At Cisco Meraki, we strive to create products that solve our customers’ problems. With our MV smart camera portfolio, we have eliminated the problems of infrastructure cost and complexity that were prevalent in legacy systems. At the same time, we have simplified day-to-day physical security operations, while raising the bar for digital security. Importantly, we have done this all while keeping an eye on the future; a future we deliver on today, with integrated analytics in every camera at no additional cost.
This evolution of security cameras to smart cameras has resonated with every customer I have spoken to. We know that less than 1 percent of the video our MV smart cameras capture is actually watched. One of the questions we ask ourselves is, how do we extract value from the 99 percent that no one ever sees? And in these challenging times, it becomes even more critical that we can offer solutions that deliver valuable outcomes for our customers.
For this reason, I am pleased to announce the acceleration of this evolution through Cisco’s acquisition of Modcam, a privately held, video analytics company headquartered in Malm?, Sweden. In acquiring Modcam, Cisco is investing in a team of highly talented engineers who bring a wealth of expertise in machine learning, computer vision and cloud-managed cameras.
Modcam has developed a solution that enables cameras to become even smarter. Cisco Meraki MV smart camera capabilities include motion detection and machine learning-based object detection, all of which run at the edge, in-camera. Today, these analytics are constrained to a single camera’s view of the world. With Modcam’s technology, this micro-level information can be stitched together, enabling multiple cameras to provide a macro-level view of the real world.
Modcam’s technology for precision locationing and journey pathing provides insights that inform strategic planning of physical spaces. These collaborative, cross-camera analytics can allow retailers to better understand customer behaviors — from products of interest to check out wait times. Facilities managers and office space planners can better measure occupancy and room usage, while using trend data to optimize space utilization that can create safer working practices.
The analytic functionalities of the Cisco Meraki MV smart camera portfolio allow for the protection of individual privacy, while still providing intelligent insights. These features will be maintained with the integration of the Modcam technology, allowing users to continuously monitor an individual’s path without obtaining or disclosing personal information.
We are thrilled to welcome the Modcam team to Cisco Meraki and we look forward to sharing more details on the technology integration in the future.
For many retailers, providing free guest Wi-Fi is no longer a perk; it’s a basic cost of doing business. Customers expect to be able to log on to free in-store Wi-Fi to surf on their smartphones and make video calls to their friends while they’re shopping. By now, most retailers have acquiesced to customer demand and installed high-speed wireless networks in their stores.
Although most retailers provide free Wi-Fi to their guests, many stores may not be leveraging this infrastructure to its fullest potential. Retailers should be taking advantage of the wireless infrastructure they’ve already invested in to learn more about their customers, modernize their stores, and provide first-class customer experiences.
1. Learn more about customers through location analytics
Today, nearly all shoppers are carrying smartphones while they roam around stores. In fact, a 2017 Deliotte report noted that 93% of U.S. smartphone owners use their phone while out shopping. This technology gives customers an unprecedented ability to look up anything and communicate with anyone. It can also help retailers with advanced wireless setups track how customers navigate within a store, and use this knowledge to merchandise as needed.
When a phone’s Wi-Fi radio is turned on, it sends out probes to wireless access points. This occurs whether the phone is actually connected to a Wi-Fi network or not, since smartphones are constantly hunting for new Wi-Fi networks to populate the list of available networks nearby. Using these probes as data points, wireless systems can triangulate shoppers’ locations within a few meters. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons — popularized as iBeacons by Apple — can take this even further and track shoppers to within inches of their locations. For instance, a home improvement retailer could know whether a customer is looking at sinks or at toilets based on their location.
Advanced systems, like Cisco Meraki Location Analytics, can present this precise location data in a number of ways benefitting retailers. For example, retailers can use location heat maps to see where their customers are walking within the store and appropriately arrange displays or staff certain areas based on actual customer engagement. Learn more about the possibilities of Location Analytics by reading this blog post.
2. Support more modern infrastructure
An upgraded wireless experience can serve as the catalyst for greater infrastructure updates that reduce cost and improve the customer experience. Two areas of technology that have seen rapid evolution in the last decade, and that matter a great deal in the retail space, are security cameras and mPOS (mobile point-of-sale). Incidentally, both IP cameras and mPOS rely on robust wireless deployments in the store.
Security cameras have gone from recording limited, grainy footage onto analog video management systems to recording high-definition video that can be streamed online from anywhere. As a result of these rapid technological advancements, retailers are increasingly adopting the newest camera models, which come fully equipped with wireless connectivity, to monitor in-store activity. These cameras, often deployed in places where Ethernet cords can’t easily reach, require a wireless network connection to send captured video to the server.
Similarly, most mPOS devices today don’t use Ethernet for connectivity, necessitating the use of a fast wireless network to process and complete transactions quickly. mPOS has burgeoned recently in large part thanks to the explosion of smartphones: companies like Square have modernized — and for some retailers, eradicated the need for — traditional cash registers.
Retailers with up-to-date, fully secure wireless networks are ready to support these technologies to the fullest extent.
3. Enable exceptional omnichannel experiences
As Amazon has shaken up the retail world over the last decade, omnichannel shopping experiences — experiences that are consistent whether a shopper is buying in-store or online — have become part of the retail zeitgeist. Delivering a comprehensive omnichannel experience requires retailers to collect and combine information about customers’ in-store and online shopping habits.
Retailers with robust wireless deployments are in a prime position to build a sophisticated system that helps them learn more about their customers’ shopping activities. Once a shopper logs on to a store’s Wi-Fi network, a whole host of possibilities opens up, especially if they’re already known (a repeat visitor) or their identity becomes known thanks to a splash page integration, like Facebook Login. From that point onward, customer activities that integrate with the network can be tracked and their experiences personalized.
For example, when a shopper who buys a pair of heels on a retailer’s website then wanders into that store’s dress aisle, she can be presented with an ad on her smartphone for a dress that matches the shoes. Additionally, based on the network bandwidth consumed by different mPOS terminals, stores can determine which checkout counters are the least or most popular and make staffing adjustments accordingly. Solutions that bring APIs into the mix can take this one step further by integrating activity on the network with retail loyalty programs or CRM systems. The possibilities are endless for IT administrators looking to build custom solutions that help retailers ensure consistent shopping experiences across channels.
To learn more about why Meraki is a great fit for retail, check out our retail webpage, read a customer case study, or sign up for our upcoming Meraki for Retail webinar on January 24, 2018 at 11 AM PT.
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.
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.
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.
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.