The retail industry is facing unprecedented changes. Since Amazon went online in 1995, technology has been blurring the boundaries between virtual and physical retail space. The third annual Cisco study of consumers found that nearly 80 percent of U.S. consumers use the Internet to shop. Armed with their smartphones, customers now walk into a store with much more knowledge and power in the palm of their hands than ever before, enough to keep retail executives up at night.

Nearly one out of three shoppers search on their mobile device before purchasing in store. Customers want to know if items are available in the right size, right color, and right now. These shoppers expect the same prices, products, and offers regardless of the channel being used (e-commerce websites, brick-and-mortar stores, or mobile devices). I’m surprised at how many stores really don’t know what’s in stock.  To keep up with today’s savvy shoppers, retailers need to update their inventory systems using signals from their supply chains, online presence, back rooms, and front stores in real time. And all of this is the in the context of shrinking customer spending, rising business costs, and competition.

With these monumental shifts in consumer behavior, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the biggest Internet of Everything (IoE) Value at Stake opportunities reside in extracting customer insights and creating better experiences. For years, retailers have trusted jGrubb-RetailCisco innovations to help them improve the store experience, increase supply chain efficiencies, and deliver a consistent multi-channel experience to their customers. Just last month, on stage at Cisco Live with John Chambers, I demonstrated Cisco’s location-based services to help retailers improve planogram and measure campaign effectiveness through the movement of customers. But there is much more that the Internet of Everything can do to address the two main goals of retailers: revenue and loyalty.

Here’s just one scenario to illustrate how the Internet of Everything creates new ways to engage with customers in stores and boost revenue. Imagine a shopper (let’s call her Jody) who is browsing near the toy section. As she does this, location-based sensors track her mobile device, and Big Data correlates her location with a calendar event for her niece’s birthday, as well as her niece’s social media activity, and offers a toy promotion on her smartphone. Jody checks out that particular toy, but video analytics detect uncertainty in her body language. Big Data then sends an associate to help alleviate any concerns or confusion. Jody buys the toy, and the entire episode is recorded and analyzed. Merchandisers review and update their data so that future promotions will preempt concerns.

As this scenario shows, video has a major role to play in the retail space. High-definition video surveillance cameras used for security purposes can also be combined with data analysis to offer retailers insight into everything from facial recognition and information on shopping partners, to age, gender, and socioeconomic indicators, to lighting, dispatch assistance, etc. Streams of data from sensors can enable motion-activated video playback and gesture-based interaction for on-demand information delivery. Retailers can use video intelligence to create augmented reality mirrors or spot customers in need and send associates to assist them. Together, these (emerging) data streams promise unprecedented insights into what consumers want or need at the earliest stages of interest. This is a real game changer, because it means retailers can rely on real-time data to make immediate adjustments to everything from point of sale merchandising to inventory to supply chain, enabling a more interactive and personalized customer experience. Guide for customer insight, impacts inventory for example. Linking to the supply chain. Not siloed apps within your biz. This is your biz.

At Cisco, we believe delivering these experiences requires a new model for IT. Developing, deploying, and managing these solutions require a framework that not only extracts vital nuggets of actionable insight from the electronic data that’s hurtling through the air over wireless networks, including mobile and video data, and data from social networking sites. It is also a framework that gives you the flexibility to provision new resources automatically to support your strategic initiatives in the store or online. It’s not simply bringing up additional servers and disk arrays to support peak usage on Black Friday, but it’s the end-to-end orchestration to deliver the right IT resources where and when they are needed without manual intervention. Finally, it’s the framework that provides a secure experience to the customers and suppliers, and also heads off attackers on the web trying to compromise your data. We call this the Unified Framework.

What are your thoughts about IoE? Send me a tweet: @JimGrubb.


Internet of Everything (IoE) Value Index (Cisco June 2013)

Catch and keep the digital shopper survey (Cisco IBSG January 2013)

Remote expert Cisco Retailer:


Jim Grubb

Chief Technology Evangelist

Cisco Customer Experience Center