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The Next Step in Your Store Analytics Strategy: Sensor Fusion

Retail has entered an era of unprecedented competition and accelerated evolution worldwide. Retailers in every category, both brick-and-mortar and online, face larger and more unpredictable threats than ever before, from digitization of goods and distributed manufacturing to autonomous, near-instant delivery, service robots, and online experiences with unprecedented realism, as disruptors such as virtual reality, 3D printing, drones and wearables take root.

While e-commerce growth is outstripping physical store expansion, the in-store experience is still a powerful part of the shopping experience. The Internet of Everything (IoE) offers new opportunities to make physical store shopping a better experience for the consumer and more lucrative for the retailer. By lighting up “dark assets,” retailers gains unprecedented insights into shopper behavior and operations, and can impact every piece of the value chain from merchandising and sales to workforce optimization, shopper experience and service.

Retailers light up dark assets by instrumenting physical stores with sensors and actuators such as Wi-Fi access points and shopping cart tags, beacons, video cameras, and even mechanical devices such as weight sensing shelves or humidity sensors. While these sensors themselves provide valuable new insights, often the greatest advantages are derived from combining multiple types of sensors and data through “sensor fusion.”

As just one example, pairing Wi-Fi location data showing a shopping path with point-of-sale data can highlight opportunities to improve conversion, where shoppers linger but don’t purchase. Likewise, combining video analytics of traffic entering the store with shelf sensing of the rate at which refrigerated goods are being picked up provides a more accurate forecast of staffing needs.

The business value of sensor fusion can be staggering – our studies show that a 1,500 store big box chain could save up to $100 million per year in cashier cost, at the same time as reducing checkout wait times by up to half – in fact, we predict that IoE could ultimately end up eliminating the checkout line. IoE also helps with the stubborn problem of on-shelf availability, where the largest retailers can lose more than $1 billion annually.

But that’s not all – sensor fusion is already being used to evaluate campaign effectiveness, optimize merchandising, and help suppliers and partners become the captains in their categories, as well as to reduce shrink and improve shopper and employee safety.

Please join us to learn more on Sept. 25 during my 45-minute webcast being held at 12:00 noon ET/9:00 am PT. It’s called “Why You Need Sensor Fusion in Your 2016 Retail Analytics Strategy,” and it’s jointly sponsored by Cisco and our partner RetailPoint, which offers POS solutions. I’ll speak for just half an hour about IoE in action in retail and the technologies enabling it, from video (the “supersensor”) to wearables to precision location and the single pane of glass for retail – the ultimate view of your business. Then we’ll spend 15-20 minutes in open discussion on how sensor fusion can help your store take the next step. Please register today!

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Determining the Value of the Virtual Shopping Experience

We are increasingly hearing about the value of improving the shopping experience by adding virtual expertise to the store. As head of Cisco’s Retail & Hospitality practice, I frequently talk to customers who are exploring this concept – though what I mainly hear are questions! While many are interested in the idea, they are still trying figure out whether or not a virtual customer expert is going to add more revenue to their bottom line.

Putting a collaborative expert into the store – virtual or physical – can actually be critical to meeting the needs of the consumer, especially during the purchase of a high-priced product or for a purchase where it is very important to make the right decision. However, very often this level of expertise is not available in the aisle when the consumer is dwelling there. And yet, the presence of such an expert can be extremely important. For example:

  1. A mother is shopping for an over-the-counter decongestant late in the evening for her child, who is also taking medication for ADD. A pharmacist is not available, but getting the wrong medication could be life-threatening.
  2. A couple is buying a printer for their college-age daughter, who shares an apartment with three other students. They need a printer that can be networked so all four girls can print their assignments and research papers.
  3. A party host would like to purchase several cases of wine that complement the menu, but are not overwhelmingly expensive.
  4. A couple is browsing the latest assortment of home security devices, trying to make sense of what will work with their current network configuration.

Savvy retailers debate how to solve the problem of providing highly paid experts to be immediately available to consumers, without footing the bill for an employee who may be idle part of the time. Additionally, it may be necessary to provide a level of privacy while engaging the expert. The retailer’s quandary is how to attractively offer this service in a way to increase basket and justify this use of valuable selling space.

Forward-looking retailers recognize that this capability is part of providing a truly integrated omnichannel experience. Shoppers are no longer either in the store or online… they are both, and sometimes at the same time. Thanks to our mobile devices, consumers can research, compare prices, and shop with our mobile devices in the aisle. According to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, retailers need to adopt a “digical” strategy – a term coined by Bain & Company’s Darrell Rigby and Suzanne Tager – meaning the seamless integration of digital with physical retail. (For more, check out the article, “The Future of Retail Will Be Won or Lost in ‘Digical.’”)

In any channel in this digical world, retailers will lose revenue if they are unable to differentiate themselves by providing excellent value, combined with the appropriate amount of customer service. And here is where the virtualized experience can drive a new level of engagement for the brick-and-mortar store. Via video collaboration on a consumer’s mobile device, a kiosk display, online, or an associate’s tablet, shoppers looking for advice can easily connect with your centralized or outsourced pool of experts for immediate assistance. Let’s go back to the scenarios above:

  1. A QR code is posted on a sign that reads: “Photograph this sign with your mobile device and you can speak to one of our pharmacists on call 24×7.” The pharmacy service immediately calls the mother’s mobile phone number to discuss which medication will be safe for her ADD son.
  2. An associate in the printer aisle approaches the couple and boots up an expert session on his tablet to discuss feeds, speeds, and price points. This helps the family determine which printer will best fit their daughter’s needs.
  3. The party host approaches a kiosk to engage a wine expert. He enters the date and time of the party so that weather can be taken into account, the centerpiece menu items, and his desired price range. He then engages with a virtual expert who provides options as well as a special discount based on the number of cases. Additionally, he is offered a 50% discount on disposable wine goblets.
  4. As the couple browses an array of home security options, the retailer pushes a promotion to their mobile device: “If you would like a complementary home security assessment, follow this link to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.” This in-home expert then cross-sells and upsells products from a tablet in the home, and schedules an in-store meeting when products arrive to discuss installation.

When used in conjunction with brick and mortar, virtual in-store and online expertise complement the natural selling journey with consumers to fill an important gap in the omnichannel experience. Click here to learn more about Cisco’s thinking in this area, or contact me at

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How to Make Your In-Store Data Meaningful

As an omnichannel retailer, you are probably offering your products to shoppers both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. And, like most retailers, you are no doubt collecting online data and running detailed website analytics that help you track preferred products, pricing, shopper behavior, ratings, and so on.

But are you able to gather these same detailed metrics in your physical store, telling you why shoppers choose your store over your competitor’s? How to create a better experience on the floor? Or optimize staffing? Most importantly, are they helping you increase sales?

Until now, the answer to these questions has been “No,” simply because the technologies to gather such metrics weren’t available. It hasn’t been until now, the era of the Internet of Everything, when edge computing is available to gather and analyze the data that gives you a 360-degree view of your store.

Studies show that in-store analytics is a key area of innovation, which may allow retailers to gain up to 11 percent in value. Today’s in-store analytics tools should be able to do three things:

  • Integrate data from multiple services
  • Automate data collection processes
  • Analyze data to identify actionable insights

With these capabilities available, you can use the power of your investments in mobile technology, social media, and in-store applications to collect – and understand – more and more customer information.

Join us for an hour on Tuesday, July 14 at 10:00 am PT/1:00 pm ET for a webcast on “How to Make Your Data Meaningful: New Strategies for Improving In-Store Shopping Experiences and Retail Operations.” This free one-hour session will discuss:

  • Which in-store metrics generate real-time recommendations to boost operational efficiency
  • How analytics can help you offer hyper-relevant shopper experiences and forge enduring customer relationships
  • Use cases that demonstrate the outcomes of connecting data to decision making

Register Today. We’ll see you there!

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Achieving a 3D View of Your Shoppers

If every click made by a shopper on an online store can be considered valuable information, surely every step taken by a shopper in a physical store is also a similar wealth of data. While clearly this is valuable input that many stores would like to have, the means to collect and process it is not available everywhere. This fact has resulted in a significant gap in the information available in an online as opposed to a physical store.

Can the power of Internet of Everything and real-time analytics bridge this gap? Can it help capture the shopper behaviors using sensors in the store? Can real-time analytics at the edge transform this data into shopper insights?

Yes indeed. While we see the need for granular and enhanced analytics, we clearly see that many physical store retailers are yet to start their journey in capturing such shopper insights. Let’s take a 3D view of your shoppers.


You need to gather:

Door Traffic: This is the total traffic coming into your store. This metric is very valuable for understanding loyalty, conversion, staffing needs, and much more use cases as highlighted in the Cisco white paper on Retail Analytics. By filtering new and repeat visitors, we can understand your shopper’s loyalty – but when we bring together this data with point of sale data, it helps us to understand conversion. When we correlate this with marketing campaigns, it helps you get a sense of your store’s and campaign’s effectiveness.

Dwell Time: This is the time that your shoppers are spending in the store and in different areas of the store. It highlights the engagement of shoppers with your products and displays. For example, this metric can be used to understand products that are getting more attention from your shoppers, or can be used to determine more advanced metrics, such as balk rates and predicted wait times.

Demographics: This is the breakdown of segments among your shoppers. The granularity of this data can vary and can provide insights for customer segmentation and the ever changing dynamics of your shoppers, helping you to match shopper preferences and targeted promotions.

While there are no questions about the value of these data to the retailers, achieving it is currently a challenge due to the combination of technologies and sensors required to capture them precisely, effectively, and economically.

The Cisco Connected Analytics for Retail solution focuses on making this journey easier for retailers to capture the data and derive insights. Leveraging Wi-Fi, video, social, PoS, and other sensor data, and bringing together the power of real-time edge analytics, the solution provides retailers a 3D view of their shoppers.

If you are attending Cisco Live 2015 at San Diego, come by to check out the Connected Analytics for Retail solution demo in the World of Solutions pavilion. I look forward to seeing you there!

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Why Your In-Store Web, Mobile, and Video Experiences Matter

The lines between offline and online experiences are blurring. Customers no longer go online, they are online 24/7, and that includes inside your stores. In fact according to recent Google research, 89% of smartphone users leverage their smartphones while shopping in stores. And close to 70% of those used it to look at the retailer’s site and 21% look at apps.

Furthermore, according to Laura Wade-Gery, executive director of Multi-channel eCommerce for Marks & Spencer, “Shoppers who shop on our website as well as in our stores spend four times as much; throw smartphones into the mix and they spend eight times as much.” Enabling web, mobile, and video experiences in the store represents a huge opportunity – whether it is interactive, connected digital signage; Wi-Fi; employee-focused endless aisle apps; and so on.

Yet the majority of our customers face the reality that digital innovation is overwhelming their enterprise network. Everything from web apps, HD video, software updates, mobile apps, and even digital signage are traversing the network eating up valuable bandwidth. In addition, most retailers subscribe to doing more with less – particularly when it comes to IT – so upgrading enterprise network bandwidth across every store every few years is often just not viable, both from a budget and agility perspective. That is not to mention that a lot of Cisco customers can’t upgrade their bandwidth due to store location even if they wanted to.


But bandwidth constrained enterprise networks are only one side of the story. Latency is the other, whether caused by distance or amplified by enterprise network architectures such as backhauling Internet traffic over the WAN through the datacenter and out to the Internet. Currently, the vast majority of retailers use this network topology for store Internet access.


And as we all know, high latency is particularly detrimental to web application performance.


Just look at the difference in latency and bandwidth between in-store and residential Wi-Fi. In fact, latency for in-store Wi-Fi is higher than latency for LTE.


The bottom line is that congested, high-latency, low bandwidth enterprise networks result in slow HTTP applications, video, and software updates.


And we all know that video or apps that are slow or not working properly are bad for business. There has been plenty of research highlighting the fact that as web apps get slower, conversion rates decrease, abandonment rates increase, and employee productivity plummets.


In other words, slow apps – whether inside or outside the store – equals unhappy customers and unproductive employees. The answer to this problem? Retailers need to focus on accelerating HTTP/S applications, video and software updates while maximizing enterprise network bandwidth to ensure fast, high-quality experiences to all of your end users.

To learn more, be sure to register to join us on June 16 for a free one-hour webcast.

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