Over the past decade no other industry has been disrupted by technology quite as much as retail; so much so, consumers now consider retailers without up-to-date technology to be untrustworthy. Likewise, once a retailer experiences an IT failure, its reputation can be damaged to the point of no return.
Obsolete systems can slow down a retailer’s ability to scale and grow while making it difficult to meet consumer demands. Therefore, over time retailers have introduced new technology to maintain a competitive edge and provide a better customer experience. For example, the introduction of cloud services has enabled better interaction with consumers, allowing retailers to offer a smooth service by harnessing the latest mobile, payment and logistics technology.
Retailers have even begun experimenting with the Internet of Things (IoT) to offer new services and enter new markets. IoT has the ability to revolutionise the way consumers shop; imagine entering a store and the shopping assistant pre-empting the product you’re looking for based on your previous purchases and knowing if it’s in stock from a portable device instore. For example, you could enter a book shop and the assistant will know the genres you’re interested in or point you in the right direction to the sequel to your current book. These forces are driving change within the industry and businesses must prioritise technology to ensure they do not fall behind.
Today’s consumers are constantly connected, even when on the move people will be searching for Wi-Fi and expect free access when in retail environments. For retailers offering a guest network, it enables them to access valuable consumer data which offers insight into purchasing habits and preferences. Used in the correct way, it can be extremely beneficial and can be seen as a revenue stream in itself rather than an additional cost. However, a guest network can also mean little control over who uses it and for what purpose, which could lead to security breaches. Therefore, businesses should always be prepared in the case of an attack.
A Disaster Recovery (DR) plan isn’t just for incidents such as fires, floods or intentional acts of terrorism; it enables an organisation to futureproof its IT infrastructure against all unexpected incidents. For retailers implementing new technology, considering a DR plan to minimise the impact of the worst case scenario is essential and responding instantly to the issue could help restore faith in the business in such a scenario. For example, this year Yahoo revealed a data breach which dated back two years, affected 550 million consumers and resulted in the theft of sensitive personal information. The fact it took Yahoo two years to confront the situation only angered customers more, although Yahoo says its customers are remaining loyal. If they were transparent and quick to respond to the hack, it could have softened the backlash from both the media and customers.
The dynamic nature of IT requires continuous reviews and updates, which should be part of a business’s day-to-day routine. Any business which has access to consumers’ personal information must be prepared in case the worst case scenario occurs; they should always assume they are in a constant state of compromise and plan accordingly. A DR plan is about pre-empting a situation, ensuring the business is prepared for anything and keeps running as usual in the event of a disaster. A business should therefore think of a DR plan as insurance and question what risks it considers worthy of insuring. Without the right plan in place for your business, it can not only result in downtime but also loss of consumer trust, budget expenses and further data loss. Therefore, retailers that don’t act now may not last to see next Christmas.