My preparations for NRF 2019 gave me insight into the retail industry as a whole and the challenges it faces, along with ideas of how Cisco is addressing these challenges.
For a while, the likes of Ebay and then Amazon seemed to disrupt retail at a scale like nothing before. In a world where time is of the essence, having all your shopping needs fulfilled at the click of a button from the comfort of your own home, seemed to be nirvana. The more pessimistic folks out there saw this as the death of retail. Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Retail, like several other industries right now, is going through massive changes and challenges. The retailers that embrace change, adopt safe online shopping practices, and bring better shopping experiences to their customers will most certainly thrive in the future. Moreover, the move to online retail seems to have slowed down, and in some cases even reversed. It’s interesting to say the least, to see big online retailers like Amazon, opening brick and mortar shops recently. Seems we are all human after all and need that personal interaction in our shopping experiences.
Cisco DevNet’s SVP Susie Wee introducing the concept of programmable store at #NRF2019
Some of the challenges that I see with retail from a networking/IT perspective are:
- Ensuring secure and seemless connectivity between all branches and head quarters,
- Reducing infrastructure operation costs,
- Speeding up new branch deployment,
- Offering an integrated online and in store experience to customers,
- Being able to determine which products customers are interested;
- Offering stellar support to customers when needed.
Cisco at NRF 2019
Having won the Best booth award at NRF 2018, the Cisco team did not rest on its laurels and for 2019 raised the bar even higher. At NRF 2019, the team is bringing you a glimpse of how the future retail shopping experience will look like. Several teams within Cisco together with our partners: Asynchrony, MishiPay, Gimme360, Local Measure, Tulip, and Helpshift have come up with the Game of Retail, a new shopping experience based on the popular Game of Life. Starting with three different customer personas, we simulate a “day in the life of” scenario that begins at home, purchasing products online, we take it on the go at a coffee shop, soccer practice, at the office and end up picking up and paying for all the products in store. We have intuitively called our retail brand for the purposes of the demo, “Stop, Shop, and Go”.
Start Shop & Go Mission Control – the technologies that made the whole Cisco Retail experience possible at #NRF2019
The retail journey is peppered with applications and use cases developed by the Cisco team, together with our partners:
Click a button on your smartphone application and get direct access,
- Reach a real person you can speak with when you have questions about a specific product,
- Viewto Augmented Reality details like customer reviews about a product you have in the sights of your phone’s camera straight on your smartphone,
- Use the OptimizeMe feature that has the products you plan to purchase ready for you to pick up before you even get to the store,
- Use Cisco DNA Spaces location capabilities to detect which products are most in demand.
I am convinced this journey will change the way you will want to shop in the future.
We finish the journey at the NASA-like Mission Control wall of 9 TV screens, where we showcase all the Cisco technologies and products that made the experience possible and we see all the live statistics and analytics for the demo experience.
Going back to the challenges that the retail industry is facing, Cisco has been the major infrastructure provider for all industries including retail for the past 30 years. New products like the Cisco ISR 4Ks with SD-WAN and UCS E capabilities as well as Meraki SD-WAN bring a new level of secure and seamless connectivity to all retail branches. Deployment and provisioning of new branches that used to take weeks if not months, can now be done within minutes with technologies like ZTP and cloud managed Cisco SD-WAN solutions based on the Viptela acquisition. Using location services provided by Cisco DNA Spaces can give a much better estimate of where in the store are customers spending their time and business intelligence can be applied to this information to determine optimal product placement. For improved customer support, Cisco solutions like Webex Teams and Customer Journey Platform can be leveraged to directly interact with customers and address their concerns as fast as possible. Cisco partners like Asynchrony can be engaged to develop applications that bring together online and in store experiences. For an extensive list of Cisco partners and their offerings please check developer.cisco.com/ecosystem.
The underlying Cisco network infrastructure and Cisco technologies like Cisco DNA Spaces, Cisco Meraki, Cisco Webex Teams, Cisco Vision, Cisco Customer Journey Platform, AppDynamics and the applications that our partners have developed on top of them is what makes the whole experience possible.
At the intersection of Cisco Way and Retail Boulevard is where innovation happens
The Cisco DevNet team was involved for the first time in the NRF effort this year and I’d like to personally thank the Cisco Retail team for bringing us on board and allowing us to help out and build integration code and applications to take the whole retail experience to the next level. You can find all the DevNet sample code that was used for this demo on our Code Exchange. We also have a brand new retail-focused developer center!
We are looking forward to seeing you all at NRF 2019 at the Javits Center in New York, between January 13th and 15th. The Cisco booth is 2254 and I cannot wait for all of you to be dazzled and amazed on what the retail shopping experiences of the future will look like. With a bit of imagination, a programmable network and Cisco services and solutions, the possibilities are limitless.
Bring your BIG ideas! Get inspired by our SVP and CTO, Susie Wee!
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