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Trust and Transparency

In our increasingly interconnected world, the Internet of Everything is making trust a critical element of how people use network-connected devices to work, play, live, and learn. The relentless rise in information security breaches underscores the deep need for enterprises to trust that their systems, data, business partners, customers, and citizens are safe.” – John N. Stewart, SVP and Chief Security and Trust Officer at Cisco

Trust and security is more important than ever before throughout the industry. Why aren’t customers explicitly demanding it be in all their IT systems? Why aren’t they demanding software developed with processes and technologies that drive security into all aspects of IT systems they buy? Why aren’t they demanding supply chain security and strong data protection? In short, why aren’t they demanding IT vendors produce more robust and secure solutions? Read More »

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IoE Can Help Banks Restore Trust and Close the Value Gap with Customers

“Let the buyer beware” is a sentiment that dates back well before consumer protection and truth-in-advertising laws. Yet, the issue of trust continues to permeate all areas of society today. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the “trust cliff” that affects the amount of information consumers are willing to share with retailers in order to have more relevant interactions.

Now, a new Cisco study on retail banking in 12 countries reveals a different kind of trust problem: consumers are getting less value than they expect from their banks, and this “value gap” is impacting customer trust.

The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 greatly damaged consumer trust in financial institutions, and brand equity has fallen along with it. In 2009, one year after the financial crisis, the world’s top 500 brands saw the value of their brands drop by 32 percent. For many banks, their brand value has yet to recover from pre-crisis levels.

But the roots of distrust go deeper than that. Our study shows that there is a fundamental disconnect between banks and their customers, and many customers no longer look to their banks to help them meet their financial goals. In fact:

  • 43 percent of customers say their bank doesn’t understand their needs
  • One in four would choose another provider for their next account or service
  • Only 40 percent of respondents worldwide turn to a financial professional for advice, and of these, 28 percent believe the advice is ineffective

IoE Trust and Value Gap graphic

Meanwhile, a growing cadre of disruptive “non-bank” innovators is exploiting this value gap between banks and their customers. They range from technology companies such as Apple and Google, to retailers such as and Tesco, to mobile and digital-only banking services, payment companies, and automated investment services. A surprising 80 percent of consumers surveyed said they would trust a non-bank for their banking services. In eight out of the 12 countries surveyed, more consumers would actually trust a non-bank than their own bank.

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No Such Thing as Implicit Trust

News has not been kind to US headquartered technology companies over the past year.  From an erosion of faith because of a company’s geographic location, to a series of high profile breaches that are calling into question trust in your IT systems. Technology providers and governments have a vital role to play in rebuilding trust.  And so do customers—who need to demand more from their technology providers.

In my recent trip to Europe, and speaking to some balanced, thoughtful, and concerned public officials, it got me thinking.  Why do we trust the products we use? Is it because they work as advertised? Is it because the brand name is one we implicitly believe in for any number of reasons? Is it because the product was tested and passed the tests? Is it because everyone else is using it so it must be okay? Is it because when something goes wrong, the company that produced it fixes it? Is it because we asked how it was built, where it was built, and have proof?

That last question is the largest ingredient in product and service acquisition today, and that just has to change. Our customers are counting on us to do the right thing, and now we’re counting on them. It’s time for a market transition: where customers demand secure development lifecycles, testing, proof, a published remediation process, investment in product resilience, supply chain security, transparency, and ultimately – verifiable trustworthiness.

We saw some of this coming, and these are some of the principles I hear customers mention when they talk about what makes a trustworthy company and business partner. Starting in 2007, with a surge that began in 2009, we’ve systematically built these elements into our corporate strategy, very quietly, and now we want the dialogue to start.

I’m challenging customers to take the next step and require IT vendors to practice a secure development lifecycle, have a supply chain security program, and a public, verifiable vulnerability handling process.

I recently recorded the video blog above discussing what it means to be a trustworthy company.  I hope you will share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

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New Study Tells Retailers: Win Consumers’ Trust to Deliver the Hyper-Relevant Experiences They Want

As Cisco’s chief marketing officer, an important part of my role is to build and maintain the trust of Cisco’s customers.In fact, “brand promise” ultimately relies upon the trust consumers have placed in a brand. Customers who are loyal to a brand will trust that the next product or service introduced under that brand will fulfill the brand promise. However, trust can also have more widespread impacts that affect an organization’s ability to compete and to provide the innovative customer experiences required in the Internet of Everything (IoE) era.

This week at the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” in New York, Cisco released a new study that uncovered some unique insights about shopping behaviors and attitudes among U.S. and U.K. consumers in the digital age. The findings point to the need for retailers to provide “hyper-relevant” shopping experiences that deliver value to the consumer in real time throughout the shopping lifecycle. Hyper-relevance comes with the ability to dynamically compare real-time customer information with historical data, and the resulting insights allow retailers to improve operations and the customer experience. At stake, according to our research, is an estimated profit improvement of 15.6 percent for an illustrative $20 billion retailer that builds agile business processes for turning these insights into value.

Our research shows that consumers are looking for retailers to deliver hyper-relevance via three value proposition categories: efficiency, engagement, and savings. In the area of efficiency, for example, 77 percent of respondents said they would be “somewhat” or “very likely” to use a solution to optimize the checkout process. In terms of savings, 79 percent indicated a willingness to take advantage of in-store offers provided via digital signage, while 73 percent said they’d like to receive special offers through augmented-reality solutions. And, in the area of engagement, 57 percent indicated a desire to learn more about products in the store by using augmented-reality capabilities.

One of the points I found particularly interesting is that consumers are relatively willing to provide certain types of personal information to retailers—such as name, age, past purchasing history, interests, and hobbies—in order to get a more personally relevant shopping experience. But beyond this basic information, there is a “trust cliff,” a steep drop-off in willingness to share certain types of personal information. A significant 16 percent of respondents were not willing to share any personal information at all.

This trust cliff presents an interesting conundrum for retailers. On one hand, our study shows that customers want personalized and contextually relevant shopping experiences. But on the other hand, they are reluctant to share the very information that can help provide these “hyper-relevant” experiences.

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2015 Is the Year of Hyper-Relevant Retail: Winning Shoppers with Efficiency, Savings, and Engagement

“Mike” may be an avid golfer who enjoys meandering through the sporting goods section of his local retailer. But he would be a very different shopper the morning his plumbing fails and threatens to flood his basement. In such a context, efficiency rules, and it is critical for the retailer to speed his shopping journey — from product research to fast checkout and payment. Friendly, by-name greetings offering prompts for new golf products on Mike’s smartphone would seem irrelevant at best, and intrusive at worst.

Checkout optimization, in-store sensors, augmented-reality solutions, and real-time analytics at the “edge” of the network are just a few of the capabilities that could give the retailer a clear picture of Mike’s shopping habits in that particular context — time, place, and situation — while helping Mike meet his plumbing crisis in a timely and efficient manner.

In effect, Mike is one customer, but he can be many different shoppers. And retailers need to know them all. Technology — specifically Internet of Everything (IoE) solutions that connect people, process, data, and things — is the way to do it.

To better illuminate the competitive dynamics and opportunities for retailers, Cisco this week shared its fifth annual retail consumer survey. Released at the National Retail Federation (NRF) “Big Show” in New York, the study includes a survey of 1240 consumer respondents from the United States and United Kingdom. Later this year, Cisco will release the complete global findings from 6,000 respondents across 10 countries.

At NRF, we also met with retailers from around the world, who shared their successes and challenges. Technology, of course, can be a headache for retailers. From disruptive innovations to rapidly changing customer behaviors, today’s retailers are challenged on multiple fronts. As the Cisco study found, however, IoE-enabled solutions offer retailers an opportunity to provide their customers with hyper-relevant experiences that blend the best of online shopping with the advantages of the in-store experience.

The key is to gain insight into the real-time nuances and context of the many shopping journeys available to consumers. That requires investments in the right technology. But how can retailers avoid the kinds of investments that have not paid off in the past?

In the Cisco study, we tested 19 IoE-enabled shopping experiences, spanning all stages of the shopping journey and addressing many maturing digital enablers, including video, mobility, and analytics. Overall, consumers indicated that they are very interested in using these applications to get more value. The table below illustrates our respondents’ interest level in the 19 individual concept tests, along with the financial opportunity from each of three value proposition categories: efficiency, savings, and engagement. Our economic analysis revealed that roughly two-thirds of the total potential opportunity (or $208 million for an illustrative retailer with $20 billion in annual revenue) comes from applications that deliver greater efficiency for consumers.

In the United States, disruptive innovators (e.g., Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt) have successfully targeted consumer savings, which has served to exacerbate margin compression for retailers in some categories. We are now exploring these trends in Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. We find that most incumbent retailers, by contrast, are investing heavily in solutions that engage consumers at all points of their shopping journey, including bringing them into the store and cross-selling and up-selling to them (indeed, this is the underlying strategy of today’s discount wars).

Consumers have always been preoccupied with savings. So 
it is no surprise that savings remain the area of most interest to our survey respondents. Efficiency, however, is a close 
second in terms of interest. When asked about the areas where they would 
like to see improvements, 39 percent of our respondents 
identified the process of selecting and purchasing goods, showing a need for greater 
ease and efficiency. By contrast, only 13 percent sought improvements that would create a more personalized
shopping experience.

In this year’s survey, consumers made it clear that experiences must be efficient, contextual (that is, reflecting a shopper’s individual situation, real-time environment, history, and so forth), relevant to real-time needs, and easy in which to participate. In the retail environment, such situational awareness is essential to creating a better customer experience. Retailers must increase the value to the consumer throughout the shopping journey, demonstrably providing a combination of efficiency, savings, and engagement.

By exploring these solutions today, retailers can begin to realize a new level of innovation and competitive dynamism. And customers like Mike can look forward to getting their plumbing fixed ASAP (and maybe even return to the store later that day to try out some of those new golf products).

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