Today, mobile devices are everywhere — and vying for the attention of just about everyone. On a train, in a café, or in the park, people are gaming, connecting with far-away friends, and watching TV shows.

Increasingly, they are also researching, browsing, and buying products.

Such tech-savvy mobile shoppers are driving a retail revolution that has left many brick-and-mortar retailers scrambling to catch up. In fact, mobility and apps have created an industry disruption similar in scope to what we saw with e-commerce in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

For many traditional retailers, the stakes are high and the challenges daunting. However, I see tremendous opportunities. That is, if they leverage technology to merge the best of virtual and physical worlds, with new shopping experiences that are mobile, convenient, and customer-centered — in short, hyper-relevant to customers’ current contexts.

To do this, retailers must become fully digital, by leveraging solutions enabled by the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the networked connection of people, process, data, and things, and Cisco projects these connections to surge from 13 billion today to 20 billion by 2020. With a total Value at Stake of $19 trillion from 2013 to 2022, the Internet of Everything represents one of the greatest market transitions in history. And it is shaking up the competitive dynamics in nearly all industries, particularly retail.

When people, process, data, and things are connected there is an incredible opportunity to create new revenue streams, compete with disruptive competitors, deliver better experiences, and new operating models to drive both efficiency and value. However, most retailers are not realizing the full value of their digital initiatives.

To understand these challenges — and determine how retailers can best target their technology investments — Cisco undertook a comprehensive study consisting of original research, economic analysis, and interviews with retail thought leaders. The first wave of primary research findings was released earlier this year. The full global results will be released in coming months.

A key theme that emerged was that today’s consumers demand new kinds of digital experiences, both in-store and out. In our survey, we presented respondents with 19 IoE-enabled concept tests — everything from digital signage and same-day delivery to mobile payments and augmented-reality services on a mobile device.

We found strong interest in nearly all of the tested concepts, with mobility standing out as a critical capability. Customers want to use their mobile devices at every step of the shopping journey, both in-store and out; retailers, in turn, must respond with experiences that connect with shoppers on a deeper level than ever before.

For example, a shopper roaming a store with a mobile device can receive expert product advice, special offers, and tips on faster, convenient checkout — all before using the device to pay for the purchase.

Our U.S. and U.K. survey results make a compelling case for retailers to act fast, if they are to meet the demands of increasingly tech-savvy customers:

• Seventy-three percent were interested in accessing augmented reality services on their mobile devices that enabled them to scan products for special in-store offers and promotions.
• Sixty-three percent favored an augmented reality app to help locate items on a shopping list in the store.
• Sixty percent were interested in smartphone checkout
• Fifty-four percent were interested in using smartphone location to deliver customized offers and promotions.
• And 49 percent were interested in mobile payments.

To compete, retailers should adopt a technology strategy that captures data at the “edge” of the network — from mobile devices, but also sensors and video cameras. That data can be analyzed locally, in real time, to respond to fast-moving opportunities.

Analytics and mobility are the next competitive frontier in the IoE era. They will enable retailers to better innovate, as they provide experiences, offers, and interactions that are contextual, relevant, and timely. After all, that customer in Aisle 10 comparing auto parts for an emergency fix does not want product information or a special offer three days later. With edge analytics, the hyper-relevant connection is made when it counts.

IoE opens up exciting possibilities for retailers, but they must dare to be as tech savvy and forward thinking as their customers. For retailers who don’t want to be left behind in the retail revolution, digital transformation is imperative.

Join the Twitter #CiscoChat on Creating Engaging Shopping Experiences with Retail Customers on Tuesday, March 31 @10am PST – Click here for details!

Watch this video to learn more about the role of the Internet of Everything in retail:





Michael Riegel

Vice President

Industries, Platforms, and Services Marketing