Traditionally, online retailers have viewed bricks-and-mortar alternatives as their primary competition. These days, however, it tends to be other online operators.

Consumers are embracing online shopping at an ever-increasing rate. They’re comfortable with purchasing everything from groceries and alcohol to electrical goods and clothes.

Although this is good news for online retailers, and existing businesses with an online presence, it also poses a challenge. They must present customers with a reliable and compelling online shopping experience or risk losing out to a competitor that is only a click away.

The role of DevSecOps

Rising competition in online retail is causing many operators to look for ways to improve the digital experience of their customers and the security of their services. As a result, many are adopting a strategy of DevSecOps.

DevSecOps is a framework that expands the impact of traditional DevOps by adding security practices to the software development and delivery process. It allows for agile software development without compromising security.

The embracement of DevSecOps is occurring because of the increased speed of digital transformation. According to the 2023 Dynatrace CIO report[1], almost a quarter (24%) of IT leaders say their applications change every second. Almost half (47%) say changes occur every minute while 19% say it’s every hour.

The pace of change

Indeed, the pace of innovation is so fast that CIOs find it challenging to keep up while also maintaining the reliability and security of their retail channels. More than half (52%) of IT leaders across the sector confirm they are forced to make trade-offs between quality, security, and user experience to meet the need for rapid transformation.

Meanwhile, alarmingly, 41% say they are forced to sacrifice code quality, and 37% admit they sometimes sacrifice security. These trade-offs can be costly for retailers as they try to optimise budgets, protect supply chains, and maintain customer satisfaction.

Skills challenge

This increasing pressure is being exacerbated by the ongoing shortage of skilled IT professionals. The research found 83% of retail CIOs confirm it is difficult to keep pace with demand given a lack of skilled developers.

Despite this, however, only 38% think that hiring more professionals will actually help overcome the complexities they are battling. Rather, 95% of IT leaders in the retail sector say extending a DevSecOps culture to more teams and applications will be key to accelerating digital transformation and driving faster, more secure software delivery.

Roadblocks to success

While a DevSecOps strategy can deliver significant benefits, many retailers are finding it challenging to fully adopt. According to the report, only 23% of CIOs say most or all of their teams adhere to a DevSecOps culture.

Key roadblocks identified in the report include mistrust between security teams and developers (nominated by 58% of respondents), and developers perceiving security teams as a blocker to innovation (48%).

Also, respondents point to a lack of a unified platform for DevSecOps that is preventing them from having a single source of truth (27%), and siloed cultures between DevOps and security teams that are preventing collaboration among teams (25%).

Automation is the key

The research report clearly shows that retailer IT leaders must find ways to empower their teams to innovate more quickly without sacrificing software quality and security. Manual approaches are simply no longer up to the task.

As a result, many CIOs are increasing their investment in automation. This includes deploying tools that continuously test software quality and security in production, or what is known as ‘shift right’. Many are also uplifting shift-right security automation to continually detect and block vulnerabilities in production.

Encouragingly, the report found almost a third of CIOs throughout the retail sector confirm they have closely aligned their business, security, and operations teams to ensure they are all working toward the same goals.

Increasing numbers are also assisting their development teams to achieve contextual analysis to quickly determine issues and then prioritise remediation and resolution. They are achieving this by deploying single, AI-powered platforms that converge observability and security.

This approach breaks down silos between teams and brings together all the data onto a single pane of glass. As a result, teams can accelerate retail innovation, and improve the experience for customers.

With competition in online retail tipped to continue to increase, organisations that make such moves will be best placed to attract and retain customers. Constant innovation will make their offerings as attractive as possible.

Rafi Katanasho is chief technology officer for APAC at Dynatrace.