Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group

Case Study

Cisco –  “Technology is the Digital Key to Shopper’s Hearts”

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Overview
For the past three years, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) has conducted a consumer survey to examine shopper preferences, how they learn about products, how consumers use technology to shop and what influences their shopping and purchasing decisions. In 2013, Cisco’s global survey found that a tipping point has been reached: in-store digital content is now a must have. Digital sources (such as a retailer’s websites, in-store technology and online expert reviews) are now most important for influencing buying decisions. In fact, 74 percent of all shoppers make purchasing decisions based on digital sources – and 71 percent are now expecting that digital content will be available in the store. These findings have tremendous implications on the retail landscape. But when most people think of shopping, technology giant Cisco isn’t the first name that pops into most minds.

MIX Public Relations was tasked to help Cisco increase awareness and thought leadership within the retail sector by trumpeting IBSG’s groundbreaking research at the world’s largest and noisiest retail tradeshow, the National Retail Federation Show (NRF) in New York City.

Challenges
The Cisco brand is well known as a technology leader, but general awareness doesn’t always extend to the company’s important innovations within individual verticals, such as retail.

The NRF show is the retail industry’s largest and noisiest. Cisco was unveiling new research, but it was competing for mindshare and press meetings with players already known in retail and unveiling new products and services. MIX PR had to aggressively pursue meetings with reporters who were literally turning off their phones and sending NRF-related mail to their SPAM folders.

This was the third year in a row that Cisco released research on consumer technology preferences while shopping. In addition, the previous year’s results were paired with the introduction of a revolutionary virtual dressing room technology. Without this product launch, MIX PR needed to persuade reporters that the new survey data was newsworthy and critical to retailers.

MIX PR was also charged with securing press attendance at a Cisco industry roundtable and cocktail reception with premiere retailers and Cisco customers Marks & Spencer and Best Buy in attendance. However, the logistics of the event itself held a challenge: it was scheduled for a Sunday evening on a cold winter night in New York City, before the show had even started. Complicating this even further, in the midst of outreach, Best Buy had to withdraw from the event, removing one of the third-party references so often critical to gaining meaningful coverage.

Objectives
Core objectives included:

  • Increase awareness for Cisco’s leadership in the retail vertical
  • Emphasize to influencers the value of digital content in the physical shopping world
  • Position Cisco IBSG research as eye-opening, must-have information for retailers
  • Gain media coverage from top tier business and retail publications on the IBSG’s latest retail research
  • Plant the seeds for future engagement and thought leadership opportunities for Cisco in business and retail media

Strategy / Tactics
The strategy was multi-pronged: draw reporters, analysts and luminaries to the industry roundtable event to provide them with an opportunity to hear and interpret the data from Cisco; pair the Cisco research and findings with a major retailer’s impressions and real-world experience; and secure one-on-one discussions for media with Cisco spokespeople on the show floor.

Warming up in the bullpen:
Months in advance of the campaign, MIX PR mined and analyzed the preliminary raw data of the survey results to advise on story angles, compelling metrics and timely messaging
likely to garner the most industry and media attention. Multiple storylines were created from the survey metrics in an effort to bring the most relevance to a wide variety of influencers and reporters. The drafting of the survey report was then undertaken with this guidance in mind.

The pitch(es):
In order to cut through the clutter of the NRF noise, and convince reporters to venture out of their hotel rooms on a cold New York City Sunday night, MIX PR needed a compelling pitch.

The wind-up:
MIX worked with Cisco executives and culled through the data to create a pitch that demanded reporter attention. The pitches used the previously developed metrics and storylines to illustrate the completion of a massive shift in consumer preferences and tendencies. Retailers now must provide access to digital content in the brick-and-mortar store – or risk losing out to retailers who make the digital experience a focus. MIX PR then conducting countess hours of research into digital shopping trends and uncovering the appropriate reporters for outreach.

The throw:
Using the storylines developed in the initial planning phases, MIX implemented an extensive outreach program with pitches specifically targeted for business, technology, retail and local New York City reporters. Each pitch was crafted with examples and metrics that hit home to the specific reporter’s target audience. Where appropriate, MIX also offered select reporters a pairing of IBSG retail experts with Cisco customers implementing the recommendations in the report.

Measures of Success
As a result of extensive planning, research and tenacity, MIX PR was able to break through the extreme noise of the biggest retail conference in the country to secure a record number of show meetings and event attendance from top-tier tech, business and retail publications.

The Industry Roundtable Cocktail Event:
In spite of the event logistics, chilly weather and a major customer dropping out of the event, MIX secured the attendance of more than 20 top-tier media and analysts including reporters from wires and national outlets, such as Reuters, Forbes, USA Today, The Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, along with key retail vertical journalists from Retail Technology, Retail TouchPoints, Retail Week, RIS and STORES.

Reporters commented that Cisco’s pre-NRF gathering was becoming a “must attend”
event.

The record attendance and media attendance also thrilled Cisco’s customer, international retailer, Marks & Spencer, solidifying goodwill and future opportunities for public, third-party validation of Cisco’s growing reputation for ongoing innovation in retail.

The NRF Show:
MIX also secured 20 one-on-one media interviews on the floor of the NRF show. After which, nearly all the reporters covered the research. Cisco executives were quoted in 20 original articles from Reuters, Bloomberg, Huffington Post and PC Magazine as authorities on retail trends. In addition to the immediate stories on the survey results, many reporters noted they would continue to pull from the research throughout the year.
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