BBD CEO tour: Cisco II

Next up from Cisco was Joanne Bethlahmy Director Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, which is an internal strategy consulting group charged with coming up with provocative ideas challenging business models and approach to customer engagement. They work with customers to do this, combining new strategy approaches with technology. Joanne comes from a FMCG and background.

Joanne spoke about customer engagement trends – a bit of a survey.

Today people expect to get both in-store and internet experiences.  Video is pervasive, eCommerce is 8% of US retail, 25% use smart phones in store and Facebook is dominant across most of the world. As a result retailers can often be show-rooms online stores, as bookshops are for Amazon (absolutely for me). In the US already 50% of consumer electronics are sold online, and we are used to interacting with talking heads on a screen. (That makes for some obvious next steps – delivering commerce through talking heads on screens, both in store and online).

Customer review and professional review sites are rising in importance of making buying decisions versus personal recommendations and especially versus in-store staff.

Joanne combines these trends into a word – calling it the Mashop – mashing up the physical and online commerce experiences. The goals of mashops is to improve the consumer experience, finding, experiencing and buying the product over any channel, and helping employees get really smart when dealing with customers. This can lower costs, improve sales per square foot, reduce staff costs and increase effectiveness through better measurement and loop closing.

Some examples.

More online experiences are being delivered in and around the store, which increases sell rates and up and cross sells. At least one Singtel store in Singapore has smart external glass, acting as a touch screen and allowing customers to purchase products 24/7 as well as showing interactive advertisements.

Creating “branded seamless spaces.” The Burberry store in Regent street has a huge video wall, each staff member has a tablet, each product has an RFID tag which displays information when held in front of a mirror. (I’m not sure about the “branded space” part, but the overall idea of getting customers to want to go the the store through making it awesome is good.)

Providing personalised information and products is something that casinos have been doing for a while, and they are now stepping up to personalising signage. (This is creepy, but part of the overall trend towards personalisation of advertising and products.)

Nike, and Adidas allow you to design your own shoes, and a place called Chocomize apparently lets you design your own chocolates. These personalised products are more than just a front end of course, and need a fulfillment process that can efficiently deliver the individual product. Obviously companies can build this capability as demand ramps up.

Mobile devices are helping staff become smarter, perhaps as smart as their customers. JCPenny is using tablets for fine jewelry selection, Mercedes Benz (and Ducati) have a tablet app for designing and selling their vehicles. (Nordstrom staff have phones and can do rapid check outs, and Apple stores have been doing this for a long time).

Cisco kit monitors mobile phone RF emissions in Copenhagen airport to track movement of people, and even to provide offers (boo) to consumers. Casinos, such as Harrahs, use Cisco kit to do video tracking and analytics, as do many supermarket chains and other stores.

Mobile phones are also handy for bypassing hotel check in and use NFC (or a bar code) to go straight to the room to unlock the door.

Sainsbury’s (rather disturbingly) have tried tablets on the shopping cart which interacts with the location to provide “personalised experiences” to shoppers. (I read that as annoying ads, and the tablet itself seemed to be in the way of seeing the cart contents.)

Remote expertise: interacting with experts can be done either in store or over the network and delivered on a variety of devices. An in-store setup can be VC or telepresence quality to match up call-center (or video-center) staff with customers across a chain of stores. That same video center could field voice and video calls from customers on home or the road, or the person could be an avatar. (Which seems like a frustrating idea)

Immersive experiences: fun things in store that use digital technology. Shisedo has set up the ground floor of a Tokyo store with virtual make-up stations, others are trying virtual trying on of clothes or placing virtual furniture in a room.

New technology can help deliver different or temporary physical store formats, including shipping containers. Of course I’d hope that stores would use Vend for those pop up and shipping container stores.

Amazon lockers and virtual storefronts such as Tesco’s Homeplus are, apparently, changing the idea of what a store is. Vending machines are becoming interactive, and the overall expectation is that we are doing more virtually.

Overall this was a fairly quick survey of what is out there. The main point is to put ourselves into the shoes of the internet generation, and understand their expectations of what the new normal will be.

Published by Lance Wiggs