Retailers are entering a new era of consumer shopping behavior fueled by the digital world in which we live. The explosion of digital content has major implications for retailers across all of the channels through which they offer products and services.
In fact, a new study just released by the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) reveals that web-based digital content is now the most powerful influence on buying decisions for shoppers across all retail channels. The study surveyed 5,000 shoppers across five countries: the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, and China.
The study’s results highlight the need for retailers to “catch and keep” today’s consumers, who now effortlessly “mash-up” digital and physical shopping. At this week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Convention & Expo, Cisco will explain how retailers can take advantage of this evolution in consumer shopping behavior.
Mobile video is exploding at a rate unimagined only a few short years ago. Whereas the quick YouTube clip had been a satisfying enough diversion, consumers armed with next-generation devices now demand the latest bandwidth-busting, 2-gigabyte Hollywood opus. The end user wants it on his iPad, and he wants it now.
For the industry at large, this creates no shortage of challenges. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, by 2016, 71 percent of global mobile data traffic will be video, placing a heavy burden on the network. But along this next frontier of mobile video there are also unprecedented and exciting opportunities.
Pretty frequently now, I have been getting this question from friends: “Do I really need a company web site?” Of course, I have been hearing this musing for at least 10 years in Devil’s advocacy conversations. But recently it has become almost a meme. I hear it mostly from people not in the heart of running digital strategy or operations, but I’ve heard it from friends at several other companies, who find running a web site complicated and expensive and wonder if they really need their site or if they could just do it exclusively via other avenues such as Facebook pages. The answer I usually give them is: “Yes, you do; and no, probably not.” And then I add: “But you’d better be thinking about broadening your mix and strategy.”
To back up for a moment, the argument against web sites is usually phrased as in this recent article in ReadWriteWeb, which argues that community building and content happen most effectively outside of the confines of a company web site – where it can be more easily shared and discovered. Fair point, and there’s no better example than the viral nature of YouTube discovery and YouTube sharing via Facebook, twitter and other mechanisms.
There’s strong reason to look hard at your digital mix: Social and especially mobile footprints are growing meteorically. Last year, smart phones exceeded PC sales, and BusinessInsider CEO Henry Blodget recently pointed out that in a few short years PC sales will be absolutely dwarfed by smart phones purchases.
At Cisco, we see similar trends. As shown in this chart below, tablet visitors are growing at 341%, mobile visitors 91%, and social reach is at 55% growth. annually (and all probably more in the last month, and my friends in B2C see even more meteoric mobile growth). Whereas last year our general web site visit growth around 2-5% depending on what month range you look at. And we’re very conservative in these numbers (for social reach, we don’t even count individuals like Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior who has 1.4 million followers on twitter today).
But look more closely. Looking at traffic size, you will see that the web is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The core Cisco web sites get 240 million visits per year (around 72 million annual visitors), each one an opportunity to provide support, training and (yes) marketing to people who have sought us out and are engaged with Cisco. Furthermore, notice that the content on the web site draws in more than 70 million referrals from Google and other search engines. Referrals in from social media (mostly Facebook) are a much smaller number (even considering in the activity of “friends of friends.”) Even considering that visitors from social media are more engaged and register and interact more, it’s an impressive picture.
Furthermore, the web sites provide a place to interact in a long-term relationship: We can personalize your experience based on interest and behavior, can provide transactional one-stop service to, say, Partners via vehicles such as My Cisco Workspace, and (to talk marketing for a moment) can personalize offers and collect leads from new potential customers. And, the same technologies, services and processes that support these things on a web site support them on mobile devices including apps.
So, what’s the reality? You need to ensure your strategy aggressively embraces the social and mobile worlds; and, you need a company web site, too. You need to think of your digital footprint is an ecosystem where everything works together. It would be just as ludicrous to have no social presence as it would to have no web site and decide to ignore your visitors on tablets and smart phones. That fact is, all of these digital mechanisms work together to reach and interact with your customers.
Next time: Why I hope you are planning your web, social and mobile technology strategies together.
We have refreshed our website that includes new content to help you have a better WebEx experience. We are also working to bring the power of WebEx to you in different ways. Here’s a quick list of things you might want to bookmark for future use.
1. WebEx.com: come in the front door. We will always have the newest information on mobile, video and more in the banner on this page. You can also grab the latest news and special offers via the home page.
2. Together@WebEx -- Upcoming Events: Watch a series of WebEx events that range from VIPS (like Sir Richard Branson and Guy Kawasaki) to topics like leadership, selling smarter and training. Register for those events here. With a click, you can also see a host of recorded events that you can watch on demand.
Today any institution in some remote tier 2 city or town in a developing country has access to the whole wide world of information and curriculum available on the internet. However, there are great professors, teachers and tutors with a wealth of information in a city about 50 KMs away or perhaps in even 500 KMs away, maybe in the same time zone or a different time zone. How do you tap into the knowledge and experience of these teachers?
Today, technology exists in the form of collaborative, video and audio integrated tools that can transform how students learn and teachers teach. Web 2.0 tools like facebook, MySpace, twitter, blogs etc, play a critical role allowing students and teachers to have personalized spaces on the web. Teachers can create discussion forums for the students to connect, discuss after class, work together on projects, and ask questions.
Cisco Collaboration technologies which include Telepresence, Unified Communications, Cisco Digital Media solutions and Cisco WebEx suite of technologies, provide a very powerful audio, video and web integrated virtual classroom experience almost mimicking a face-to-face experience albeit over the internet.
These tools expand the learning opportunities for students in remote regions around the world. The teachers are able to share knowledge, for free or for a fee. In the process, students, teachers and the learning providers all benefit from this collaborative distance learning education business model. One such example is a company called Lakshya Networks, started by 3 students in a small town called Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, one of the central states of India. Cisco provided funding for the technology, and initial mentoring on how to use the technology. Since then the students connected with tutors in the nearby city, who could offer special afterschool tutoring services to the students in the nearby villages for a small fee. The students got extended support for English and Math while the tutors were able to reach out to new learners through this medium and the small entrepreneurial tutoring company created a profitable business model bridging the gap between the students and tutors.
This model has scaled globally with tutoring services now offered to students online in a group or personal setting in many different parts of the world at school and higher education level. Many institutions worldwide including the likes of MIT, Stanford, offer online courses that leverage online internet based audio-video integrated tools for teaching including for degree programs and certificate courses.
The Internet has opened the door for tools that enable creating and sharing knowledge allowing learners to build critical 21st century skills, which they would have otherwise missed out. Teachers and learners can engage in an enhanced collaborative learning experience. The possibilities abound and they are here to stay.