Current Issues

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

Security from the web to the loading bay

Retailers and the wider supply chain face no shortage of fresh, innovative competitors.

Security from the web to the loading bay
Retailers and the wider supply chain face no shortage of fresh, innovative competitors. Newcomers in online and brick-and-mortar retail alike are stepping up their game and aiming to gain market share. If they provide more convenient and engaging experiences, today’s fickle customers won’t hesitate to shift their loyalty. To stay ahead of the curve, the entire supply chain needs to embrace innovation and provide customers with omni-channel engagement that matches their lifestyles. Customers expect to move seamlessly from channel to channel with consistent experiences and personalisation.

A study by Salesforce in 2016 found that seventy-five percent of consumers expect consistent experiences across multiple channels including web, mobile, in-person and social, with 73% likely to switch brands if they fail to receive the required level of communication.

However, along with connectivity, retailers must remain trusted stewards of customer data or face damage to brand reputation from breaches. If a retailer loses their customers’ trust by mistreating their data, their loyalty will soon follow. This is highlighted in a recent survey by Ping Identity that found 78 percent of respondents would stop engaging with a brand online and more than one third (36 percent) would stop engaging altogether if the brand had experienced a data security breach.

Technology enablement
For retailers, management systems can help facilitate tasks for different groups of employees to better serve the needs of customers. Handheld IoT devices can enable employees to access customers information about the products they’re looking for, mobile POS technology can streamline purchases, and much more. To properly leverage these technologies, retailers must make sure employees can easily access the technology when needed.

Furthermore, retailers must ensure access is restricted from those who don’t need it. The right employees need access to the right resources, quickly and easily. The first step to creating smooth access is to give employees single sign-on (SSO). This enables them to use a single set of credentials for all applications and makes it easy for them to quickly log in to whichever resource they need to manage other employees or service customers.

From a customer’s perspective, each person must register and login for the retailer to get to know them. Authentication is one of the most frequent interactions that customers have with a brand and as such customers absolutely cannot be required to use different sets of credentials for different applications or be subjected to other inconvenient authentication processes.

Centralised policies
Getting login and registration right is essential but ease of use has to be counterbalanced by security. Although customer access to applications is often limited to online storefronts, order tracking and managing returns; the security profile for employees needs to be much more granular. This is achieved by leveraging centralised access policies across all applications. Such policies enforce adaptive authentication to evaluate the contextual risks associated with employees accessing high-value resources and can require multi-factor authentication (MFA) in high-risk scenarios. Access policies are continuously evaluated to make sure someone who no longer works for a company doesn’t continue to retain an active session which gives them access to the business’s applications. By combining evaluations of user attributes, resources such as apps and contextual risks, retailers can balance the security and convenience of the technology that employees are leveraging.

Ensuring partner security
Another group to consider are third party partners that may also need access to many retailer applications. Large retailers in particular may have many partners of all sizes such as logistics handlers, maintenance and support providers. The same balance of security and convenience required for granting employee access to resources must extend to these partners so that they can keep delivering the products and services customers expect.

Managing partner access, however, comes with challenges that aren’t present when managing employee identities. For example, a retailer may not have any real insight into when a partner’s employees leave their organisation. Without this information, it’s often impossible to know for sure whether someone who logs in to a retailer’s resources should really have access to them.

It’s much easier on all parties if partners can manage their own identities. Not only does this remove that identity management burden, but it facilitates more secure access as partners are more likely to know the status of their own employees.

This may not be as easy as it sounds. A partner with a couple dozen employees may not have their own directory to store their employee identities, while a global partner that employs 10,000 people may be required to store their employee identities in their own on-premises directory.

Enabling these partners to manage their own identities means being able to accommodate partners of all sizes. Giving small partners, without their own directory, access to a cloud directory to store and manage their employee identities is ideal. Larger partners can use Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), an open standard for exchanging authentication and authorisation data between an identity provider and a service provider. This can be integrated with single sign-on to allow them to leverage their existing identities to connect to a retailer’s applications.

For partners that aren’t SAML enabled, specific connections can be made to Active Directory to facilitate SSO. By accounting for this broad spectrum of scenarios, a retailer can allow partners of any size to manage their own employee identities, while delivering seamless and secure access to their retail applications.

The proliferation of online retailers, new technologies and changing shopping behaviours are reshaping the retail landscape. With competitors only a click away, the battle for customer loyalty is fiercer than ever. Without strategic investment in digital innovation, security, supply chain optimization and customer experience, retailers that fail to adapt will risk losing significant market share.

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