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How to keep omnichannel retail networks secure

The days of a simple shopping experience are numbered as retailers turn to technology.

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With the onslaught of online retailers offering heightened convenience and lifelike shopping experiences, bricks and mortar stores are looking to IoT and connected technologies to better engage shoppers at every touchpoint. From targeting them before they make a decision to enter the store to long after they have made their purchase, retailers are increasingly leveraging IoT devices to help streamline and optimise day-to-day processes, as well as to offer personalised digital shopper experiences.

Futuristic retail or retail magic?

This year, the global retail sector technology spend is expected to grow by 3.6 per cent to US$203 billion as retailers invest in digital transformations to meet customer expectations and gain a competitive edge[1]. In fact, Australian retailers are forecasted to spend AU$4.9 billion on technology products and services alone.

Smart technologies like magic mirrors, mobile points of sale (POS) devices and electronic shelf labels are creating new, interactive experiences that keep shoppers engaged with products, encouraging them to stay in-store for longer, maximising customer spend.

With the desire to be competitive, retailers are also leveraging customer data from loyalty programs, previous purchases and online activity to build a profile on their preferences to deliver a memorable shopping experience. By building an engaging and personalised experience, retailers can boost in-store conversions and drive customer loyalty.

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Taking security off the backburner

While these smart technologies promise to engage shoppers like never before, capturing eyeballs and ultimately consumer dollars, they also have the potential to undermine the integrity of the store if not managed correctly. Retailers carry valuable information and critical systems, such as customer data, POS, sales and warehousing tools. Business networks are also increasingly becoming more complex due to the rapid adoption of IoT devices – cybersecurity must be top of mind for retailers that aren’t just looking to get ahead, but also stay there.

Retailers looking to make a quick fix can make the mistake of deploying products without a full understanding of the security and compliance implications. Unsecured IoT devices like smart retail labels and smart shelves can become a gateway for hackers to access retail ecosystems. As new types of devices flood onto networks, IT and security teams are struggling to keep up with high levels of customer traffic and device density. They often lack visibility on who and what is on the network, posing potential security threats to retailers.

So how can retailers get the best of both worlds?

Achieving network and device clarity

An efficient and effective way for retailers to monitor their networks and the multiple devices connected to them is by leveraging tools that can continuously monitor network connections and performance. Software, such as Aruba ClearPass Device Insight, can provide full-spectrum visibility and assurance that a retail network is fully optimised and healthy.

Using device discovery and profiling tools will give retailers a complete and granular view of everything on the network, eliminating blind spots. It will also ensure you can proactively monitor the health and performance of all connected things in real time and troubleshoot issues. Having the ability to zone in on poor-performing areas of the network can help businesses allocate their resources more efficiently, like changing the position of a point-of-sale or relocating merchandise.

Behavioural attributes like network traffic and application use creates a fingerprint database that classifies similar devices together. This bank of information is then analysed by artificial intelligence to help identify unknown devices, allowing the database to constantly evolve and swiftly learn what threats look like. This flexibility gives retailers the peace of mind that their network is constantly secure regardless of the number of users and devices connected to their ecosystem.

Further, by having various device profiles, smart tools can enforce policies particular to a fingerprint group. For example, if an unauthorised tablet or printer attempts to join the network, they can be automatically blocked or assigned to a segmented part of the network until it is vetted. This segmentation ensures that potential threats are separated from the retailer’s ecosystem of devices and users.

Having a technology solution in place that also actively monitors connected device also has the benefit of tracking. With tablet devices gaining popularity at POS, they run a higher risk of being misplaced or stolen. If a device is compromised or moved outside a store’s premises, solutions like ClearPass Device Insight can detect this change and react by preventing network access.

Balancing retail priorities

While promoting the customer experience is crucial in gaining a competitive edge, it’s important this is balanced with a strong cybersecurity posture to keep important business and customer data safe. Working with a technology provider, like Aruba, retailers can deploy solutions that can help monitor, identify, segment and remediate the ever-changing threat landscape and ensure retailers can use technology to stay ahead of the retail game.

By Anthony Smith, General Manager ANZ, Aruba