Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Customer experience in the store of the future

November 24, 2014

The below post is by Amy Lai, founder of Wittos, who Cisco supports to help transform public WiFi hotspots into profit centres by delivering an enhanced mobile web experience through mobile analytics and predictive content over WiFi in real time.

I drink coffee at home but it doesn’t compare to the one that a good barista makes in a coffee shop. Sure it’ll be cheaper to make coffee at home and I’m probably not winning time in the queue, so where’s the value coming from to buy a coffee in a coffee shop? Well, for me it’s the mix of coffee in the air, freshly ground beans and the skill of latte art. This combination of sensory experience, product and service makes me, and many others, regular customers who keep the coffee shop culture alive and strong.

It’s no different in any other brick and mortar retail setting today. We choose, as customers, to walk in through the door of a store for that same combination of inspiration, experiencing products and feeling like we’re being well served, whether you’re known by name or not. What’s different today is that we’re increasingly connected and ready to self-service in the moment. Our natural reflex to seek out assistance, advice and availability can now be satisfied by reaching for your personal screen that directly connects you to a world of answers and options.


Today, customers increasingly want to know things like authentic reviews by others or what their peers think, the provenance of a product, if something is suitable for a certain health condition or if something represents the latest fashion trend. Online makes it possible to research beyond the retailer’s own physical and digital resources in an instant and often times we believe that our knowledge is better than the sales associate’s. One of the big questions on a retailer’s mind is how to make in-store service and experience relevant for the connected customer.

We all respond well great sales service on any visit where there’s a human touch. I love the sales staff at my coffee shop around the corner from work. When I’m on the run they just ask “how’s your day?” or when I’m looking around for something more they’ll suggest “would you like something sweet with that?”. It’s the subtle cues that a great sales staff observes to deliver the kind of service that makes me return, the kind of experience that turns a coffee on the run into the place I think of to dwell and eat.


No two visits to a store that are the same, sometimes we want to discover and at other times we more or less know what we want. By observing and analysing the connected customer’s query and context in a more human way retailers can deliver uniquely curated experiences. The store’s WiFi is a base infrastructure that will play a big role in enable such a reality. Not only does it provide customer access to the internet but also a secure connection to the retailer’s and other networked systems and information sources. It’s the foundation for real-time intelligent applications that will allow the customer to self-service and connect with – as desired or inspired – the store on a whole new level.

Turning big data streams into knowledge about what the connected customer really wants will empower retailers to be able to serve more relevant content and services at just the right moment. The retail store of the future will blends the best offline experiences with online, while in the store.

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