology for it to become “shelfware” and never see deployment?  How often have you heard of a company that’s deployed a technology, yet nobody in the company is willing to use it?  How often have you heard of a company that has several products from different vendors that do exactly the same thing?

It doesn’t take much to realize that each of these situations has a negative impact and the cause of each situation stem from different reasons, but usually with the best intentions.  Shelfware occurs because of undeployed licenses in ELA’s or quantity purchases for better per seat pricing.  Unfortunately, the business doesn’t grow and the company is obligated to pay for unused licenses.  Other times, a company deploys a product with great features that is too complex or doesn’t integrate well with workflows and remains unused.  Lastly, individual departments may make purchase decisions based on their needs without consulting IT or other departments resulting in redundant solutions that compete internally with each other.

In considering collaboration strategy, it is key to consider Read More »

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5 Retail Trends Driving Wi-Fi: Part 2

Earlier this week, we kicked off  special customer guest blog series with Andrew vonNagy, author of the blog Revolution Wi-Fi, and active on Twitter @revolutionwifi. Join us today as Andrew explores the next two major retail trends changing the Wi-Fi industry, and catch up with the first part if you missed it.

Trend 2: Empowering Sales Associates
Given the increasingly connected and smart shopper, consumers now have more product information than in-store sales associates in many cases. Yet sales staff are key to providing a great consumer experience in-store. Retailers need to empower sales associates with the depth of product information that consumers have, and to provide additional tools that facilitate existing and new services offered by the retailer.

Historically, only a fraction of retail sales associates have been provided with mobile devices, and those devices have enabled only a limited set of capabilities such as stocking, inventory management and product availability. One reason for this is the high cost of ruggedized mobile devices for use in retail. A typical high-speed scanner PDA can cost well over $1,200 each. In order to provide every sales associate with more information to help consumers, retailers are adopting lower-cost, feature-rich, smart mobile devices that provide more robust capabilities than specialized scanners. Mobile platforms built by Apple, Android, and third-party manufacturers are enabling this shift, along with a retail IT focus on enabling business processes in a more flexible, consistent, and re-usable fashion.

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