By Mandy Pattenden, Marketing Communications Director
Over the last decade, the rise of digital commerce has led to major changes in consumers’ shopping behavior, which have only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost overnight, retailers of all sizes were forced to digitally transform themselves as physical stores closed and consumers shifted to almost exclusively online and mobile channels. In the U.S. alone, digital commerce grew an astounding in 2020 – nearly triple the growth from the previous year and the biggest year-over-year growth that ecommerce has ever had!
As the pandemic recedes, people will once again venture out and visit retail stores. However, the digital shopping habits that have become engrained over the past year will not disappear, and consumer behaviors will likely never return to exactly the way they were before. In a survey conducted by Global Web Index, nearly half (48.8%) of consumers said they will continue to shop online more frequently even after the pandemic is over. For this reason, it will be more important than ever for retailers to adopt an omnichannel strategy in order to meet consumers’ expectations and position themselves for continued success in the future.
What is omnichannel retail?
An omnichannel retail strategy means integrating all of a brand’s physical and digital sales and communications channels into one unified ecosystem. It enables a retailer to meet and service customers in whatever channel they are using at that moment and provide a consistent customer experience across them all.
Today’s consumers are multi-taskers and use multiple devices and channels to engage with a brand – sometimes all at the same time. They might visit a retailer’s website on their desktop computer while speaking with a customer service representative on the phone, or check the retailer’s mobile app on their smartphone while standing in the physical store to compare prices and availability of products. They might start the sales process in one channel and finish it in another. With an omnichannel retail strategy, brands can drive greater engagement and sales by enabling customers to seamlessly switch from one channel to another – whether it’s via the website, mobile app, email, webchat, social media, telephone or in-person.
Challenges brought by digital transformation
Yet, while digital transformation can enable retailers to create a superior, omnichannel customer experience, it can also bring its own challenges. The more digital a retail operation becomes, the greater the risk for cybersecurity threats and data breaches. An omnichannel retail operation gathers customer data from numerous sources (such as the mobile app, the website, calls to customer service, etc.) – all of which creates more avenues of attack for hackers and more opportunity for accidental data leaks to occur.
Retail is one of the most targeted industries for attack from cybercriminals, with nearly one-quarter of all cybersecurity incidents around the globe targeting the sector. Hackers recognize that retailers handle all sorts of sensitive consumer data – from names and addresses to payment card details and birthdates. In addition, hackers and fraudsters around the world recognize that retailers have been put under increased strain during the pandemic, with customer service representatives working from home on insecure networks and online orders increasing. As a result, they have increased their attacks and may be targeting sensitive customer data that could reside in or pass through workers’ home networks.
Enabling secure omnichannel retail
Due to the increased attacks, retailers should focus on strong data security as one of the most important elements of enabling their omnichannel retail strategy. It is the only way to both protect their customers’ sensitive information and provide a positive experience. With the right solutions, retailers can enable a safe, secure and frictionless omnichannel purchasing process and increase revenue, while allowing customer service and sales representatives to safely work from home. Technology solutions such as Cardprotect Voice+ and Cardprotect Relay+ enable retailers to provide a fast, easy and consistent payment process across all of their digital channels, as well as voice and in-person interactions. At the same time, they ensure strong data security and compliance with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) by keeping sensitive payment card data out of remote workers’ home networks and even the retailer’s network infrastructure. Using dual-tone multi-frequency masking technology (DTMF) and secure payment links, retailers can easily take payments over the phone, through web chat, email, social media channels, SMS text messages and more, while securely routing the payment card details directly to the payment service provider (PSP) for processing. By keeping the sensitive payment card data out of their network, retailers reduce their risk of data breaches or being targeted in cybersecurity attacks.
Omnichannel is the future of retail. Consumers want the ease and convenience of being able to use any and all devices and channels to shop and make purchases. Retailers must be prepared to meet them in the channel of their choice and facilitate a frictionless purchasing process in the moment – or risk losing out on sales. With technology solutions purposefully designed to enable convenient, secure and PCI DSS compliant payment processes, retailers can deliver the omnichannel experience their customers desire and expect while ensuring that both the customer’s sensitive data and the retailer itself are protected.