All the planning, design and execution for NRF 2023 are now behind us, but I returned home from New York feeling like it was worth every ounce of effort we put into it… It was amazing to be, not only back in person, but back to 2020 levels of participation with so much pent-up enthusiasm and interest from the attendees that visited.  

Something I personally enjoyed was a new approach for us at NRF – Coffee and Conversations, is something we have done as a video podcast for a while, both to help Cisco account teams gain an appreciation of the various industries we support and to share our industry points of view externally. For NRF, we brought it to life with a full Barista experience and tables dotted around to allow for casual chats over coffee rather than in a closed meeting room. It was a hit with Cisconians hosting meetings and retailers alike.  

Your trusted technology partner in retail 

We decided to concentrate on some of the biggest challenges facing the industry to help focus on the highest value areas Cisco can have an impact on, rather than overwhelm attendees with our expansive end-to-end capabilities – Doing more with less through store automation as we struggle with labor challenges across the retail industry; developing a better understanding of consumer, associate and operational behaviors in the stores; those insights can help deliver rich personalized bi-directional engagements, which result in deeper relationships with consumers, nurture and enable associates to help in acquisition and retention of staff. Shrink remains a significant challenge, so reducing losses can help increase retail margins and promote greater inventory accuracy which, in turn, contributes to the larger sustainability story that Cisco helps deliver across retail enterprises. 

Cisco can achieve these measurable business outcomes by focusing on what I refer to as VIA – Visibility, Insights and Action. Leveraging the abilities of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to sense what is happening in the environment, from simple contact and temperature sensors to super-sensors like the Meraki MV SmartCameras, we can provide Visibility into store, distribution center and supply chain activity. By combining data from these sensors and other systems, such as the Point of Sale (PoS), Building and Inventory Management, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be applied to develop Insights into what the sensors are reporting such as consumer behavior, the impact of associate interactions, fixture engagement, merchandising effectiveness and compliance, even visual inventory.  

Experience what’s possible for your retail business 

At NRF this year we featured our friends at EVERYANGLE and meldCX who have developed solutions that integrate all these elements with their own AI models that combine the power of “far-edge” compute directly on the cameras, edge compute and cloud to deliver business insights across many aspects of the retail journey. 

Data is good, but we have no shortage of data in retail. Insights are great, but historically those come from the minds of seasoned retail professionals and are in shorter and shorter supply. What is truly awesome is when those insights are Actionable, better yet automatable. The action can vary, depending on many factors – it could be to flag a suspicious No-Customer-Present transaction for human review, or to reorder a fast-moving item that is currently at 20% stock level, or delaying a soda or bread delivery where the fixture is still 75% full. Maybe, based on the consumer’s behavior in the store, the retailer can initiate an engagement with a known consumer on their mobile device using Webex Connect or update Wipro VisionEDGE digital signage, or menu boards, to promote low-prep time items when the service time at a cafe is causing line growth. In the case of SES-Imagotag’s Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) the tags and shelf-edge displays can be instantly updated over-the-air. What is core to all of these examples, and many more I could mention, is that they lighten the load on overworked associates and set them up for success. 

At Cisco, our focus isn’t just on the technology, but on delivering true business value, enabled by sensible application of technology – we love contributing to the success of retailers, and I’m excited to see what is becoming a far more innovative, consumer- and associate-centric industry.

Here’s to another year of innovation and see you at NRF 2024, if not sooner.  


Mark Scanlan

Global Industry Lead for Retail

Industry Solutions Group, Cisco Systems