Archive for August, 2017

Boosting Customer Engagement with Location Analytics

The competition between brick-and-mortar shops and ecommerce retailers has never been fiercer. And to many observers, leading ecommerce companies like Amazon seem to have the upper hand: according to PwC, online retail sales grew over 10% in 2016, compared to just 1.4% for brick-and-mortar retail. But traditional retailers have a trick up their sleeve: experiential shopping, which turns physical shopping into an engaging experience that no online retailer can come close to emulating.

One of the best ways brick-and-mortar retailers can deliver a personalized, high-impact customer experience is through location analytics technologies. Retailers now have the power to combine Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and the Wi-Fi signals emanating from shoppers’ smartphones to understand customer behavior patterns, like where they are in the store and how long they’ve been there, and shape the shopping experience around these customers’ needs.

Here are just a few ways brick-and-mortar retailers can take advantage of location analytics to boost customer engagement.

1. Grab shoppers’ attention at just the right moment.

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Blinkies

Remember those old coupon dispensers (affectionately referred to as “Blinkies”) that were in every aisle of most grocery stores in the ‘90s? Location analytics allows retailers of all types, grocery or otherwise, to grab shoppers’ attention just like these coupon dispensers once did.

Retailers that offer free guest Wi-Fi with BLE-enabled access points can push relevant display ads, notifications, and targeted coupons to customers’ smartphones at the right place and at the right time. For example, if a shopper has been lingering in the lipstick aisle of a beauty store, the retailer can push a “50% off the second lipstick” promotional coupon right to her smartphone, thereby increasing the likelihood of conversion.

It’s a win-win: the customer feels like she’s gotten something relevant and valuable, while the retailer can make more sales. Location analytics makes this all possible.

2. Optimize store layout in line with foot traffic trends.

Most retailers pay close attention to sales per square foot as a metric for how well they’re doing. Ensuring the layout of a store conforms to shoppers’ needs and expectations is key to maximizing this metric. However, for many retailers, store layout has often been more of an art than a science: what “feels right” over what actually is right. Location analytics changes the equation. Now shop owners can know precisely where shoppers are within the store and use this knowledge to put merchandise or in-store displays in the right place to maximize product exploration and purchase likelihood.

It all happens like magic: shoppers’ smartphones that have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled automatically send out probes and beacons that can communicate with access points and Bluetooth sensors. Through various mechanisms, these sensors can triangulate shoppers’ locations within the store. Over time, store owners can see a visual map of where customers are (and aren’t) going within the store.

Heatmap

A location heat map, with foot traffic and Wi-Fi access points mapped.

Interestingly, grocery stores have designed their store layouts in a very specific way to increase how long shoppers spend in-store, as well as average basket size. Location analytics lets businesses of all types do this in a data-driven manner. As an example, a home improvement store like Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) could glean information from location heat maps that customers don’t linger near the paint section for long. The store owner could then decide to locate the paint near a more heavily trafficked area — say, the hardware area — or to increase the visibility of signage pointing to the paint aisle.

3. Always put the best message out there.

The era of mass advertising has largely given way to more targeted, personalized messaging appropriate for consumers at different stages of their buying journey and with different needs. It’s imperative that retailers adapt to this new reality — that they learn more about their customers in order to specifically tailor messages for their audiences. Location analytics can help by tracking customer behavior both inside and outside the store.

In-store, location-based data can be used to track how often customers visit (and return) to stores, and for how long. Imagine how valuable it would be to know not only when people visit — information that’s available simply through observation — but also why they’re coming back (is a new promotion working?), how often they come back (are these frequent shoppers or sporadic visitors?) and how long they linger inside the store. Once customers connect to the store’s Wi-Fi network, stores can track visitors each time they come back. This information can be linked to loyalty programs to provide even deeper insight into customers’ behavior.

Even when customers aren’t in the store, companies that utilize Facebook login as an authentication tool can get a host of anonymized customer demographic information, such as age, gender, education, workplace, and more. This information can automatically be aggregated and organized to give store owners valuable insight into who their customers are.

Conclusion

Brick-and-mortar stores can and should leverage every resource possible to create personalized customer experiences. Location analytics can help physical retailers learn more about their customers, just like their online counterparts, thereby making the physical shopping experience more engaging and high-touch.

All Cisco Meraki access points come with integrated BLE radios. Combined with the location analytics capabilities built into the Meraki dashboard, retailers that deploy Meraki in-store can learn more about their customers and use this knowledge to elevate the shopping experience.

To learn more about how Meraki location analytics can help boost your customer engagement and sales, download the solution guide, Location Analytics for Retailers.

Switch Port Indicators Get an Upgrade

You may have noticed a few changes with switch port status icons in the dashboard recently. Our switch team has modified switch port state indicators to better convey the health of your network.

We’ve recategorized errors to show their severity and added packet error monitoring. Overall, there are no changes to the way you do things or workflow.

A fully operational switch port will register all green, just like you’re used to:

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A red status icon has been added to highlight major problems with your switch port, such as PoE overload and high amounts of packet errors.

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Switch ports with downshifted speed, PoE denied, authentication failures, and moderate amounts of packet errors will register as an alert (amber) icon.

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STP discarding and LACP have moved out of the alert status icon and received their own blocking status icons:

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For a full list of changes applied to the switch port state icons, please visit our documentation page: Switch Port Indicators

 

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Go Ahead, Taste the Icing.

AndroidOreo

Prior to Oreo’s release, Cisco Meraki Systems Manager teams had already tested dozens of possible variations of customer use cases with Android Oreo. This includes updates that can be utilized by customers using G Suite Education and Business–also known as Android for Work. Systems Manager is certified for all the Android EMM protocols and is ready to go with Android Oreo. See below for a few example use cases:

  • Enable Work Profile on employee-owned BYOD devices to isolate personal and work apps and data 
  • Place education, payment, or healthcare devices into single use mode or Kiosk mode (COSU) 
  • Enjoy all the necessary control with Android Device Owner mode for corporate-owned devices

Android O

Android Oreo also brings many device advantages and improvements including better battery life, picture-in-picture, and increased stability for apps. See below for a list of some of the new functionality with Android 8.0:

  • System optimizations around better app stability
  • Background limits including battery and memory optimizations
  • Picture-in-picture for multitasking on Android
  • Notification dots for streamlined access of activity and notifications
  • Autofill framework to simplify new device setup and password synchronization
  • A complementary Android Vitals dashboards containing exciting new visibility for developers 

Check out the Meraki Android deployment guide or Google’s developer blog for more.
Start an instant 30-day trial here.

 

Mea Culpa and what happens next

I believe, and unfortunately have had a few reminders over the years, that how a vendor treats their customers in a crisis says more about their long term prospects than any technological wizardry. If customers know you care, see complete transparency even when difficult, and see you doing everything possible to recover and correct, they will want to stick by you after all is said and done…. because that’s exactly what they would expect their own organization to do.

Earlier this month, we accidentally deleted customer-uploaded data for some of our North American users. This included floor-plan, splash page, and voice assets, but didn’t affect network operation or analytics. At Meraki we care deeply about this failure and the extra work and concern this created for our users. I’m proud of the work the team has done to accurately and quickly notify users, to recover all data possible, and to make this incident as much of a non-event for our user base as possible…  and now as the work to ensure this could never happen again begins, we have time to reflect on the incident response, methodology and philosophy.

What went wrong? On Thursday August 3rd, during an audit of our security and data redundancy, a policy which handles emptying a trash folder of discarded files was accidentally removed. When the mistake was identified, our team attempted to re-instate the policy. Unfortunately, this was done at the wrong hierarchical level, affecting not only the trash folder, but all customer-uploaded data for our North American servers. When the error was identified, deletion immediately ceased, but by then many thousands of files had been deleted, along with their backup copies around the world.

This failure was a painful reminder of the multi-system lesson many of us learned in school and is frequently taught with the Therac-25 case study. No single system, with a single administrative domain, should be solely responsible for the critical success of a complex system. Even though our data storage system was multi-site redundant and highly reliable, by relying solely on that system to preserve the integrity of some Meraki data, we were susceptible to a critical failure caused by a single administrative act (albeit a highly controlled action to which only five Meraki engineers had access).

I really believe what followed exemplifies what the Meraki team is capable of. With all the teams operating out of a single site, they were able to react incredibly quickly to mitigate the impact and establish how best to communicate a difficult message to our customers. Over a very long weekend and the following weeks, the Meraki engineering team worked tirelessly recovering many thousands of files and building dashboard tools to assist customers with re-uploading their own master copies of data that couldn’t be recovered. Customer success, support, sales and marketing teams worked tirelessly to communicate up-to-the-minute status to our customers.

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Everyone who stepped up to orchestrate this response is painfully aware of the inconvenience this incident caused our customers. As a team, we take it personally. Of course, no one ever expects this to happen to them, but we are all fallible. The cloud industry has experienced its share of challenges as its adoption continues to grow across all aspects of IT. The silver lining in every case is rapid learning and a strengthening of processes, which benefits the whole industry, and all customers.

From everyone at Meraki, we want to sincerely apologize for our error, and thank every impacted customer for their patience and continuing trust: it’s been humbling to experience the understanding and empathy we’ve been shown since the mistake was identified. We have grown stronger and more resilient through this experience, and with improvements in place we move forward, re-focused on simplifying technology to free passionate people to focus on their mission, and courageously pioneering the cloud managed IT revolution.

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What Happens in Vegas…Is Powered by Meraki

There’s more to Las Vegas than gambling, pool parties, and the general indulging of vices. Just ask anyone at Cisco involved in the production of Cisco Live, the semiannual flagship conference for the networking giant. Cisco Live is serious business: it’s a place where network admins and techies of all stripes come to learn about what’s new from Cisco and where Cisco makes its flashiest, highest-profile announcements.

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If there’s one thing people descending upon a networking conference expect, it’s reliable and secure connectivity. JW McIntire, Program Manager for Cisco Live’s own networking team, helped lead the effort on ensuring seamless connectivity and security for every attendee at Cisco Live Las Vegas 2017. Of course, McIntire relied heavily on Cisco’s venerable Catalyst switches and ASA FirePower security appliances, but this year, he had a new trick up his sleeve: over 150 switches, security appliances, access points, and cameras provided by Meraki.

With Meraki cloud-managed gear at the heart of Cisco’s Network Operations Center (NOC) and the Cisco Campus, McIntire and his team could set up the entire network in record time — no small feat for a group of just 50 individuals supporting 28,000 attendees.

Want to learn more about how Meraki supported the networking needs of such a demanding enterprise environment? Click here to read the complete Cisco Live! Las Vegas 2017 case study.

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Infographic: Reducing Total Cost of Ownership

Total cost of ownership (TCO) isn’t a complicated concept. Simply put, it’s the sum of the upfront cost of a product or service and the direct and indirect costs incurred during its lifetime.

tco equation

It’s likely to be how most of us consider a large purchase in our personal lives. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new car. You’ve narrowed your selection down to a few potential vehicles that meet your needs. Naturally, within the potential cars there will be a range of prices. To make a final decision, the discerning buyer might go on to compare running costs for the vehicles: how much are they likely to depreciate, how much do they cost to insure, service, refuel, etc. Intuitively, total cost of ownership has been considered.

Nevertheless, many buyers considering an IT infrastructure upgrade can fall into a pattern of using upfront cost as their key criteria. Not only does this inadvertently neglect potential products or solutions that may be much better suited, but in the long run may actually end up costing a lot more.

For most organizations there are usually multiple stakeholders involved in the IT purchasing process with the number increasing with company size. Our first touch point with customers tends to be with the IT folks. Testing out Meraki first-hand, we’re always amazed at how quickly they fall in love with the technology. Naturally the IT folks are convinced, but the next step in the buying process is typically around gaining buy-in from the various other functions in the internal buying chain. The stakeholders in this stage are frequently non-technical and have their own KPIs to satisfy. At this point we’re often asked by customers and partners alike for stats or numbers to quantify how much Meraki customers are saving in operational costs.

We set about acquiring this information and interviewed existing Meraki customers across various verticals to quantify how much time and money they’re saving compared to more traditional technologies. The results are now in:

CHECK OUT THE INFOGRAPHIC
CHECK OUT THE TCO INFOGRAPHIC HERE
Download PDF: English | FrançaisDeutsch | Español

Highlights from the infographic:

  • Gartner estimates that 80% of total IT costs occur after the initial purchase (OpEx)
  • Meraki customers stand to save in the region of 90% on OpEx
  • Savings in shopping around for the cheapest hardware are likely to pale in comparison to the potential savings in OpEx with Meraki
  • A Wireless (Verizon authorized reseller) can bring 6 stores live with Meraki technology for the cost of bringing one store live with traditional technology
  • Bar S Foods saved over $5M in production revenue with Meraki over 5 years
  • CNOS chose to deploy Meraki even though hardware costs were 15% more than traditional technology. CNOS was able to recover the difference in CapEx within 16 months over a 5-year comparison.

The moral of the story here could be likened to the age-old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The true value of Meraki technology cannot simply be judged by its upfront cost. Try out Meraki for yourself and use the TCO infographic to help quantify to non-IT stakeholders in your organization the value of Meraki.

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Meraki Engineering Open House 2017

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Written by Katie Fallon

On July 27, the Cisco Meraki Engineering Team opened their doors for the second annual Engineering Open House. The Open House gave visitors a chance to check out the Meraki office and learn more about what each team does on a daily basis.

This event provided attendees with the opportunity to hear from the engineering leadership team, followed by time to explore the office and visit the pod of any team that piqued their interest. Our engineers presented live demos about current projects, discussed technical challenges, and shared the future of Meraki’s products while also answering questions from the audience. Attendees engaged in a wide variety of discussions, from technical topics to learning about Meraki’s culture to understanding a day in the life of an engineer here.

Our summer interns were heavily involved in the execution of this event, and for this blog post, we invited a few of them to share their perspectives. The interviewees include Chris Smith, a rising senior at Carnegie Mellon University currently interning on the MX (Security Appliance) Platform Team, Rucha Vaidya, a second year Master’s student at CMU interning on the MX Routing Team, Lucas Christian, an incoming senior at Georgia Tech interning on the MC (Phone) Team, and Saurav Das, a rising senior at the University of Maryland interning on the Backend Security Team.

Let’s hear what some of them had to say about the evening!  

How were you involved in the Meraki Open House this year?

Lucas: I spent some time networking with attendees, then presented a demo at my pod as the attendees walked around and explored the office. I had an opportunity to demo the work I had done on integrating accessibility for the blind into the MC product line. While I always enjoy talking about what I’ve done, it was equally cool to meet one attendee who had worked on a similar project during his time interning at another company.

Rucha: I was involved in the Open House this year through a demonstration of BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) and its use case in the MX. It was really fun to explain what I had understood during my time here, and it truly felt like I belonged at Meraki. Just 2 months ago, I was the one asking all of the questions and at the Open House — this time, the tables were turned and I was the expert!

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What was your favorite part about the event?

Chris: When someone walked up to my desk, I had the pleasure of explaining what Meraki is and what makes our products special. I didn’t just talk about my project. Making a virtual MX is cool, but most people don’t even know what a physical MX is, let alone why customers are demanding virtual ones. With each group, my explanation started from the basics of the Meraki business. Eyes lit up as visitors experienced everything from our office to our dashboard for the first time.

Saurav: I enjoyed the networking and food before the event. There was a casual atmosphere and I had a chance to walk around and talk to a lot of people. I was surprised to meet several familiar faces, mostly people that I didn’t personally invite. I had a chance to catch up with all of them and ask how they heard about the Open House. I thought it was cool that all of Meraki was easily identifiable by the same shirt, and it felt like I was representing the team.

Why do you think it is important for companies to host these kinds of events?

Rucha: It is really important for companies to host these events because it gives a first-hand look into what it’s like to work there and the kinds of projects people are involved with. If attendees can imagine themselves working here, they will be eager to apply. Also, word-of-mouth is the most convincing advertisement for any company.

Chris: The visitors are not the only ones learning. The engineers presenting their ideas learn, too. To showcase your project to people who do not spend all day thinking about it, you need to distill the ideas into what’s essential. What problem are you solving? How is it valuable? Speaking at length about a technical topic well is an important skill.

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Open House gives guests an inside look into Meraki Engineering’s culture—is there anything you’d tell people about working at Meraki that they may not have picked up on during the open house?

Lucas: Every company’s culture is different in ways you can only really put a pulse on after working there for a few weeks. Perhaps the most significant aspect of Meraki I’ve come to appreciate is how every engineer is essentially “full stack” to some extent. Even as a primarily firmware engineer, if my project crosses over into Dashboard UI I am empowered to follow it there. Resources like the UI office hours and weekly meetups ensure I have enough knowledge to properly work on those areas of the codebase.

Saurav: Most developers at Meraki make at least a couple presentations a year. These tech talks are a great way to keep up with ongoing projects. The presenters often explain how they approach their problems and share specific techniques. I am working on a presentation for my internship project, and I am both nervous and excited to share my work over the summer.

Chris: There are usually more dogs here during the workday. :)

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Thanks for the insight Chris, Rucha, Lucas, and Saurav!

Interested in opportunities at Meraki but were unable to attend the Open House? Check out our open positions at meraki.com/jobs or be on the lookout in late August for our fall campus schedule!

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