What keeps retail mobility experts up at night? Meeting increasing expectations, personalizing engagement and better satisfying customers, according to Retail Industry Day attendees at Connect Atlanta 2016. This year’s record-breaking crowd of 200-plus retailers focused on retail mobility trends and solutions—all focused on delighting customers with powerful new shopping experiences.
Putting Humans at the Center of Digital Transformation
VMware End-User Computing (EUC) leader Sumit Dhawan opened Industry Day by reminding everyone that people must be at the center of every digital business. That is exactly what VMware’s industry and development teams deliver, said Noah Wasmer, SVP of VMware EUC mobile products. Noah revealed that growing Windows 10 deployments, wearables in retail distribution and “consumer simple, enterprise secure” digital workspaces—like VMware Workspace ONE— are foundational to achieving mobility objectives.
Connecting with Customers in Virtual Reality, Driverless Cars & More
What digital experiences will be the norm by 2020? IDC retail analyst Leslie Hand revealed emerging technologies that retailers must explore today to stay ahead of the competition tomorrow, such as:
- Virtual reality shopping;
- Immersive in-store digital experiences; and
- Driverless cars for product delivery.
Leslie also described potential changes in back-office apps and devices designed to enhance customer experiences, such as real-time inventory management.
Delivering Customer-Facing Retail Apps
The impact of customer-facing applications was on full display during my moderated retail panel. Sears, Panera and Meijer each spoke about a mobile journey that includes a customer feedback loop. For example, Meijer introduced an app that ensures groceries are ready for pickup after validating that a customer kiosk was not the most effective solution for its customers.
Employee ease of use also was top of mind for retail panel members. The resounding theme was:
If employees don’t like it, they won’t use it.
Because each panelist understood that associates play a key role in customer engagement, their businesses adapt digital infrastructure management to better support seamless information access. With enhanced customer engagement and increased employee productivity, these retailers continue to redefine retail experiences.
Securing Mobile Apps & Endpoints
Mobile security in retail is always a hot topic. Retailers wanted to understand from panelists and speakers how they can best protect against data breaches and cybersecurity threats. Panelists cautioned that security remains a big concern, but risk mitigation is possible with the right technologies.
VMware security expert Christopher Campbell discussed Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance and endpoint visibility and control with next-generation threat detection and remediation. He also described how VMware NSX manages all mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices supported in the stores via micro-segmentation. This strategy ensures that retail devices only use the databases assigned to support mPOS.
Retailers gain key benefits with micro-segmentation:
- Network security inside the data center: Flexible security policies aligned to virtual network, virtual machine, operating system type, dynamic security tag and more, allow for granularity of security down to the virtual NIC.
- Automated deployment for data center agility: Security policies are applied when a virtual machine spins up, are moved when a virtual machine is migrated and are removed when a virtual machine is de-provisioned—no more stale firewall rules.
- Integration with leading networking and security infrastructure: NSX is the platform enabling an ecosystem of partners to integrate, adapting to constantly changing conditions in the data center to provide enhanced security. Best of all, NSX runs on existing data center networking infrastructure.
Chris also described key capabilities in products such as VMware AirWatch and Mobile Security Alliance (MSA) partner solutions. MSA partners deliver end-to-end security for retail data across users, endpoints, applications, networks and data center resources.
Partnering for Success: A to Z
All the retail experts at Connect Atlanta made one thing clear: Teamwork is critical to success. Hardware and software providers in the mobile ecosystem must work together with customers to ensure apps work the way customers want them to work—anytime, anywhere and on any device.
Apple summarized the enterprise updates delivered over the past two years and the company’s continued commitment to lowering obstacles to retail mobility success.
Hardware provider Zebra Technologies talked about working with retailers worldwide to build continual customer satisfaction. Tom Moore, Zebra’s industry lead for retail and hospitality, encouraged retailers to couple big data, brand experience, delivery and fulfillment, loyalty and in-store mobility to drive productivity and operational excellence.
Retailers continue to strive to introduce mobile devices and applications to improve in-store customer experiences, satisfaction and brand loyalty. I’d call our fifth Retail Industry Day a big success in strengthening those customer connections. If you were there, leave a comment and let us know what you thought!