2020 was a year of challenges and opportunities. Many bricks-and-mortar stores were forced to close their doors during lockdown and pivot their business, while consumers spent more time at home, driving a rapid increase in online shopping and digital communication.

As we kick start the new year, Retailbiz reached out to several leading companies across security, work management and app software, to find out what retailers should be looking out for in 2021.

Growing concerns of cybersecurity

According to Raymond Maisano, head of Australia and New Zealand at web performance and security company, Cloudflare, there are two trends that will impact the e-commerce industry in 2021: the continued rise in online malicious activities and increase in cross-border shopping.
“In Q2 of 2020, the volume of Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, a common and often large-scale type of cyberattack, has doubled compared to Q1. There has been a plethora of reports showing a sharp increase in cyber threats targeting both consumers and organisations since the start of COVID-19, and online retail is often mentioned among the most targeted industries,” he told Retailbiz.

Cross-border e-commerce grew 21% globally and 10% in Australia and New Zealand in the first half of 2020. “As customers become increasingly diverse and global, e-commerce players have to make sure they have blanket security and performance solutions in place, that enable them to efficiently secure and service shoppers from all corners of the globe.”

Pieter Danhieux, CEO and co-founder of global secure coding company, Secure Code Warrior agreed that the retail industry has always been a high-profile target for cybercriminals.

“As retailers move to digital-first operations and manage greater volumes of customer data, they have turned into easy gold mines for attackers. With this heightened risk and the proliferation of online shopping, retailers’ IT and security departments need to ramp up efforts to place security at the forefront of all operations and ultimately make websites and applications secure from the start,” he told Retailbiz.

Joel Camissar, regional director MVISION Cloud APAC for global security software company, McAfee believes the digital landscape will become even more sophisticated, so retailers must optimise the effectiveness of their cybersecurity measures.

“From cloud-based point-of-sales systems to back-of-house servers, information silos created by different digital channels at play means retailers are operating at greater cyber risk than ever before. With malware threats on the rise, we could see in 2021 a new wave of sophisticated e-skimming attacks targeting retailers and their customers especially around times of peak online shopping,” he told Retailbiz.

Many retailers have neglected to develop a thorough cybersecurity strategy with an unsettling number of businesses taking a band-aid approach to digital issues that arise, according to Sean Girvin, managing director ANZ at multi-cloud solutions expert, Rackspace Technology.

“With the rapid pace upheld in 2020, many retailers have attempted to scale systems to meet surging customer needs. The red flag comes from retailers who continue to take a patching approach to maintaining their technology systems, typically resulting in more time and money being spent to address avoidable problems as they occur rather than taking a more proactive approach,” he told Retailbiz.

A recent F5 report revealed that 60% of Aussies prioritise convenience, while 40% prioritise security, however, regardless of consumer preferences, retailers must balance both elements to create a holistic, secure digital customer experience journey, according to Marc Brown, director, solution engineering, APCJ, for multi-cloud application security and delivery company, F5.

“To enable this balance between convenience and security, there are a few red flags retailers should be highly cautious of as we move into 2021. First, a high shopping cart abandonment on login could likely be caused by excess friction. Second, the potential threat of limited quantity goods selling out within seconds, which are then available on resale sites. This type of automated purchasing is keeping in-demand goods from loyal customers. Lastly, online customer accounts that are logged in on multiple devices, such as phones and laptops, could be the subject of fraud, as hackers infiltrate their accounts and make a high number of purchases.

Digital experiences to remain at the forefront

In 2021, retailers shouldn’t expect in-store activity to come back to pre-COVID levels, was the view from Fintan Lalor, regional manager Asia Pacific for collaborative work management platform, Wrike.

“With this in mind, the pressure is on to accelerate digital operations, and adopt work practices catered for an industry that is going to live more online,” he told Retailbiz.

“Organisations will need to combine efforts into a single digital workplace where all projects and tasks can live in order to alleviate any information silos created along the way. From communicating with teams online to working on digital POS systems, to hosting projects across different tools, high costs of operations and disrupted workflows will be an inevitable reality if retailers don’t find efficient ways to collaborate across multiple digital channels.”

In a recent AppDynamics report, 92% of retailers highlighted the digital customer experience as the priority during the pandemic.

“A seamless customer experience stems from having full visibility across technology stacks so teams are able to pinpoint any potential issues and address them before they become a problem and affect the user experience. Equipping teams with the right tools and knowledge to aid surges in application demand must be a priority,” Antoine Le Tard, regional vice president ANZ at AppDynamics said.

“If retailers choose to not embrace the digital revolution in 2021, they are choosing to hinder their businesses ability to increase sales and revenue through rapidly growing omnichannels.”

Matthew Lowe, Area Vice President ANZ for Ivanti believes while e-commerce will remain an integral part of any retailer’s offering in 2021 and beyond, it’s important that legacy IT infrastructure supporting brick and mortar trading is not neglected.

“As the impact of coronavirus continues to plateau in Australia, foot traffic in retail stores increases. Now more than ever, consumers expect an in-store experience as seamless and secure as what they’ve become accustomed to online. Retailers who are tunnel-visioned on delivering on their e-commerce strategies risk losing loyal customers if point of sale (POS) systems are poorly managed, slow, and vulnerable.”

However, Dean Vocisano, country manager Australia at leading digital platform, ShopFully warns that retailers should be wary of viewing their digital and in-store strategies as two separate entities.

“If you have this mindset, you risk losing out on the opportunity to provide customers with a holistic experience of both the digital and physical sides of your business,” he said.

“Retailers should be approaching their strategies with a cohesive and integrated lens, with the end target being centred around customer loyalty, mobile first approach and retention. With shoppers wanting to get back in-store, retailers must ensure their digital strategy includes a call to action to encourage foot traffic in-stores. Once customers are in the bricks and mortar store, it is then up to the retail assistants to take over and drive sales through an exemplary in-store experience.”

The rise of AI, ML and biometrics

Robert Schwarz, managing director ANZ for Nuance Communications said the pandemic-induced closure of brick-and-mortar stores forced rapid digital transformation across the retail industry with virtual assistants, live chats and integrated messaging becoming commonplace.

“In 2021, retailers must not become complacent and simply rely on last year’s deployments to continue to meet customer demands. Instead, they must bolster each touchpoint with technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and biometric authentication and continue to provide customers with personalised and engaging experiences.”