In 2022’s challenging environment, retailers must focus on data assurance

By Joseph Neumann, Director of Business Resilience, Digital Realty

A glocal architecture will drive security, compliance, innovation and growth

Accelerating challenges have forced the retail sector to transform at considerable speed over the past 18 to 24 months. As 2022 unfolds, that transformation will be shaped by the need to address margin pressures, competition that is being driven by new retail experiences, rising on-demand pressures, and staffing and supply-chain issues.

If retailers are to meet these challenges, harnessing data across the retail industry has never been more important. Not only that, data assurance will be crucial as retailers build resilient infrastructure to ensure continuous operations and customer experiences.

Significant benefits await those retailers that can use data effectively. Personalization, for example, can improve revenue and customer retention by 15 to 30 percent, KPMG recently noted, while reducing marketing costs by 10 to 20 percent and boosting customer acquisition by 3 to 5 percent.

Ensuring a resilient data infrastructure

Data Infrastructure

As data rapidly evolves from operational tool to vital strategic driver, increasing use of ever more-detailed data also creates new challenges. As illustrated by recent cyberattacks on major retailers around the globe, companies’ ever-expanding data stores make them tempting targets for cybercriminals – threatening substantial business liabilities if data systems develop vulnerabilities that can be exploited maliciously.

In one recent cyber attack, a major retailer had seen growth in digital sales of more than 70 percent over two years but lacked resilient systems to ensure supporting systems could survive infiltration. The attempted breach of its systems broke the search function of its e-commerce site – leaving customers unable to place orders and forcing the company onto the back foot as it fought to restore services.

With the Data Gravity Index™ anticipating Data Gravity Intensity growth of 137 percent annually – from 1.56 GB/s average intensity to 49.49 GB/s in 2024 – retailers have never faced a greater need to develop a coherent data lifecycle strategy.

Such a strategy must focus on optimising data exchange to secure sensitive data, meeting data compliance requirements, reducing risks, lowering costs, and boosting agility. Meeting these goals is as crucial to growth and effective competition in today’s market as store networks and advertising were in previous decades.

Data Compliance

Enabling availability as a competitive advantage

Retailers’ innovation in customer service has become a key differentiator in today’s market, and many companies are changing their operations to support this innovation. For example, an increasing number of retailers are now using brick and mortar stores as both point of sale sites and as warehouses. In this way, they are able to streamline the supply chain and offer a smooth, swift delivery experience because stock can be distributed closer to the customer.

Retail Innovation

Managing such an intricate logistics chain requires a clear strategy to address complexity and cyber risk – which increasingly includes key activities like conquering operational complexity with AI, implementing data security and hybrid IT systems, and mitigating risk using AI-driven data security solutions.

In many companies, half or more of all data-driven activities carry specific governance requirements that must be continually met. This imposes a significant requirement on companies to ensure their data remains available and actionable all the time.

To stay ahead of the changing governance, risk and compliance (GRC) environment, companies must ensure their data infrastructure incorporates data security and hybrid-IT controls that can manage data in accordance with changing requirements – while scaling to manage the growing pressure of Data Gravity.

Companies must not only know who is accessing their data, but when and how – and to do so using access policies based on zero-trust principles that are enforceable across every part of the data infrastructure.

That means incorporating crucial capabilities such as data synchronization between digital and physical operations, proper controls over data ingress and egress, and preparedness for integrating AI and machine learning into every phase of the business.

AI Machine Learning

These requirements all contribute to an organization’s data resilience – building underlying infrastructure to ensure data architectures remain scalable and available – and this resilience will be crucial to meeting GRC requirements that are matching the pace of digital transformation.

Addressing the supply chain challenge

Every retailer’s business is different – but no matter what the business, delivering the necessary availability and resilience becomes easier on PlatformDIGITAL ®, our global, data-centric platform that allows businesses to dynamically address these requirements.

By standardizing security and compliance, ensuring performance while maintaining local data compliance, and securing third-party integration, PlatformDIGITAL™ can help secure data throughout its entire lifecycle.

Data Security

Thanks to its reach and integration strengths, PlatformDIGITAL® can deliver security and data assurance consistently around the world. It can support the GRC requirements of the largest business while also allowing for local variations to meet the additional demands of specific areas.

This glocal approach may have been less useful for conventional retailers focused on their local markets, but in today’s digitally transformed world – where customers may be located anywhere and products shipped everywhere – the whole world is local.

Driving future growth

Adopting a glocal approach to data-driven business supports the development of intelligent connected data communities. These may be located anywhere in the world, but are united by their common communities of interest in the data and sharing that data appropriately across their entire ecosystem.

As the world’s retailers face increasing disruption to global supply chains throughout 2022, connected data communities will become even more important in ensuring that data-driven intelligence will enable businesses to continue operating as smoothly, efficiently and securely as possible.

Maintaining this efficiency will require supply chains to adapt quickly and efficiently – which in turn relies on the smooth exchange of data across hybrid IT and cloud environments, so that supply chain partners can work together to provide certainty in a time of uncertain supply.

Supply Chain

Processing and movement of data across these connected data communities will lean heavily on AI-driven automation, which is becoming essential to helping retailers ensure they can maintain responsive, effective processes at scale.

Increased use of automation will also allow retailers to boost the efficiency of their use of human capital – allowing scarce staff to work smarter using data-driven technologies that support their needs, and those of the business.

With retail continuing to change every day, increasing cyber threats and global compliance pressure, it’s not enough to simply hold on and try to keep up. Retailers must take a pragmatic, proactive and glocal approach to building a resilient data infrastructure, ensuring they are well positioned with secure, data-driven architectures to assure the future of their business.