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Data Security And Omnichannel Experiences Are Top Of Mind For Retail CIOs

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 2/24/2015

New Forrester research shows that retail CIOs are concerned about preventing data breaches and providing a unified customer experience, despite lack of budget growth.

The priorities of large retail brands often lay the groundwork for effective goal setting for small retailers--and this year, the CIOs of some of the nation's largest retail companies are focused in improving data security and creating seamless, omnichannel opportunities for their customers.

Retail CIO Cybersecurity Concerns

Improving Retail Data Security

Unfortunately, high-profile data breaches have become a common occurrence in the retail sector, forcing executives to take preventative measures to strengthen their defenses against data theft.

According to the 2015 National Retail Federation/Forrester Research Inc. "Retail CIO Agenda 2015: Secure and Innovate" report, 97 percent of surveyed retail CIOs place more effective data security management at the top of their list of priorities this year, even though two-thirds of CIOs report that their budgets will either remain flat or only increase slightly.

With Forrester forecasting that 60 percent of enterprises will experience a breach of sensitive data in 2015, 78 percent of CIOs included strong corporate-level governance in their top five list of priorities, up from 24 percent in 2014.

This signals increased efforts by multi-site retailers to implement coherent and comprehensive security policies designed to protect their entire operations from security threats. For small, multi-location retailers, the takeaway is that on-site security measures aren't enough. To mitigate risk, data security needs to be managed at the corporate level.

Increased Scrutiny on Backoffice Retail Messaging Security

Confirming Forrester's findings, the heightened focus on retail company security is also playing out in areas beyond retailers' transactional websites. A new secure messaging platform from NetSfere is rapidly gaining traction with retailers and supply chain companies.

Products like NetSfere address a cybersecurity breach scenario in which proprietary retailer data and systems are compromised because hackers were able to infiltrate and monitor instant messages and chat sessions, many of which are conducted on consumer-focused platforms that are not secure.

"Since its initial unveiling at CTIA last September, NetSfere has been trialed and used by customers on a global basis, and it has consistently received outstanding endorsements," said Anurag Lal, CEO of Infinite Convergence, the mobility solutions service provider that created NetSfere and now supports more than 130 million messaging subscribers globally.

Omnichannel Retail Experiences

Forrester's research also showed that retail CIOs identified delivering a seamless customer experience across all touch points as their second highest priority, behind improved data security. Seventy-six percent of CIOs said they want to do a better job integrating channels (e-commerce, mobile, social, catalog and stores), up from 61 percent in 2014.

Retail CIOs indicated the need to modernize marketing systems to effectively manage assortment, pricing and inventory. "Today's retailers must manage an extended range of merchandise to woo customers who are spoiled by vast choices from online specialist retailers," said Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst George Lawrie. "They also must manage more vendors and merchandise across multiple channels, and support frequent price changes to compete with the automated pricing of Internet specialists."

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