A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a session at the SAS Global Forum, along with Intel VP Steve Brown and Lori Schafer, SAS Retail Executive Advisor, on how retailers can create better in-store context for today’s connected customer. SAS Institute is a Cisco analytics partner and we had some exciting discussions during this event.

Defining the Connected Customer

Let’s take a minute to define what we mean by the connected consumer.

First, let’s not get too focused on the idea of Millennials or Generation Y – users of all ages are very active on their mobile devices and social media. What we are talking about is not an age group, but a group of consumers that is always connected via their smart devices.

Second, they are on those devices a lot. Customers look at their smartphone about 1,500 times a week, and are on their phones 174 minutes per day. To put this into context: Studies show that mothers spend an average 117 minutes a day on childrearing, while men spend 62 minutes per day!

Finally, today’s shoppers are looking for what Cisco describes as a “contextual relationship.” In other words, they have high expectations for their relationship with you. They expect you to know about them, what they have been doing, and what they are doing right now, during every interaction; and they want you to use this context to guide how you respond.

Moving Context from Online

As a retailer, you are doing a better job every day on leveraging the information you gather on online shoppers as they research and shop. You are also doing a better job of leveraging the wealth of digital data about your customers collected from eCommerce and third-party providers, FICO, Experian, and your own transactional and loyalty data. Online, this easily provides a context for what your shopper is doing, researching, and purchasing.

However, to deliver the same type of contextual relationships in the physical store, you need to leverage consumer data there too. That’s why one of the key areas of investment is solutions that allow retailers to use wireless, video, and collaboration technologies to track in-store consumer behavior. This data is then assessed for predictive (predicting what the customer needs or wants) and responsive (real-time data) analytics to guide your actions toward the customer.

Such solutions require a network smart enough to do analysis at the edge and use those metrics to initiate real-time responses, such as automated messages to customers; alerts to store employees; and notifications to executives, data centers, and HQ.

Use Case: Context in Today’s Store

A number of retailers Cisco works with are already using context to make better operational decisions, such as better conversion rate analysis, store pathing, operations, and merchandising.

This year, we are seeing the transition from store- and department-level analytics to aisle, shelf, and even product-level analytics. This increasingly granular information will unlock whole new eras of precision retailing. By combining data on shopper dwell time, body language, gaze tracking, product handling, and even demographics and mood, we can ask and find answers to even very specific questions, such as “What is the impact on conversion if I move product X to a new position on the shelf or change its packaging?”

For example, a customer walks into the store. His mobile device is automatically detected and securely connected to the store application, which sends him an automatic greeting. He navigates the store based on a provided map. Wi-Fi-enabled analytics software automatically notes his product interests and browsing patterns, and notifies internal systems to send targeted ads directly to the shopper’s device or to the nearest in-aisle digital display.

As he browses, the app may also offer him gift recommendations, wish lists, style choices, and other personalized services to enhance his shopping experience. The customer receives sales announcements and promotions based on previous shopping behavior, and opportunities for cross-sell and upsell. He may also consult with a sales associate or virtual expert to learn more, or view a product video or broadcast. Based on information gathered from these activities, systems may then be configured to consistently recognize the customer from now on, in any store branch, online, and on social media.

Achieving Context in the Future Store

Cisco is building a future store business model in which retailers and suppliers can anticipate and respond to shopper needs and wants, providing the optimal product mix, layout, and service at the point of sale. Combined with increasingly powerful AI techniques, you provide the “hypercontext,”which includes not only information about the shopper and their history, but their real-time situation from moment to moment. Based on a constant exchange of data, you become empowered to reach a new level in your relationship with your customer.

Learn about the idea of hypercontext and hyper-awareness in our white paper here.


Ed Jimenez

Business Transformation Lead

Retail & Hospitality