Enterprise Connect keynote: Cisco retail collaboration experience

During his keynote at Enterprise Connect, Cisco's Rob Lloyd demoed an enhanced shopping experience through collaboration technology.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Whether or not you love shopping, Cisco wants to make the experience not only easier, but more enjoyable, too.

During Cisco's keynote this morning at Enterprise Connect 2013, Robert Lloyd, president of development and sales, showcased a cloud-based Cisco retail collaboration technology offering that can transform even the most common experiences -- like shopping at a retail store. The technology can not only remove the typical headaches associated with shopping -- like not being able to find a sales associate or a parking spot -- it can also boost business and sales opportunities for Cisco's customers in the services and retail industries, he said.

The cloud-based Cisco retail collaboration offering can harness the information that retail customers generate constantly, without even knowing it, via its combined Telepresence and WebEx capabilities.

During an on-stage demo, Lloyd posed as a customer searching through a home improvement store's website for a refrigerator. The store's website -- with Cisco's collaboration offering built in -- was able to track and save Lloyd's search and direct him to a local brick-and-mortar store. While this capability is common for most retailers, the ability to reserve a parking spot is not -- and this feature alone could bring more customers into a store.

Upon "arrival" at the physical store, Lloyd's mobile device connected to a wireless access point within a parking kiosk, and it directed him to his reserved space in real time. Inside the store, Lloyd's mobile device joined the indoor Wi-Fi network, found his online product browsing history and directed him to the appliance section of the store where his refrigerator was.

Here is where the real business opportunities lie. The Cisco retail system can then navigate a customer along the quickest path through the store to his selected product, or modify the route to lead the customer past other products that might interest him (or dangle sales items under his nose via the Wi-Fi network based on their previous searches). Should the customer linger in a certain section, the location-based services on the Wi-Fi network can push out a coupon or sales notice to the customer.

After (maybe) resisting temptation, the customer will arrive at their desired product. If he needs assistance, his mobile phone can be used to request a sales associate, who can be deployed with a click of a button on the store's collaboration system. But the sale isn't complete yet. If a customer needs further assistance that the sales associate can offer, video-enabled kiosks in the store can direct the customer to a remotely located expert in a call center.

And service doesn't just have to stop after the customer leaves with their purchase. Having trouble with the fridge? Hop on the store website and click to launch a voice or video call via WebRTC with the call center. The real opportunity for collaboration tools comes from connecting the right people, processes and data, Lloyd said.

The cloud isn't perfect, but neither are hardware or software unified communications and collaboration tools by themselves. Cisco's first video demo failed during the keynote thanks to network problems.

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