Published on in RetailInnovationDigital Transformation
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Co-authored by Kurt Roemer, Chief Security Strategist at Citrix and Johan Axén, CTO retail EMEIA at Fujitsu

Retail is an industry which depends on making the customer feel valued. But in the digital age, delivering a great customer experience extends far beyond a tidy shop floor and service with a smile.

Today, it’s all about protecting your customer’s data. When an individual purchases something from your business, they trust that you will keep their information – their account details, their delivery address, even their size preferences – secure.

But maintaining a high level of security and privacy can come at a cost to productivity. In impeding a potential hacker, by asking for multiple verifications and blocking certain processes, you can end up making life difficult for your employees – who then struggle to serve the customer properly.

How can retailers navigate this dilemma? In this blog post, I’ve got some advice to help you.

Understanding the importance of productivity

According to our End User Survey, 15% of retail employees are not confident in their organisation’s ability to protect data in a robust and effective way.

This is likely due to the huge complexity of the problem. Hackers are growing in number and attempting more attacks – the Cyber Security Breaches Survey Report 2018 records that over four in ten businesses (43%) experienced a cyber security breach last year. And, of course, there are always new types of attacks emerging, making it hard for retailers to keep up.

Added to this is the growing issue of regulation. As legislation like GDPR is introduced, it can be easy to lose track of what you have to do to stay compliant. But on the whole, retailers have dealt with this issue by thinking carefully and iteratively about how to incorporate data regulation into their security policies.

It’s interesting then that so many retailers fail to take the same approach when it comes to balancing security with productivity. All too often productivity is the forgotten element in a security process – but it should be fundamental. If security measures aren’t seamless, people will find a way to go around them. In a counter-intuitive way, they will damage the system you are trying to protect!

But on a more subtle level, if your security gets in the way of your shop floor employees, it will only frustrate them. These individuals are the first point of contact between your business and your customer. When they are frustrated with their technology, it will shine through.

Imagine this scenario: an employee on the shop floor is trying to help a customer find an item in the size they want. They go to check if it is in the stock room, but they have to verify their identity again using a device they don’t have on them.

Consequently, they have to go and check the stock room manually – leaving the customer waiting. By the time the transaction is over, the customer feels fed up, and so does the employee. Neither have a particularly favourable impression of the retailer, and they don’t really want to continue shopping or working there.

Clearly, the role of productivity is just as important as the impact of privacy and regulation, and retailers should think about all three when designing your cyber security strategy.

Seamless security helping employees be productive

It’s worrying that over a third (37%) of retailers say their current cybersecurity approach has a negative impact on productivity, according to Fujitsu’s Workplace 2025 white paper.

The ultimate goal is for security to be seamless, so that customers and employees don’t even notice it’s there.

One way to achieve this: build an intelligent system capable of assessing when the user is behaving in a risky way. The system will send alerts when you do something like attempting to open an unknown link. It will prompt you to open it up in a one-time environment that isn’t connected to anything in the store – and therefore won’t impact the organisation.

Eventually, we can expect to completely automate the risky elements of the customer journey or employee work processes, so suspicious or unknown things don’t ruin the day. It’s much easier for the user because they don’t have to make that difficult judgement call about whether or not something is trustworthy – the system just deals with it on its own.

Employees: the first line of cyber defence

Employees are a retailer’s greatest asset. Employees are also the best security investment an employer can make. When the entire workforce understands and is invested in their organisation’s security policy, it becomes exponentially more powerful.

This starts with communication and education so that employees understand what measures are in place. Retailers need to explain what they are doing and why – and, most importantly, how it will impact their employees on the shop floor.

And a deeply intelligent system has a role to play. Ideally, retailers want to evolve the technology into an intelligent workspace so that it constantly interacts with users, coaching them if and when they need additional support.

Coaching individuals to become safer with their tech habits is much more effective than using posters or manuals. It’s personalised to the needs and preferences of each user, and this helps the user to learn.  Also, as the system interacts with users, it will learn their typical behaviours – and can possibly be able to predict when someone is about to go rogue and invite a cyber criminal in.

The system should also be able to use data analytics to understand the impact of any change on the user – when a new type of technology is introduced, for instance. You need to employ analytics to track whether or not the change has been useful or harmful from a security and a productivity perspective. From there, you can refine it in a constantly iterating process.

Bringing productivity and security together at last

Retailers are facing a difficult balancing act. They need to strengthen their security system to mitigate the growing risk of cyber attack. And at the same time, productivity is a priority.

The answer seems to lie in an intelligent system capable of educating, analysing and supporting employees and customers. This kind of system allows workers to continue with the tasks at hand, whilst it maintains security quietly and effectively in the background. It also helps employees to learn more about protecting themselves – so they can get better at protecting the organisation.

From this perspective, productivity and security aren’t enemies. They’re friends – and they were looking for a way to work together all along.

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