Current retail trends, specifically the steady increase in online revenue at the expense of brick-and-mortar revenue, might lead some of us to believe it’s an “online only” future. However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “The reports of the death of brick-and-mortar stores are greatly exaggerated.”
In the RIS News 26th Annual Retail Technology Study, Scott Galloway, founder and CEO of L2, took a different stance. “Single-channel retail is dead, either online or brick-and-mortar. Only multi-channel retailers will survive.” To be absent from a channel is to be invisible to customers who prefer that channel.
Far from being a dire picture of the future, this is actually good news for brick-and-mortar retailers, who have already done the heavy lifting of creating a chain of retail outlets and overcoming the logistics to make them profitable. They have only to continue doing what made them successful in the first place: “sense and support shifts in consumer shopping preferences and exploit their own organizational strengths” to move into other channels.
The twenty-first century shopper is looking for a consistent customer experience across channels as they research, browse, buy, and make returns. The retailer that enables an integrated, personalized experience will not only survive, but thrive.
To that end, retailers are investing in technology, with a special focus on data security and omnichannel commerce, to address the growing preference for flexibility in shopping, such as to buy products online and select shipping or in-store pickup. Retailers surveyed in the study cited multi-channel strategies that include personalized marketing, security, social media, and alternate payment technologies. They view their top challenges as security, digital commerce, and application integration.
Omnichannel retail, security and the customer
You may notice a common theme emerging: security. It is top-of-mind not only for retailers, but also for consumers, because stories of breaches are frequently at the top of the news cycle. To meet the expectations of the consumer, the retailer must, therefore, deploy a highly secure but also agile network across all locations, however large or small they may be. That network must have the agility to quickly enable a growing list of applications that accelerate the omnichannel experience including unified order management, mobile point-of-sale (mPoS) systems, a loyalty program, mobile apps, guest Wi-Fi, proximity based marketing, and inevitably, an increasing variety of IP-enabled devices and sensors that comprise the Internet of Things (IoT).
All these apps and devices obviously move us closer towards the nirvana of guided selling where the retailer enables both efficiency and strong relevance for the customer. However, every app or device on the corporate network also contributes to an ever-expanding attack surface. So it’s no surprise that a retailer building an omnichannel, frictionless shopping experience must make security a network imperative. However, concerns about infrastructure and security must be addressed within the context of profitability and growth. Most retailers operate in markets with tight profit margins that constrain the ability to invest in expensive, multi-box solutions and the associated IT/security staff required to manage a private network with the defenses required to support a multi-channel strategy.
In this case, a vendor that offers a secure cloud managed software-defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) solution can simultaneously provide strong brand protection that goes beyond checklist PCI compliance and rapid-time-to-market for secure application deployment. Moreover, the software-defined nature of the SD-WAN solution allows it to operate as a virtual layer on top of existing networks, preserving network investments, while building the agile network layer that provides a bridge to new applications.
Enabling the Agile, Omnichannel Store with Cybera Cloud Managed SD-WAN White Paper
Download the white paper “Enabling the Agile, Omnichannel Store with Cybera Cloud Managed SD-WAN” to read more about how it may seem that online retailers like Amazon have the upper hand, but the numbers tell another story.