Retail Shopping Through a New Lens

Published: August 2019

If you visit our corporate headquarters in San Jose, California, be sure to check out the Connected Cisco Store in Building 11. Two years in the making, the 2500-square-foot store offers merchandise ranging from apparel to backpacks, polo shirts to onesies, Bluetooth speakers to travel adapters, and even a collar for Spot.

The store also showcases our latest retail solutions. Dynamic signage. Self-checkout. Virtual reality. And now, Meraki MV Cloud Managed Smart Cameras. We use the cameras not only for security but also to understand more about how and when people move throughout the store, helping us improve the shopping experience.

Cameras ready to go in a few hours

Twelve Meraki MV cameras provide a complete view of the space. Four MV32 fisheye cameras lined up across the middle of the ceiling and over the register, covering the entire store. Eight others focus on individual zones--for example, check-out, luggage, and gadgets.

Setting up video cameras in retail stores ordinarily takes weeks while technicians install network connections, configure cameras, and install network video recorders (NVRs) and analytics servers. Once the infrastructure was set up, our Meraki cameras were ready to use within a few hours. We just mounted the cameras and plugged them in. They immediately appeared in the Meraki dashboard. We don’t need NVRs because each camera has 256GB of onboard storage, and we don’t need an analytics server because the cameras perform their own analytics. That means less infrastructure to purchase and manage. We can add new cameras whenever we need them.

Zoom in anywhere in the store

Store managers open a web-based dashboard to view real-time footage stored on the camera. They can zoom in and change the viewing angle--for example, to see which items customers pick up off the shelf--as if we had pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras. But unlike PTZ cameras, our Meraki cameras are always recording the entire scene and don’t have moving parts that break. Later, we might archive video in the Meraki cloud.

Insights to keep improving the customer experience

The cameras can also analyze video to look for specific types of events. We’re starting with people detection and people counting in individual zones and for the entire store. Long checkout lines on Friday afternoons? We adjust staffing. More visitors and longer dwell time in the baggage area than the gadget island? We might experiment with dynamic signage or merchandise location to see if dwell time increases--and if longer dwell times translate to sales.

For more insights, we’re planning to use the Meraki camera APIs to share people-detection data with other systems. For example, to deter fraudulent returns we could integrate cameras with our POS system to take snapshots of purchasers who buy or return items over a certain dollar amount. (To respect privacy, we’ll only capture photos of people who opt in through our Cisco Store app.)

Protecting security and privacy

Our company has a strong commitment to privacy, so the security safeguards built into Meraki cameras are important to us. If we start archiving data in the cloud, for instance, people can’t intercept the video because the cloud checks the camera’s digital certificate. And, all management data is always encrypted.

What’s next

We’re also planning to deploy Meraki MV cameras in a new Cisco Store coming to our Research Triangle Park campus. We’re already using a similar setup in pop-up stores for events like Cisco Live as well as other events around the world. Knowing more about what guests do in our stores--without having to buy and maintain analytics servers--helps us create a more enjoyable shopping experience and understand what merchandise customers want.

For more information

Read Beyond Video Surveillance: Cameras as Sensors

Take a video tour of the Connected Cisco Store

To read more Cisco IT case studies on a variety of business solutions, visit Cisco on Cisco: Inside Cisco IT