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How the Heck Do You Omnichannel?

The buzz in retail these days is “omnichannel” – we see slogans such as “Engage with Today’s Omnichannel Consumers,” “Develop Your Omnichannel Business” frequently. Cisco itself uses this word often. But in all honesty, I don’t think many people fully grasp the concept and its potential. And I don’t know of any retailer that has a complete approach to it. That’s right: None. 

Omnichannel retailing is about opening the store, its products, and services to shoppers in an immersive way that drives customer interaction across any point of access, at any time. “Omnichannel” is not just about connecting existing systems, it’s a transformational way to look at how you conduct business.

Becoming an omnichannel retailer is a broad undertaking, and many retailers are creating new executive positions to lead this strategy. However, I think these companies may be missing the boat. When thinking about omnichannel strategies, consider three key points:

First, a customer-centric strategy cuts across all organizations in the business – it can’t be sidelined into one business function such as IT. I often consult with retailers who experiment with different capabilities in a disconnected way; essentially, they throw technologies at the wall and wait to see what sticks. Instead, why not start by asking, “What does my customer want? How can I build a loyal relationship with them?” It’s all too easy to assume that showrooming is the enemy. But, really, why, for example, is Amazon successful? It’s not because they are available on a mobile phone. It’s because they are easy to do business with, offer good pricing, and deliver quickly. It’s about the way they address customer needs.

Next, I think stores often try to do too much at once (see wall-sticking, above). Instead, I recommend a phased approach that starts with the low-hanging fruit – projects that have the highest probability of effectiveness and can be measured against business targets as a whole. Every store has its niche, and one size does not fit all. By achieving rapid successes up front, retailers gain funding for the next piece of the strategy, building from success to success.

Finally, accept the fact that an omnichannel business will change how people work. Are you avoiding Internet access because you think associates will waste time surfing the web? Some may – but your good salespeople will be able to leverage online information to help them serve shoppers. Concerned that showrooming on the floor will drive customers away as they find lower prices online? Build your own identity, brand, and incentives into the online environment to drive sales. Worried that an online storefront or call center will undercut in-store sales? Run the numbers on losses over time as consumers find your store is the only one without convenient mobile customer support.

Omnichannel is not about the technology. Rather, it’s about finding the best outcome for you and your shoppers. To achieve success, IT and business must work together to solve customer problems for the store as a whole – there’s no other way to do it with complete success. Check out this great blog by Cara Waters, Five Lessons in Retail Trends.

I love retail trivia! Comment below if you know the answer to this question: What is the oldest US retail company?

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Strength in Numbers: Meet the CMX Partner Ecosystem

Since the launch of Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX), we have seen tremendous interest from our customers to monetize their investment in Wi-Fi Solutions and enable new line-of-business applications to gain insights, deliver efficiencies and engage end-users.  This week Cisco is announcing a collection of technology developer partnerships, as managed through the Cisco Developer Network (CDN), that help us bring a “whole offering” to our Customers with the addition of domain expertise, geographical focus and technology feature infusion that gives our Customers confidence, security and operational excellence to move forward in this nascent market.

The foundation of this technical integration begins with the connection to the Cisco WLAN & Unified Access Architecture through the Mobility Services API, which exposes context-aware information gathered by the Cisco Mobility Services Engine (MSE) for the integration with following disciplines: Read More »

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Facebook and Cisco Connect Businesses and Consumers

Black Friday. Holiday Travel. Consumers have a more Enjoyable Experience and Businesses are Successful

Thanksgiving is around the corner and the holiday season will be upon us. What will Black Friday look like this year? I know that this is a time when things get more chaotic in my household. As my kids get excited for a break from school, and we all look forward to extended time with family and friends, we must first get through all the holiday preparations and planning. Am I better off ordering gifts for my wife and kids online versus going to the store? Do I want to deal with crowds and getting lost in a retail haze on Black Friday or Christmas Eve? And where will we spend our holiday vacation this year? Will we have access to Wi-Fi wherever we go should I need to check email, or so my kids can watch their favorite shows on Netflix?

This also got me thinking about the questions that keep businesses up at night during the holiday season. These include:

  • How can I have a one-to-one engagement with every customer or guest?
  • How can I get more customers into my venue?
  • How can I avoid showrooming?
  • How can I efficiently use my physical assets and human resources to ensure my venue is set up to maximize customer flow and staffing?
  • How can I stand out from the crowd and compete with rival brands?
  • And advertisements – how can I make them specific to the consumer in my venue rather than generic for many?

Taking these business concerns into account and listening to our customers have prompted Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Group to team up with Facebook to enable businesses to turn their challenges into opportunities. We’ve looked at how consumers can have a more connected experience while in business venues and at the same time how the business can improve the engagement with consumers while they are in the venue. We want to make this year’s holiday season more pleasant for everyone.

Read More »

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Leveraging Location: Cisco Sets the Curve with Facebook and Other Partners

Have you heard? Many organizations are now realizing that they can leverage location-based services to provide personalized mobile experiences and customer analytics. It pays to stay connected to your consumers and enhancing the mobile experience. Today at Interop New York, we unveiled a number of new product and solution innovations built to expand on and extend the power of Cisco Unified Access to drive these new connected mobile experiences.

Nearly one year into announcing our Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) solution, and with today’s announcement, there’s even more. We’re kicking off a deep dive blog series to give you an in depth look at the new enhancements, but for now here’s a taste of what’s new:

CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi 

CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi allows retailers, hoteliers, restaurants, and more to engage and analyze customers and guests using the Cisco and Facebook Wi-Fi platforms. It enables guests to easily connect to the Wi-Fi network using their Facebook credentials and “check-in” to the venue’s Facebook profile. The check ins give venues additional marketing and branding opportunities through broadcasting through guest news feeds, as well as valuable demographic information. See how a conference center, Evergreen Brickworks, is using the solution:

CMX Analytics

Enhanced onsite analytics have a revamped UI to show you how, where, and when customers and visitors are moving throughout a venue. Read More »

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The Sixth Step to Enterprise Mobility: Power to Your People

This is the sixth post in a blog series featuring Vine-format videos focusing on the “Six Essential Steps for Unleashing the Power of Enterprise Mobility”. The first blog post discussing how to build a mobile structure can be found here. The second blog post highlighting the benefits going virtual can be found here. The third blog post focused on preparing enterprises for the division of devices can be found here. The fourth blog post focused on creating an app checkpoint can be found here. The fifth blog post focused on defending data can be found here.

step6a

Watch video at http://youtu.be/3kD5EpXypFc

Over the course of this series, we’ve discussed how enterprises can better enable people to work in their own way, regardless of where they are and what device they are using. We started by making smart plans at an architecture level and then implementing secure policies along the way. The final step enterprises need to take may be the hardest one of all but can yield the greatest results. To increase productivity, business agility, and customer satisfaction, enterprises must actively embrace mobility in the workplace. Here’s a short checklist to help organizations with this last step:

1. Go Beyond Provisioning Mobility for Sales: Think “All-Company” Mobility.

The definition of mobility is expanding to include not just “road warriors” but also “corridor warriors,” as well as guest and home workers.

Make sure your mobility architecture is designed to accommodate them all. Then create a phased implementation plan. Determine which users and business processes you want to prioritize first and move forward at a pace that makes sense for your enterprise.

An all-hands-on-deck approach will also help drive future implementation of mobile solutions. Read More »

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