The modern, connected customer is hungry for information and the ability to buy products 24/7. Technology has given the customer freedom of choice, which has changed their expectations. They want immediate responses to their questions and queries in-store, online or via social media. They don't just shop on the high street, they have an integrated and seamless shopping experience across online, mobile and bricks and mortar stores. Enter the omni-channel retailer.
A study by ACI worldwide found that omni-channel retail sales are forecast to reach £660 billion in Europe by 2018, or 44 percent of total European sales. That's a truly staggering amount. As more consumers engage with retailers through multiple channels, retailers have really come to rely on IT security experts to overcome a myriad of challenges, which have been crucial to improving the omni-channel retail experience.
The identity verification challenge
While payments may be the first challenge that springs to mind, identity verification across multiple platforms and channels has been equally significant. In fact it has been the key issue to overcome to facilitate to a truly positive customer experience. When it comes to processing payments, customers are happy to go through a few stages of verification because it gives them peace of mind that their money remains safe. The same cannot be said for accessing their shopping baskets or shopping profiles.
For retailers, if the customer can easily access information across various devices without the need to register or continuously sign in, it will lead to more sales. The more cumbersome the sign up and sign on processes, the more users will give up.
A single authentication or Identity Federation helps alleviate dissatisfied users, who are tired of having to remember more and more login/password pairs to connect to their daily applications. Many retailers use social networks as an Identity Federation mechanism. The principle is that once a consumer is authenticated to a social network, they can directly access a store's sites and contents, without having to create new user accounts for different platforms. Thus, the "acquisition" process is smoother and the risk of losing the consumers who are reluctant to proceed with another online registration is significantly limited.
Using social media networks is more than just an elegant solution for an identity management challenge. It also helps retailers customise their content and offerings for the customer, making it easier to upsell and vastly improving the customer's experience.
It's not just online customers!
The digital retail transformation does not only concern online consumers, it is also changing the way staff perform their tasks in-store. In the age of ‘showrooming' and click and connect shopping, retailers must understand that their in-store sales assistants face a mobility challenge. This is a strategic business challenge, which if overcome, optimises personnel efficiency and customer experience.
Innovative retailers are using democratised tablets for sales assistants, allowing them to better help customers all along their shopping trip. These sales assistants retrieve a tablet configured in "kiosk mode" at strategic locations in the store and then unlock it by presenting their badge to a secured terminal. Sales assistants can then automatically access their personal work session and all their business applications safely, without having to enter their password. Apple, Argos, M&S, TopShop and Tesco are great examples of high street retailers who have embraced mobility for sales assistants to greatly improve the customer experience.
In short, the Information System Department must remain at the heart of the corporate digital transformation, in order to support the company securely and as best as possible. The most successful companies are those that have a perfect grasp of more and more hybrid consumer practices and truly understand the impact IT security has on their business. This is only going to become more important for retailers as hyper connected consumers demand an omni-channel retail experience.
Contributed by Thierry Bettini, sales director of identity and access management firm Ilex International.