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Finding New Directions for Retail: The Ever-Changing Store

Hello, everyone! My name is Anne McClelland, and I am the new director for Cisco’s retail and hospitality sales team in the U.S. I’m excited to have the chance to write for Cisco’s retail blog program, and you’ll be hearing from me regularly sharing some insights, musings, and speculations on trends as well as giving you information about Cisco’s resources for the industry.

One of the interesting discussions that I’m having with our customers right now is about the relationship between eCommerce and the physical store, and how this relationship is being significantly redefined. Retailers are wrestling with how to leverage the store to improve online sales (and vice versa) to create a truly omnichannel buying experience for their customers.

To better align these channels, I’m seeing just how much retailers want to do more with consumer analytics. Retail executives are talking to us about their interest in finding new ways to understand who exactly the shoppers are, who is actually coming in their stores (and who is not), why they are or are not responding to promotions, and when they do buy: what was on their list vs. what was incremental to their planned purchases.  Retailers are also anxious to better understand and leverage the technology at the edge – at the store entrance, on the end-caps, in aisles, on the shelves, and on the goods themselves.

To make this all this magic happen, retailers find they need to upgrade network infrastructures; those who were not ready for all of these potential edge analytics are now finding themselves feeling a bit “behind the times.”  We are hearing that many of our retail and hospitality friends are looking to find creative new ways to light up the aisles and the back office. We are hearing very strategic questions such as, “Do we have too many stores?” “Are we over-invested in inventory and store footprint?” “Is there a way to streamline our operations?”  “Can we better integrate online and brick and mortar to gain efficiencies?”  Many retailers are integrating online delivery and returns to stores, as well as testing new models such as third-party package-delivery firms.  I’ll explore these topics in future blogs.

Meanwhile in the store itself, where the rubber meets the road, how are retailers differentiating today?  Where are the crowds of the people congregating?  Why are they there?  I think of the Apple store in our local mall, I think of the Disney store in Times Square. These stores are literally jammed.  Why is this?  Why is Apple’s store so jammed?  What has the Disney store done to evolve to drive crowds and new business concepts?

Innovation is key: Disney has made a business model around glamorizing the Disney princesses for their customers running “The Disney Princess Store,” including new services, videos, games, products.  They have opened up a mega-category that is a logical extension of what their customers love to do… dress up.  Why aren’t the department stores similarly jammed?  It’s all about innovation; it’s all about thinking deeply about the consumer; it’s about driving brand association and attraction; and it’s about executing on the “theater of retail.”

We’ll be joining Cisco’s partner NCR at the Synergy User Conference, being held June 22-25. I’ll be speaking there on the “Internet of Things: Retail Without Boundaries” and discussing how seemingly futuristic technologies are changing the way retailers interact with their customers – I hope to see you there!

I look forward to getting to know you in person and through this blog in the coming months. In the meantime, I invite you to extend your knowledge by attending our free summer retail webcasts:

  • June 16: “Delivering Successful Store-of-the-Future Experiences,” held at 10:00-11:00 am PT/1:00-2:00 pm ET, with Forrester Research’s Adam Silverman on improving store infrastructures and bandwidth. Register today.
  • July 14: “Make Your Data Meaningful: New Strategies for In-Store Shopper Experiences,” held at 10:00-11:00 am PT/1:00-2:00 pm ET, on new analytics capabilities for retail environments. Register today.

Feel free to connect with me at annmccle@cisco.com.

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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.

3D-shopper-view-Rajesh-blog

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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How the Shift to Mobility & Location-Based Services is Changing Hospitality & Guest Services.

Mobility trend in Hospitality

A recent TripAdvisor survey found that over 40% of travelers use their smart phones to plan a trip and over 46% use their smart phones to enhance their trip while traveling.

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No longer is it just an idea or an aspiration for the hospitality industry to use innovative methods to engage with their guests, for example Marriott Hotels, just this year, announced the addition of mobile checkout to its industry-leading Marriott Mobile app for smartphones. Clearly mobile check-out is just the latest innovation from the brand as a new service designed for today’s connected travelers. Read More »

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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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Omnichannel Is Changing How You Do Business – Sort Of

This is the final installment of a series on how retailers can address the challenges of becoming an omnichannel business. I’d like to wrap up by talking about a deceptively simple stumbling block – accepting that being an omnichannel seller changes how people work.  I spend much of my time talking to retailers, and this really is a big issue.

For example, I have seen stores install – and then turn off – Wi-Fi deployments because they worry that associates will waste time surfing the web. And, yes, some might. But consider the cost compared to customers knowing more than your salesforce because they’ve been doing online research. It makes your team look uninformed, lowers the quality of service, and impacts sales. Obviously, you don’t want workers to play games all day. Instead, train them to find and use online product information, social media, and reviews that will help improve response to customers – and deal appropriately with the exceptions.

Related to this are issues around Wi-Fi access for customers. If you provide it for employees, please just go ahead and extend this to shoppers. Universal store access allows you to optimize your brand with both employees and customers (and enables far more effective analytics). I guarantee that you will lose relevance over time as consumers learn your store is one of the few without mobile service.

As well, I’ve met retailers who won’t add Wi-Fi because they are convinced that the only outcome will be showrooming and ultimate desertion. It’s time to shed the fear of this increasingly common customer practice. Instead, leverage it as a new marketing tool. You can drive sales by being part of the customer’s social media experience, delivering your own identity, branding, and incentives. A recent Accenture study shows that younger consumers still want the in-store experience, but they also expect retailers to integrate personalized shopping across all channels.

Let’s talk more about this at the NRF Big Idea Sessions in New York, where I and Jon Stine, Lisa Fretwell, and Kathryn Howe will be speaking on Jan. 13 and 14.  Visit Cisco’s NRF website to learn more about these popular seminars, and stop by Cisco Booth #1954 to say hello.

The idea of omnichannel selling can be daunting, and getting the benefit may entail learning to manage a certain amount of risk. But you know – it’s just retail. The environment is becoming more device-driven and the way stores look is changing. But giving consumers what they want; interacting with, understanding, and nurturing them: It’s still the business of retail. And you know how to do that.

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