Tagged with 'retail industry'

Retail Tech Deep-Dive: Meraki Security

Retail Tech Deep-Dive: Meraki Security

Join us as we dive deeper into Cisco and Cisco partner technology deployed at the Cisco Store! We asked Chris Weber (Senior Product Manager, Meraki MX security and SD-WAN) and Imran Idrees (Senior Product Marketing Manager, Cisco security and SD-WAN) to discuss how Cisco Meraki security allows businesses to stay ahead of the latest threats while reducing both cost and complexity.

How does Cisco Meraki security improve a retailer’s and shopper’s in-store and/or virtual shopping experience? What problem are they solving?

In cybersecurity, the quicker you can protect against a threat, the more you minimize adverse impact; or better yet, avoid any disruption at all. However, one of the security challenges facing retailers is a complex and fragmented architecture. A collection of complex security technologies that have built up over time and are separate from networking technologies can lead to slow responses to the latest threats and are prone to human error, as it can require specialist talent to manage. Meraki MX overcomes this by taking a cloud platform approach to deliver the quickest way to protect against the latest threats, while also removing complexity and cost with: 

  • An always-on path for the latest Talos threat intelligence
  • Easy-to-manage firewalls designed for all IT teams of all skill levels
  • Intuitive, serverless architecture that elastically scales
  • Automatic smartphone-like firmware updates for zero-touch protection 

Retailers also face various in-store connectivity challenges related to the performance of business-critical payment apps, inventory systems, point-of-sale devices, security cameras and IoT devices, and shoppers’ Wi-Fi and browsing experiences. In addition to powerful protection, Meraki MX solves these challenges in several ways for retailers of all types: 

  • Built-in SD-WAN to automatically optimize WAN experience over all uplinks 
  • Instant access to ThousandEyes for proactive monitoring and visibility into the performance of the WAN to get ahead of possible issues before they impact performance
  • Models with built-in cellular modems for added redundancy
  • Part of an integrated SD-Branch management platform with one intuitive UI that also includes:  
    • Intelligent Wi-Fi access points for supreme wireless experience
    • Enterprise-grade SASE protection for remote users with Cisco Secure Connect — wherever they are
    • The simplest and most scalable dedicated 5G cellular gateways to supplement wired connectivity or support a cellular only branch
    • Smart security camera systems and sensors
    • Mobile device management for point-of-sale devices’ security, tracking, and management 

What would you like people to know about Cisco Meraki security when they see it in action at the Cisco Store Tech Lab? 

All Cisco security products are powered by Talos and that’s no different for Meraki MX. At its core, Meraki MX has an always-on path to Talos, providing undisputed threat intelligence. Talos is comprised of 250+ of the world’s most sought-after threat researchers and scientists analyzing 625 billion web requests every day – which is approximately more than 70 times the number of Google searches processed every day. They block 20 billion threats daily, 20 times more than any other vendor.  

Meraki MX is a full-fledged next-generation firewall that is easy to deploy and scale. All the latest intelligence from Talos is automatically distributed to millions of Meraki MXs across hundreds of thousands of customers on the Meraki platform to block 98% of all malware—that’s 25% more than the industry average. 

How do you envision Cisco Meraki security being used in retail environments in the future? 

There’s a well-known saying in cybersecurity—the only certainty is change. From the moment a new threat is discovered by Talos, it takes less than 10 minutes for every Meraki MX customer to automatically be protected using zero infosec resources.  

Additionally, one of the advantages of building Cisco Meraki security on a cloud native platform is that it's designed for change. As the security landscape and threats inevitably change, Meraki security can easily adapt to keep retailers’ stores, assets, and customers protected. 

For example, as the latest threats become ever more sophisticated, acting across multiple vectors, Cisco Meraki security is integrating with Cisco XDR. This will allow retailers to quickly thwart sophisticated multi-vector attacks, with machine learning rapidly correlating and contextualizing mountains of network-wide telemetry data and AI instantly suggesting remediation. 

Moreover, with hybrid work and users being more distributed than ever, the Cisco Meraki platform added Cisco Secure Connect to protect users wherever they are. 

What do you think will be a priority for shoppers in the next 5 years? 

Definitely experiences – especially ones that add convenience through a personalized shopping experience. This includes thoughtful and well-timed suggestions, continuity in online and in-store shopping as well as shipping, and more.  

Likewise, what do you think will be a priority for retailers in the next 5 years? 

For retailers, cybersecurity protection will be a priority as threats inevitably increase and become more sophisticated. Ongoing digital transformation and simplification to remain competitive will continue to drive the importance of high-performance connectivity, as well as continued data and analytics – businesses must know their customers above all!  

Interested in learning more about Cisco Meraki Security? Visit our page or request a demo now. 

Retail Tech Deep-Dive: Meraki Switching

Retail Tech Deep-Dive: Meraki Switching

Join us as we dive deeper into Cisco and Cisco partner technology deployed at the Cisco Store! We asked Julie Nguyen (Product Manager, Meraki Switching Platform) to discuss how the switches are used in the Cisco Store and the larger retail industry. 

How do Meraki switches improve a retailer’s and shopper’s in-store and/or virtual shopping experience? What problem are they solving?

Network switches keep the world connected and moving as devices become smart and integrated. Meraki Switches are the backbone of improving shopping experiences by providing the connectivity needs and network security to support growing businesses with demanding requirements. As part of the Meraki ecosystem, Meraki Switches create seamless connections between cameras, access points, security appliances, and sensors to offer improved customer and employee experience within store and surrounding environments, such as monitoring lighting and HVAC systems for comfort. In addition, the Meraki ecosystem allows for segmentation to enforce network security between enterprise and IoT networks through features such as adaptive policy for secure segmentation of networks.  

The switching portfolio has transformed in more ways than one to serve a range of operational use cases. Higher port speeds are now available in cost-effective switches, while the enterprise level switches are updated with a familiar usability to that of our Catalyst switches. With this unification between the values of Meraki and Catalyst, the platform can help overcome unique challenges in retail such as servicing issues quickly while offering a comfortable shopping and working experience.  

What would you like people to know about Meraki switching when they see it in action at the Cisco Store Tech Lab? 

Choosing the right switch is key to a successful and stable network. With the various options throughout the switching portfolio to meet your needs, Meraki simplifies network management and monitoring from a centralized, cloud-based dashboard.

If you’re designing or upgrading your network, what feature and functionality do you need to consider to select the right switch?  

  • Do your end devices require PoE and what is the power budget required?
  • What port speeds are required (1Gig, mGig, SFP, SFP+)?
  • Do I need to operate in more rugged environments with extended temperatures between –40°C and +70°C?
  • Is there a growing need for IoT devices and guest access to your network? Which switches may you need to support Adaptive Policy or SGT for micro-segmentation?
  • Do we anticipate growth of connected devices in the future and therefore require more ports to expand?

These are a few questions to help you get started.

How do you envision Meraki switches being used in retail environments in the future? 

The level of creativity in retail to offer unique experiences does not cease to exist. Meraki switching will continue to be the foundation of connecting all people, places and things while expanding to environments that may require higher bandwidth and be rougher around the edges. Imagine being able to host more pop-ups or create outdoor spaces by using MS130R, Meraki’s first ruggedized switch, that can operate at extended temperatures between -40°C and +70°C and offer up to 30W of PoE per port to support outdoor cameras and access points. As the Meraki switching portfolio continues to expand, the possibilities are endless. 

What do you think will be a priority for shoppers in the next 5 years? 

Customers continue to look for unique experiences that allow them to consume products, goods, and services that meet their needs. In this ever-evolving world where there’s an expectation of receiving information quickly, it becomes increasingly important to support fast network speeds and reliable connections while integrating various end devices such as access points, kiosks, tablets, displays, robots and more.

For example, the use of QR codes has grown with the desire to become more sustainable by reducing single-use or limited-use items that share information with customers. More restaurants have started to use QR codes to display their food and drink menus, while clothing lines have used QR codes to share product details. Although the initial goal was to reduce waste, this has also positively impacted customer experiences by increasing the accessibility of information and making buying decisions easier for customers.  

These types of experiences need to be supported by networks capable of meeting the various connectivity needs of integrated systems.  

Likewise, what do you think will be a priority for retailers in the next 5 years? 

Information is key to understanding customers' interests and habits; therefore, being able to quickly identify shoppers as they arrive would be crucial for retailers to maximize their profitability. Real-time analysis of customer actions, such as pulling items from the shelves, may allow them to potentially receive coupons and deals on complementary items. This curated, unique experience would require considerations of networks that are scalable and reliable to mitigate downtime within POS systems.

In addition, sustainability has also been top of mind for many parties, and the ability to monitor power consumption has been a growing need. Energy saving and monitoring tactics will more likely be considered and implemented, such as motion sensing for lighting and understanding how much power is being used with each device. As investments are made to improve customer experience through integrated systems, a simple, reliable network would help with its manageability while increasing profitability.  

Interested in learning more about Meraki Switching? Visit our page, check out a podcast case study, or request a demo now. 

Webex Connect's Second Quarter

Webex Connect Q2 FY24

Five months after the launch of Webex Connect in August 2023, the enterprise-grade Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) has continued to enhance how businesses engage with their customers. With its ability to handle customer communications over multiple digital channels, its variety of integration options, and quick agent escalation, Webex Connect has become an efficient solution that is relied upon by the Cisco Store.  

Session Breakdown and Agent Handover 

455 total chatbot sessions occurred at the Cisco Store in the first quarter of FY24, but that number jumped to 599 in the second quarter, an almost 32% increase. The number of sessions handled by the bot also increased from 193 in the first quarter to 288 in the second quarter, while the number of total agent handovers increased from 262 to 311. This means that not only were more people interacting with the chatbot, but the bot was able to handle 49% more sessions while still giving customers the opportunity to speak to live agents as they saw fit, all while retaining the conversation context. Webex Connect’s easy interface makes it convenient for a small staff to continuously improve the bot’s responses and speak directly with customers whenever needed.

Channel Breakdown 

Customers can select their preferred channels to interact with the chatbot. Over Q2, 97% of the bot’s sessions occurred on the web. The online vs. in-person patterns of shoppers stayed consistent from Q1, as was seen by the almost 59% increase in online interactions. There was a marked decrease in in-person interactions, presumably due to the holiday season that dominated Q2.  

Online Interactions [Q1 FY24] 

Online Interactions [Q2 FY24]

Conversation Topics

In-person store visitors throughout Q2 generally asked the chatbot questions regarding customer tours, engagement with a live agent, order tracking, women’s apparel, and men’s apparel. Online store visitors asked questions around order tracking, gift vouchers, and customer support. Placing orders and receiving assistance has never been easier using Webex Connect, and customers can get their order questions easily answered through a couple of quick interactions rather than having to drive to an in-store location.  

Check back next quarter to see how Webex Connect performed in Q3!  

Fly to Amsterdam with the Cisco Store

Cisco Live EMEA 2024

If you’ve ever visited the Cisco Store Tech Lab in San Jose, California, you’ve probably seen how seamlessly Cisco and our partners’ retail technology is integrated into the store. Now, how do we showcase that technology at our travel stores? Learn about our efficient set-up process at our most recent show, Cisco Live EMEA 2024, held in Amsterdam from February 5-9. 

Before the Event

Everything starts with the floor plan of the booth at the RAI Amsterdam Convention Center. Once we have that, I’ll start mapping out where all the store technology needs to go: we work with our partners to decide where to place their solutions to ensure they can work optimally. 

For instance, we met with EVERYANGLE to determine what areas we want to monitor for footfall analytics, queue counting, and engagement zones. Cameras had to be placed in strategic locations to give us full coverage of the store. 

Queue counting camera

Cogniac helped us figure out where to place our Meraki MV63 camera to have a clear view of specific T-shirts that were used in a demo in conjunction with Wipro VisionEDGE. When a shirt is picked up off the rack, the MV63 relays that information to Cogniac, and then Wipro VisionEDGE receives a trigger alert to change the screen next to the shirt to educate the customer about the product and explain how our products empower an inclusive future for all.  

Before we ship out to Amsterdam, I’ll set up the technology we’re taking in a lab in San Jose to test that everything is functional. I had our equipment road-tested and packed into just three crates by mid-December (a month and a half before the show), and JLL Logistics helped us ship it all over to Amsterdam.  

Arriving in Amsterdam

A few days before the start of Cisco Live, JLL delivered the crates to our booth at the RAI, and our team started unpacking and deploying the equipment. Since we had the map ready, placing everything where it needed to go was seamless. I gave the network team the placement of the switches, cameras, smart fitting rooms, and so on beforehand so they could run the proper electrical lines through the booth, and all we had to do once we arrived was plug everything in.

The Cisco Store Tech Lab

Technology Deployment and Store Operations

This is the first year we’re baselining the store’s power consumption, both at the San Jose store and at all our travel stores, with the help of CAE Labs’ WiserWatts. We plan to schedule our power at next year’s shows to compare energy and cost savings. It took a bit to figure out how to route the power for all the technology through the Meraki MT40s (smart power controllers that monitor and remotely control power). We deployed twelve MT40s for full coverage of the booth, and it took a few trips to the electronics store to get the right adapters, but now that we’ve done it once, it will be a lot easier globally. After that, Fidel (the store’s Merchandising Project Manager) helps us place all our Meraki cameras. Everything is online by the Saturday before the show starts, and then we do any last-minute configuring and deploying our digital signage playlists.

The technology makes it a lot easier for our store associates in their day-to-day functions. Meraki smart buttons were set up to allow the associates to change our digital signage (for instance, changing the screens to indicate that the store was closed) without requiring backend access. Our travel stores utilize temporary store associates, so the process of restocking merchandise was similarly simplified: all they had to do was input the product’s ID, and the corresponding electronic shelf label would flash in the back of house to indicate the item’s location.  

Touring the Tech Lab

Now that the travel store and tech lab are set up, I review the tour schedule with Kaleigh (the Cisco Store and Tech Lab’s Program Manager) to make sure the flow of the tours is fluid. We had a tour scheduled for the Cisco Champions the day before the show started, so our rehearsals had to be completed in advance.

We’d set up what we like to call the Triforce of Wisdom, or our triangular tech wall, to display our technology to visitors. Fidel, Courtney (our Marketing Lead), and Anjana (our Product Marketing Specialist) had wired up the products, such as the Meraki MT40, VusionGroup’s SESimagotag electronic shelf labels, and so forth beforehand so visitors could see the technology in-person. Meraki just launched their new MV13 and MV33 smart cameras a few days ago, and tour attendees had the opportunity to gain a sneak peek into those products during the show.  

The Triforce of Wisdom Tech Wall

And that’s it! Our set-up process has been streamlined in a way that allows our small team to have things up and running in a matter of a few days.

To learn more about the Cisco Store Tech Lab, come visit us in San Jose, California, or catch us at Cisco Live US in June. If you were able to stop by the store at Cisco Live EMEA, thanks for saying hello! Hope to see you next year.  

Retail Tech Deep-Dive: Webex Connect

Webex Connect Chatbot

Join us as we dive deeper into Cisco and Cisco Partner technology deployed at the Cisco Store! We asked Jeremy Martin (Sales Leader, Americas, Webex CPaaS Solutions) to discuss Webex Connect and how it is used in the Cisco Store and the larger retail industry. 

Jeremy leads sales in North and South America for the Webex cloud communications platform (CPaaS) solution. He has more than two decades of experience helping clients and partners create and grow innovative omni-channel digital engagement between brands and consumers. With several leadership roles over the years, Jeremy has deep mobile industry expertise that’s been leveraged across many vertical markets including retail, healthcare, pharmacy, telecom, hospitality, utilities and transportation. 

How does Webex Connect improve a shopper’s in-store and/or virtual shopping experience? What problem is it solving?  

Webex Connect is an enterprise-grade Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) for orchestrating and automating end-to-end customer journeys in a single, cloud-based solution. 

Our CPaaS solution revolutionizes customer experiences by streamlining processes such as order status notifications, refunds, and returns inquiries. Customers are empowered to self-serve, effortlessly modifying orders or updating delivery information through the seamless integration of AI-driven chatbots.  

With Apple and Google owning the lion’s share of mobile operating systems (including the default messaging apps as well as maps applications that power local search), consumers are increasingly seeking and initiating conversations with brands through non-traditional channels (Apple Messages for Business, Google Business Messages). Webex Connect provides rich, integrated customer engagement, helping to drive navigation to stores, answer questions on hours and inventory, and reach retail associates to answer more complicated questions.  

Plus, Webex Connect integrates into existing backend systems, allowing retailers to harness valuable customer data for creating personalized shopping experiences across various channels.

Retailers these days are competing on customer experience (CX), so the ability to deliver distinctive experiences is essential. And with the automation Webex Connect enables, employees’ time is freed up to focus on more important tasks. 

What would you like people to know about Webex Connect when they see it in action at the Cisco Store Tech Lab?  

Webex Connect plays a pivotal role in enhancing operational efficiency for the Cisco Store. Leveraging this platform, the team has successfully programmed contextual prompts and implemented a responsive chatbot to address simple customer queries round-the-clock. As an enterprise-grade CPaaS solution, Webex Connect is accessible to everyone: developers and businesses alike can create end-to-end customer journeys within the platform. Its user-friendly features, such as low-code tools and drag-and-drop flow builders, foster a collaborative environment across the entire business.  

How do you envision Webex Connect being used in retail environments in the future?

We anticipate businesses leveraging CPaaS not only to adopt the latest communication channels, but also to craft synchronized customer journeys at every touchpoint. Think: experiences where every interaction works together to build a cohesive, multi-channel journey.

AI is also here to stay. As organizations invest in data, machine learning, and AI capabilities, they gain the tools to understand customers at a granular level; Webex Connect provides out-of-the-box AI capabilities as well as seamless integration with retailers’ existing AI platforms and investments. And with CPaaS, AI stands to make automated, self-serve interactions better, faster, and more cost-effective.  

What do you think will be a priority for shoppers in the next 5 years?

Convenience is expected to remain a top priority for customers in the future. A seamless fusion of online and offline shopping experiences, like buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS), is also likely to be a focal point. Customers will begin to expect proactive outreach rather than initiating reactive support – they want brands to anticipate their needs before they even know of them themselves. 

Likewise, what do you think will be a priority for retailers in the next 5 years? 

Currently, 75% of connected customers prefer to interact with retail brands using digital messaging channels – and that’s only expected to increase. So, to be consistent with consumer preferences, brands will continue to prioritize digital-first, personalized communications, which will become more integrated and more sophisticated by improving how customer data and touchpoints are leveraged. We anticipate they’ll also have a major focus on automation to boost efficiency and reduce costs. 
Interested in learning more about Webex Connect? Visit our retail solutions page or get in touch with one of our experts.  

Cisco Store Xplorer: An AR Experience

Cisco Store Xplorer

Augmented reality (AR) has the potential to unlock a new level of interaction with the world around us. The Cisco Store has harnessed this technology by creating the Cisco Store Xplorer AR app.

When the app is first opened, it detects whichever store is nearby: the SJC store, the RTP store, or the relevant travel store. The experience has the capability to be customized as well: upon entering the store, visitors can click a Welcome button to be shown a personalized message on the entry signage, powered by Wipro VisionEDGE.  

As visitors explore the store, they can point their phones at hotspots located throughout the store to learn more about Cisco’s retail solutions and partner technology (for instance, a Meraki camera on the ceiling). They are given the option to read the product specifications or see what the camera dashboard is capturing in real-time.   

Cisco Store Xplorer hotspots

The Cisco Store Xplorer can increase the operational and data-collecting efficiency of the store. The app is integrated with Meraki API to allow staff to see data from Meraki sensors without needing to access a dashboard; for instance, it gives quick visibility into air quality metrics picked up by the MT15. Furthermore, the app is integrated with VusionGroup’s electronic shelf labels: a staff member only needs to enter a product’s ID into the app and the corresponding shelf label will blink, allowing staff members to easily locate the item. Applying this technology to retail environments will allow for a much smoother shopping experience. 

The possibilities for improved efficiency are limitless with the Cisco Store Xplorer app. Moving forward, visitors can even see and interact with the technology hotspots using the upcoming Apple Vision Pro.

The Cisco Store Xplorer is now available on both the App Store and Google Play. Come visit the Cisco Store Tech Lab to see it in action!

Improving Audience Understanding and Store Operations with EVERYANGLE and Meraki

EVERYANGLE and Meraki at the Cisco Store

Understanding how to best serve customers is a primary focus for retailers. However, gaining this understanding can be complex. Retailers need to know what their customers are buying, when they’re buying it, and their feelings while shopping. Stationing staff members in the store to gauge customer reactions is not an efficient solution. This is where Meraki and EVERYANGLE come into play, enhancing the customer-focused daily operations of the Cisco Store.  

The MV12 and MV63 are directional cameras. The indoor MV12 offers a choice of a wide or narrow Field of View (FoV) and provides intelligent object and motion detection, analytics, and easy operation via the Meraki dashboard. The outdoor MV63 monitors the entrances and exits of the store.  

Meanwhile, the MV32 and MV93 are 360° fish-eye cameras. The indoor MV32 combines an immersive de-warped FoV with intelligent object detection and streamlined operation via the Meraki dashboard, in addition to addressing major security vulnerabilities. The outdoor MV93 offers panoramic wide area coverage, enhancing surveillance capabilities even in low light.  

The data from these Meraki cameras is utilized by EVERYANGLE in the Cisco Store in various ways.  

Footfall Intelligence and Customer Demographics  

A challenge for physical stores is obtaining metrics comparable to online stores, making it difficult to tailor the retail experience effectively. EVERYANGLE’s technology levels the playing field for physical retailers.

EVERYANGLE uses data from the directional cameras MV12 and MV63 to help the Cisco Store better understand its visitors. The Next Generation Footfall App breaks down customer genders and ages, monitors their satisfaction levels post-visit, and tracks the time spent in various store sections. For example, data from a Cisco Live event revealed a 50:50 male to female customer ratio, contrary to the expected 60:40, leading to adjustments in the Store’s product range.  

EVERYANGLE determines purchase conversion rates at physical locations by analyzing integrated sales data and foot traffic. Their machine learning and AI algorithms provide 95% accurate customer insights. Staff members are automatically excluded from these insights, ensuring data accuracy.

EVERYANGLE’s True Customer Identification accurately distinguishes genuine shoppers from non-customers. This empowers retailers with precise customer data, crucial for targeted strategies and store optimization, ensuring decisions reflect real customer activity.  

Entrances excluding staff

The Cisco Store can thus easily gauge customer demographics, engagement, and group dynamics without a heavy in-store staff presence, adjusting displays and marketing tactics accordingly. Fortunately, we have seen an increase in positive sentiment from when customers enter the Cisco Store to when they exit!  

Footfall Intelligence

Customer Demographic Breakdown

Queue Counting and Dwell Times

This data is used to maintain smooth store operations and continuously improve performance. The fish-eye cameras MV32 and MV93 are used to monitor the checkout lines: a threshold on the queue count allows for staff adjustment at checkouts as needed. If people spend a comparatively longer time at certain stations, we can begin to understand if that longer dwell time means more sales of those specific products.

In-Store Security

Meraki’s people detection capabilities, integrated with EVERYANGLE, help the Cisco Store maintain top-notch security. Cameras, integrated with the point of sale (POS) system, anonymously track high-value purchases and returns, aiding in fraud prevention.

Meraki and EVERYANGLE enable the Cisco Store to better understand its customers and serve them effectively, prioritizing their security and privacy. The analytics and dashboards facilitate customer service improvement, ensuring customers leave with a positive shopping experience.  

NRF 2024: An Interview with the Cisco Store Team

NRF 2024 Cisco Store

The National Retail Federation (NRF) just hosted its 2024 show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City over the MLK long weekend. Kaleigh Bisconti and Brian Domine from the Cisco Store and Cisco Store Tech Lab team share their insights into the technology they experienced and where they see the future of retail heading. 

NRF 2024NRF 2024
NRF 2024

Please introduce your roles at the Cisco Store!

Kaleigh: I’m Kaleigh Bisconti – I oversee the Cisco Store and Cisco Store Tech Lab program, which includes the travel stores, physical stores, and our online stores.  

Brian: I’m Brian Domine – I run all the technology deployments in the Cisco Store through the Cisco Store Tech Lab, both at the physical locations and at our travel stores.  

What was the most interesting technology you saw at NRF? 

Kaleigh: There was a space called the Innovation Lab that displayed up-and-coming technology solutions. The Tech Lab’s partner EVERYANGLE was there: EVERYANGLE is responsible for giving us in-store metrics, such as customer demographics, sentiment, and purchase conversion rate, that you would previously only be able to get from online stores. 
Typeface was also a cool find. You can input your company’s brand guidelines and they leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to generate content in accordance with those guidelines. They can also cater the content they generate towards specific target markets. For example, if a car manufacturer wanted to adjust their content by geographic region, Typeface could do that for them. I could see the Cisco Store implementing this kind of technology in the future: Typeface could help create content for specific platforms.  

Brian: There were multiple companies such as Proto and ARHT with spaces containing life-sized holograms of a person. You could have two-way live interactions with the holograms, which was pretty cool.  

What technology did you see at NRF that you would like to see in day-to-day shopping experiences? 

Kaleigh: From a retailer’s point of view, there were a lot of electronic shelf label (ESL) solutions that would make store operations more streamlined. They can be quickly updated with price or product changes, and you can even alter the currency according to which country you’re in.   

Brian: Lots of self-checkout kiosks with larger, more interactive screens than just a small tablet.  

What are some problems people normally face while shopping? How might the Cisco Store Tech Lab help solve those problems? 

Kaleigh: A big problem is workforce optimization. Retailers need to streamline the efficiency of sales associates on the floor in physical stores: for example, finding a way to automate the retrieval of products at the back of house. With workforce shortages, solving this problem is especially important. 

Brian: The Cisco Store utilizes Webex Connect to quickly answer customers’ questions and forward them to live agents if they need further assistance. Meraki cameras placed throughout the store help track customer demographics and sentiment and detect any theft or fraudulent purchases. These are just a couple of examples of how we try to solve the problems Kaleigh mentioned.  

What is a priority to you when you are in a retail environment? 

Kaleigh: Having a seamless experience is one of the most important aspects in a retail environment. If a product is available in a physical store, it should be available online (and vice versa). At the very least, a customer should be able to quickly locate items in a physical store or get rapid assistance finding those items and/or shipping them home or to the store itself. There should be a self-checkout option that moves quickly too.  
One of the biggest plus points of a physical location is that a customer should be able to have a fresh experience there compared to the online offerings. This means having a more engaging store experience through interesting attractions such as in-store customization options.  

Brian: On the note of better engagement in-store, Webex demonstrated their customer communication platform, Webex Connect, through a mobile order coffee bar experience called Café Cisco at NRF. Customers could scan a QR code to begin the process and then quickly place their coffee orders by interacting with Webex Connect on their native messaging client. The baristas in turn could interact with the customers and keep them updated on their orders.  

Cafe Cisco InteractionCafe Cisco Interaction
Cafe Cisco Interaction

The possibilities of Webex Connect don’t stop there. The concept behind Café Cisco can be translated into other experiences as well, including our upcoming in-store customization experience which will launch at Cisco Live Vegas later this year.  

How do you see augmented/virtual reality (AR and VR) being integrated into future retail experiences? 

Kaleigh: Meta displayed its Meta Quest products at the Innovation Lab, showcasing mixed-reality environments for multitasking at the workplace.  

Brian: There weren’t a ton of other AR experiences we saw, but spatial computing will become more of a topic of discussion once the Apple Vision Pro is released. 

Where do you see the retail industry going in the next 5 years?  

Kaleigh: I see workforce optimization being tackled in the next few years. Electronic shelf labels (ESLs) will become a lot more prevalent, especially in the US. I hope we’ll be seeing more RFID self-checkout as well; it’s much more common in Asia and only a few stores in the US have implemented it so far. I also think we’ll see more integration in product searchability between online and physical stores.  
Understanding in-store audiences on a deeper level will be even more important in the coming years to make sure that physical stores stay efficient and worth the time and staffing power required to keep them running. As we mentioned before, Meraki cameras and Everyangle do a good job of getting us those physical store analytics at the Cisco Store.  
I think the retail industry will also be trying to develop and integrate more technological solutions that gather information about their customers while still maintaining their privacy. Shopping experiences may start becoming more personalized and stores may start creating more immersive experiences in their physical locations: for example, a digital screen changing based on who the visitor is. These changes will be interesting to track over the next few years for sure.  
If you had the chance to join us this year at NRF, thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you next year. 

Webex Connect and a New Digital Experience

Webex Connect Interaction

Consumers are relying on digital channels for their retail needs now more than ever. This shift requires online experiences to be increasingly enhanced, and a strong digital experience can make a significant difference in consumer attraction and retention. 

While creating such engaging experiences is necessary for businesses of all sizes, smaller teams in particular need to find a way to get their customers’ questions answered without relying on as much manpower. The Cisco Store is one such program, and Webex Connect provides an efficient, easy-to-use solution to this problem. 

Multi-Channel Communication

Webex Connect is an enterprise-grade Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) that transforms how businesses engage with their customers. In simple terms, CPaaS is a cloud-based technology that lets companies easily add custom communication features—like messaging, video, and voice—into their apps or services by deploying application programming interfaces (APIs). Webex Connect enables enterprises to deliver secure, automated, and hyper-personalized interactions at scale. And with little to no coding required, it empowers technical and non-technical teams alike to create rich, seamless customer interactions. 

With a diverse API portfolio and multitude of integration options, businesses can connect their existing backend systems – such as their customer relationship management (CRM), order management, delivery management or even shift management – with the latest digital communication channels to create personalized, automated customer experiences. 

Webex Connect handles customer communications over multiple digital channels, including SMS, WhatsApp, Voice, Email and more. The platform allows for inbound messages and automated two-way interactions, allowing customers to feel just as attended to as they might in a physical location. Customers can manage their communication preferences and consent at all times in accordance with online regulations, giving them full control over their digital experience. On the business side, employees can easily debug any issues in real-time and view key statistics through the platform’s centralized dashboards, data visualization, and data analytics capabilities. 

Ease of Use

The Cisco Store sets up multiple travel stores every year at events such as Cisco Live Amsterdam, Cisco Live Vegas, and Cisco IMPACT. These stores feature both our merchandise and our Tech Lab equipment, and our small team hosts numerous customer tours every day. To streamline efficiency with our limited staff, we can easily program Webex Connect to have prompts and answers ready regarding our events, such as the store’s hours and location in the building. Customers simply need to message the bot on their channel of choice to receive rapid assistance.  

Live Agent Handover

The platform also allows for bot interactions to be seamlessly handed over to live agents while still retaining the conversation context. Escalation to an agent is routed to a Webex Space, where someone on the Cisco Store team can claim the task and interact directly with the customer. 

Webex Connect Interaction

Webex Connect is currently being used both online and in-person at the Cisco Store, with 77% of the bot’s sessions occurring on the web, followed by 23% of the sessions occurring on Apple Messages for Business. Moreover, throughout the first quarter of FY24, Webex Connect averaged 30.4 messages per day, with 42% of the total sessions being handled by the bot.  

 Interactions with Webex Connect during Q1 FY24 have mostly occurred online compared to in-person at the store locations. The most common conversation topics with the bot, in order of frequency, were engagement with a live agent, order tracking, store timings, and store locations. 

Looking Ahead

The Cisco Store plans to use Webex Connect in a multitude of additional ways moving forward to truly maximize customer engagement. Customers may be able to do self-checkout via the platform by simply scanning a QR code and paying from their mobile devices. To speed up their order process, customers could buy their products online and pick them up curbside with the assistance of the chatbot. Moreover, Webex Connect could eventually be integrated with order management systems: customers can receive updates on their order statuses and shipping notifications via their preferred mobile channel. 

The possibilities of Webex Connect reach far beyond a simple Q&A platform – teams will receive 24/7 support, developer resources, account management, and expert live chat whenever they need it. Webex Connect will prove to be an efficient solution for customer engagement, starting with the Cisco Store itself.  

Interesting in learning more about our enterprise-grade CPaaS solution, Webex Connect? Visit our retail solutions page or get in touch with one of our experts.