The way people shop is changing—malls with lines of shops are on their way out and all-day experiences are in. The Sentinel Source writes that more than 9,000 retailers closed stores in the last year, mainly because of the ease of online shopping and the desire for better, more seamless experiences. With retail spaces, customers are truly searching for a mashup of entertainment, restaurants, and shops. This is the main topic of discussion for the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual retail conference—how to transform retail from just shopping for products to an overall lifestyle experience. NRF connects key leaders in the industry to discuss new ideas, visions, and technology that can revolutionize business, big and small.
For Cisco, revolutionizing the retail experience is top of mind—on January 12, Cisco held a VIP Customer event at NRF hosted by luxury retailer Neiman Marcus inside Manhattan’s Hudson Yards development, showing participants how they can connect their online and in-store experiences. Cisco and its ecosystem partners, QWASI and Local Measure, showcased a new digital immersive experience by using the latest tech, including “tap technology” or Near Field Communication (NFC) and Cisco DNA Spaces, combining wireless connectivity with location services to create a better customer experience.
The interactive demo, designed for this one-night event, brought attendees to tour Neiman Marcus in a completely new, digitally immersive way, showing that we can move from transaction to a lifestyle change by using technology as the bridge.
The hardware foundation
Cisco and Neiman Marcus have already created a strong partnership at the Neiman Marcus Flagship at the Hudson Yards space. The store utilizes Cisco's core networking and wireless technology like Cisco’s 3800 series access points, wireless controller, and the Catalyst 9200, 9300, 9500. This hardware foundation provides the secure networking and Wi-Fi infrastructure to power vital features of the store like high-density Wi-Fi and magic fitting room mirrors.
In addition, Cisco investment company Theatro provides much of the headset and communication technology for the Neiman Marcus store associates. Theatro is an AI and voice solution company that helps workforces become more productive. All store associates at the Hudson Yards location are equipped with the headset, helping employees talk to each other individually or in groups. This, in turn, allows associates to stay present on the store floor with customers. The Theatro platform also supports a number of specific store processes like "register back-up", "morning meeting", "manager assistance", and others.
The software transformation
With this hardware as a foundation, Cisco can build a software solution with its ecosystem partners that provides customers with a new VIP experience. Cisco’s demo with Neiman Marcus at NRF showed just how this works, marrying the best of both online and brick and mortar shopping.
All participants of the VIP Event received a digital tattoo, which was then scanned to unlock a mobile portal on their phones. This Near Field Communication technology makes it easy and frictionless for customers to engage with the retail brand, wherever they are. Onboarding customers in a frictionless way is key to driving engagement, and making it personalized and relevant is key to driving digital engagement. The mobile portal provides various interactive experiences for the customer, including a trivia gamification aspect, a social area where shoppers can take and share images, a real-time sentiment survey, and a chatbot function—all through their own mobile device.
With the foundational investments from Cisco’s Access Point Technology, the Neiman Marcus experience demonstrates how retailers can be able to leverage data to gain key insights about shopper behavior. This can better serve customers in stores, provide operational excellence, and assist associates to better serve VIP customers. Leveraging data-driven decision making is key to driving customer loyalty, basket size, and a long-term connection with the customer, all of this made possible with the Cisco Wi-Fi Technology.
For VIP customers who opt-in using location services, stores can tie the location of that person's device to the back-end systems so they can customize their in-store digital experience. Cisco's wireless sensors also provide metrics such as total traffic, dwell times, how long someone is connected and where/which departments capture their attention on a shopping trip.
"Retail is not just about the store or the transaction, but it's about the destination and lifestyle for each customer,” says Amit Chetal, the America’s Retail Lead for Cisco. "Everyday customers have choices: where will he or she shop, eat, or go for entertainment? The ones that are winning are innovative using integrated hardware, software, and ecosystem partnerships. This enables the retailer to drive an enhanced customer experience driving lifetime loyalty for the customer and an empowered and satisfied employee.”