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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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It’s About Retail, Not Technology

Hello, and welcome to my inaugural blog! I am happy to be here sharing my thoughts and experiences with you, because I have to tell you: I have the coolest job in the world.

I’ve spent my entire life in retail, starting as a part-time worker while in school and moving up through merchandising and operations to regional vice president at Shopko Stores, Inc., overseeing the work of 12,000 employees. Over more than 20 years, I fell in love with the whole process of retail. When I was invited to work in the retail technology sector, it seemed a natural extension of the work I was already doing. Relatively few tech companies build their solutions around store needs – too often, they tend to focus on technology for technology’s sake. In fact, sometimes retailers do the same thing! I saw an opportunity to impact how vendors – and retailers – think about technologies that truly add value to the business.

Today’s trend toward mobility, or BYOD, is a great example. I’m sorry if this shocks you, but mobility without a strategy has no value at all for the retailer! I have seen stores invest in Wi-Fi networks while continuing to build cell-based apps – this despite Wi-Fi’s higher speeds, more flexible capabilities, and ability to improve the shopping and selling experience. They don’t want employees surfing the Internet, so they block employee access to the network and information that could help improve sales. They understand that shoppers are “showrooming” – sharing opinions and comparison shopping online from the store – but do not leverage the same behavior to promote products and analyze customer trends.

Mobility is a vehicle for improving the business, an extension of overall strategy. (You might like to check out this Lippis Report on “Monetizing Public Wi-Fi in Business to Consumer Relationships.”) I work with companies to help determine how to use such vehicles to define the customer experience, collect and manage large masses of data, and make store operations more efficient. I also help design the Cisco solutions that solve these retail business problems.

Join me on a journey to learn how stores are approaching, managing, and dealing with today’s innovations and how they are meeting customer needs. We’ll talk about how stores are using today’s systems, the most recent trends, the latest research, and how retailers are dealing with this very rapidly changing industry. Please get back to me with your own stories and questions in the comments section.

One more word: I love retail trivia! Comment if you know the answer to this question: What retailer in the country has the highest amount of sales per square foot of its stores?

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On Demand: Boost Revenue, Build Loyalty in Your Retail Venue

Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences is a new solution that helps enable retail organizations to use Wi-Fi location services to deliver engaging store experiences and generate valuable shopper insights. Our industry-specific webinars so far break down use cases for Connected Mobile Experiences for airports/transportation and retail..with  more coming soon.

Our latest CMX webinar on demand is specific for retailers: “Boost Revenue, Build Loyalty.”

View this 45-minute on-demand video webcast to learn how to captivate your shoppers with new mobile apps supported by Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences. Discover how real-time location intelligence from your wireless network can enhance customer loyalty, improve store operations, and help you:

  • Deliver a personalized in-store shopping experience that increases customer intimacy
  • Provide important information at critical purchase decision points Read More »

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In between the numbers – Big Changes for Stores

 14.2 Billion Square Feet

 Was doing the Google-dive a few days ago in preparation for a customer presentation.

 Two numbers popped out.  Amazon sales were up 40% in 210, to $34 billion.   And the current vacancy rate in US shopping centers is at 10.9%.

 At first glance, it’s easy to see that online sales are eating into store-based sales.   Morgan Stanley reports that online is now more than 10% of all revenues in a number of product categories, from consumer electronics to jewelry.

 It’s also painfully obvious that the greatest creators of new retail real estate vacancies in North America (Borders,  Hollywood Video, and Blockbuster) have digital tire tracks on their chests.

 Hmmm . . .

 But let’s take a moment, and look beyond the obvious.    And specifically at the future of the 1.22 million stores in the USA  that occupy 14.2 billion square feet of gross leasable area.  Which calculates out at 46.6 square feet of total retail space for every man, woman, and child in the country.

 What retailers are learning – all too slowly, in many cases – is that the opening of more stores is not the end-all, be-all path to revenue growth.   In certain categories, comp-store revenues in status quo stores will decline faster than good stores can be opened.  Revenue is now a question of channel optimization.   Store operation is more a question of net margin.

 Second, the store’s not dead.   But the store must evolve rapidly – probably into smaller footprints, with virtual selections and services.  Probably into living-breathing web sites, where net-based experiences offer the transparency, speed, abundance, and expertise that shoppers find on the web.   Probably into interactive, educational, experiential zones, where shoppers learn and play.   Probably into a tri-furcated structure of large, full services-experience stores, small footprint urban-and-fast stores, and down-sized low-cost stores.

 Status quo just won’t work.  Big changes ahead

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