Washed away or cruising with the current? How Aussie retailers can keep up in the ‘Amazon Age’.

by Mark Perry, APAC Chief Technology Officer at Ping Identity

A digital tsunami has flooded the Australian retail industry over the past decade, leaving uncertainty, For Lease signs and a string of high profile bankruptcies in its wake.

We’ve seen the likes of one-time household name brands like Dick Smith and David Lawrence shut up shop and a string of still-standing (for now) competitors wondering whether their days are numbered.

Digital innovation has the potential to deliver better shopping experiences that drive loyalty and growth but for many traditional retailers the revolution is throwing up more questions than answers, some of them none-too-comfortable ones.

Will bricks and mortar remain relevant long term? Could embracing digital strategies capture more online shoppers?

And how to keep up with Amazon? This is a conundrum which took on additional urgency when the American online behemoth established a local presence in December 2017.

Understanding the Amazon Effect

Australians are now spending more than $25 billion a year online, according to the NAB Online Sales Index 2018. In a nod to the platform’s seminal influence, the disruption the retail sector has experienced as a result has been dubbed ‘the Amazon Effect’.

With shoppers flocking to the net in record numbers and getting a taste for the fast and high-quality service on offer there, traditional retailers have little choice but to leverage digital innovation to their advantage.

But what is it exactly that keeps buyers logging on for more? Convenience, undoubtedly, and the ability to enjoy a one-stop shopping experience. But online outlets, led by Amazon, have more in their repertoire than vast ranges, easy ordering and lightning delivery.

Earth’s most customer-centric company, as Amazon styles itself, figured out long ago that personalisation and customisation are nuclear weapons in the battle for customer loyalty. Traditional retailers that hope to get in on the action are well advised to follow its lead.

Customer-centric AND secure

Leveraging customer information is the key to delivering a customised and personalised experience but ensuring shoppers’ data remains secure is just as critical as tailoring product and service offerings which meet their needs.

New Australian privacy laws introduced in February 2018 made this more important than ever. Changes to the Privacy Act mean businesses with turnover in excess of $3 million now need to notify their customers and the Office of the Information Commissioner within 30 days of a suspected data breach or face stiff financial penalties.

The practical challenges of leveraging digital technology

Selecting the best technology to transform a retail business successfully and safely can be a challenge. Larger enterprises commonly run multiple data bases, each with their own customer records, and it’s impossible to deliver a customised or personalised experience until these are consolidated.

Disparate directories of information may also have different security measures in place; a situation which makes them more vulnerable to malicious attack.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for this ‘identity silos’ issue. To solve the problem properly, it’s necessary to start on a firm footing.

Identity and access management (IAM) software allows you to address foundational security and privacy needs while providing the architecture to deliver personalised omni-channel user experiences.

Once supported by a customer IAM solution, you’re able to leverage technology capabilities such as single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), preference management, directory solutions, data access governance and end-to-end security.

Welcoming customers in

Welcoming customers in the ‘front door’ of your cyber-shop should be a smooth and seamless affair. Single sign-on, with the option of logging on socially via Google and Facebook, provides the convenience online customers demand. Social sign-on can also help jumpstart the personalisation process by allowing your business to leverage data stored on social platforms.

But while a simple user name and password log-in was once sufficient to prove identity, this has become a risky option, given the explosion in hacker activity which digital disruption has brought in its wake.

A purpose-built retail SSO solution should incorporate multi-factor authentication capabilities, to enable you to ensure customers are who they claim to be.

Getting to know them

One you’ve verified a customer’s identity the relationship building can get underway.

A federated SSO system can enable your customers to access multiple applications while remaining under the impression they’re interacting with a single entity. This is a big plus if you’re aiming to create the impression you’re a business that’s au fait with their needs, wants and preferences.

Unifying the customer profile is the key to making this happen smoothly. A unified profile allows all applications to access a single view of the customer. This can be challenging to achieve if data is spread across multiple ‘identity silos’. Real-time synchronisation may need to be deployed to ensure old data repositories and the new unified profile remain in sync while apps are migrating.

Directory assistance

When you’re building a unified customer profile, you require distinct capabilities. These include the facility to enforce secure password policies, protect data from insider attacks, replicate efficiently across wide area networks and utilise flexible data schemes. It’s unlikely your old directory will be up to the task and a purpose-built identity directory may be the order of the day.

Even if you don’t have a customer base of Amazonic proportions, you likely still have thousands, if not millions, of pieces of information about your customers stored in your systems. Ensuring this information is instantly accessible by both customers and applications is paramount, given the reputational damage that can result if a site crashes due to unexpected demand.

Investing in a purpose-built identity directory will also help you uphold the high standards customers – and the State – expect when it comes to protecting personal information. If you share customer data with partners, you must be able to enforce customer consent with their applications, as well as your own. Your identity directory should support this capability and allow you to control which profile attributes various applications can see.

Your customer directory solution should also be able to support a unified profile which includes the sort of unstructured schema-less data, such as browser fingerprints and geolocation data, the information age now throws up in quantity.

Finding your identity solution

It’s impossible to wind back the clock – the Age of Amazon has arrived and Australian retailers who want to swim, not sink, need to get with the program, and fast.

Laying a firm foundation, rooted in identity, will provide the infrastructure you need to compete in an ecommerce driven world. An enterprise IAM solution built for retail requirements can enable your applications to recognise customers and their preferences instantly, regardless of the channel or device they use to connect with you.

Supported by a solid identity platform, you’ll be able to offer customers convenient and secure authentication, protect their privacy and ensure your infrastructure is robust enough to cope in even the busiest periods.

Tags cloud security

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