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Want More Digital Consumers? Cisco's Key: Be Ultra Relevant

January 14, 2015

If there's one lesson that the holiday shopping season of 2014 taught us, it's that more and more consumers are turning not to brick-and-mortar stores for shopping, but for online experiences instead. Whether mobile or more stationary, a lot of shoppers turned to stores like Amazon and beyond for holiday shopping, and that move is leaving some lessons in its wake. Cisco recently staged a survey of retail customers, and made some key findings about just how to get those digital consumers interested. The key point, not surprisingly, was relevance.

The early Cisco word came from a survey targeting 1,240 retail consumers in both the United States and the United Kingdom, which at last report is set to become part of a larger study involving 6,000 consumers in 10 different countries. The study revealed several important points, and the biggest was that customers wanted a very convenient and very relevant shopping experience overall. The study noted that 39 percent of consumers wanted to see improvements in the process of selecting and purchasing goods, while 13 percent wanted a more personalized experience. Essentially, customers wanted stores to stock desired goods and make it comparatively easier to buy said goods more than said customers wanted the store to know the consumer's name by a factor of three to one. Clearly, personalization is a desirable trait, but it's far from the biggest thing on customers' minds.

Customers went on from there to express preferences about what would like to be seen in everything from product delivery to interactive digital signage. For instance, 57 percent of respondents wanted to see stores come with drive-through lanes, allowing for the possibility to order a product online, then while on the road, pick up said product at a brick-and-mortar outlet without having to get out of the car to get said product. Fifty-three percent wanted a same-day delivery service direct to the home for a $5 fee per delivery. Forty percent, meanwhile, favored the secure locker approach in which purchases were placed in a secure locker at a generally convenient location.

These were exciting concepts, and consumers had plenty more to say about what should be done in stores; consumers wanted augmented reality systems connected to in-store promotions, easy access to online product reviews, tools specifically geared toward the mobile device—customers turn to mobiles 47 percent of the time in the U.S., and 42 percent of the time in the U.K.—to help with in-store shopping, and even a digital sign showing your estimated wait time for a checkout counter.

This all sounds great, of course, and why shouldn't it? After all, these are things that would make the online experience—and even the brick-and-mortar experience—smoother and simpler. Online shopping's last great failing, that of having to wait for an order to arrive, would be gone in a heartbeat, and we wouldn't even have to fire loads of cashiers to get it because said cashiers would become order handlers instead! But that's a lot of renovation that would have to be done, and some serious investment put out, potentially more than some stores could handle. However, the reports suggest that, for a $20 billion retailer, these use cases represent $312 million in annual value, and a 15.6 percent boost to profitability. That's a nice shot in the arm for a fairly big investment, but only time will tell if companies are willing to shell out that big for a fairly decent potential return.

Edited by Maurice Nagle