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Retailers Must Be More Proactive Against Cyber Threats

Guest Blog by Charles Tendell

The retail sector has been targeted and damaged by high-profile cyber security incursions, resulting in a loss of customer confidence and a move by retailers to upgrade security measures in the constant battle against criminal hackers. Security threats exist at multiple points in the retail chain, from point-of-sale systems and online purchasing to employee access to sensitive information. It’s part of a dizzying trend including research by the Ponemon Institute showing that hackers have exposed personal information of nearly half of all Americans in the past year.

One important tool retailers must implement is penetration testing, conducting ongoing self-evaluation of systems, processes and policies in an effort to stay ahead of the curve. However, penetration testing is not enough to identify new threats ahead of time, as proactive threat intelligence is needed to fill the gaps in penetration testing and implement a truly dynamic and aggressive cyber security protocol. It’s often the case that companies do not notice retail hacks until weeks or months after the intrusion, creating far more damage.

Proactive Threat Intelligence

Retailers should monitor the ‘deep web’ to identify problems before they become implemented by criminal hackers, such as point-of-sale malware, the latest in credit card skimming capabilities and a wide range of Trojan Horses. Only by staying ahead of the curve on a constant basis can retailers have a chance to combat these and other nefarious activities. It’s similar to having a tornado warning; even a bit of notice can go a long way. Having time to understand each threat and prepare defenses is key.

This type of aggressive cyber security is not typically implemented by a traditional IT department, but by ethical hackers who work and lurk in the same places as criminal hackers, but use their knowledge to protect businesses and consumers instead of damaging them. Ethical hackers monitor and participate in message boards, chat rooms and other online sites, as well as hacking conferences, where the most current information on what’s coming next appears before techniques are implemented against businesses and consumers. This is how ethical hackers create the warning time needed to implement defenses.

It’s important for retailers to have an active program searching threats on a proactive basis, because hackers are always adjusting and updating tactics in the deep web.

Charles Tendell is a cyber security expert and founder of Azorian Cyber Security

Retail chains cracking Indian jewelry market

Deepika Padukone in Tanishq

Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone in Tanishq jewelry.

May 19, 2014 — When one thinks of India, jewelry often jumps to mind. Mental images of the place shimmer and sparkle — and seeing it for real doesn’t disappoint. Even women of modest means can be found bedecked by Western standards — with bindis and bangles, décolletage dripping and hair cascading with bling. And forget about the American three-months-salary rule of thumb for a measly diamond solitaire — Indian parents might spend a large percentage of their life savings on bridal gems.

India is the world’s largest market for gold — much of it worn rather than stashed away. The Indian jewelry market — by some estimates as large as $25 billion a year — is dominated by small, mom-and-pop retailers. But large chains and brand names have begun to change that.

Tanishq, India’s largest national jewelry chain, is a joint venture between Tata Group, the country’s largest conglomerate, and the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation, a government agency. Tata’s sprawling operations range from steel to tea to hotels. Tanishq was launched in 1994, but took off in earnest around 2007 — revenue has been growing 40 percent a year on average since then.

As India becomes more affluent and its middle class continues to explode in size, there’s a growing change in the perception of jewelry — it’s being viewed less as a savings vehicle and more as a fashion statement. And the old family jeweler might not be as trendy as the latest chain store that carries popular new brands. Women want to look more like chic, modern Indian movie star Deepika Padukone, who donned a Tanishq collection in the recent slick Bollywood hit, Race 2. Indian women also want stylish understatement to wear to the office, where Western attire is often the norm.

Additionally, there’s a comfort factor in buying from an established jeweler with a national reputation, as opposed to a local market vendor, who may be selling goods of dubious quality. Tanishq, which now has about 150 stores and has cracked into double-digit market share, is a division of Tata’s Titan Company Ltd., the largest designer and manufacturer of watches in India and the fifth-largest in the world.

Titan watches are known for their extreme slimness. Titan brands include Fastrack and Raga. Its slimmest brand — the slimmest in the world — is the Titan Edge, with a total thickness of 3.5 mm and a movement of 1.15 mm.

Titan makes other jewelry as well and exports to more than 35 countries, including, as of last year, the United States, the largest watch market in the world. But for now, the company’s wheelhouse is India, where it has a 60 percent share of the country’s watch market.

The Future of Retail

RM Editor’s Note: Everyone in our industry is always looking for insight into the future of retail. We all know that the industry has seen many disruptive changes in the past decade, and the change trend is expected to continue. As luck would have it, Sean Mulroy from Ingram Micro Mobility and Christopher Landry from Colourfast Printing both had some thoughts to share with us on the future of retail. This blog post and infographic came to us separately, but we think each has an interesting take on retail’s future. Read on to take a look at both.

Buying Mobile Devices: Predictions for the Future Experience and What All Retailers Can Learn
Guest Blog by Sean Mulroy, Ingram Micro Mobility. Infographic supplied by Christopher Landry from Colourfast Printing.

The successful mobile store of the future will embrace the concept that phones are rapidly being replaced by handheld computers. Therefore, they will focus far less on “traditional” phone accessories and far more on the connectivity enabled by the computers in our hands.

Here are four ways I envision the mobile retail store of the future – and there are lessons learned here for retailers of all types:

How about a little mood music?
Prior to the introduction of the iPhone, the idea of an Apple phone was driven almost exclusively by the idea that phones would act as music players. While the overall mobility landscape has changed dramatically since 2007, music is still a key component for consumers. Embracing that role is vital to the mobile retailer – pull the high-end Bluetooth music speakers off the shelf and put them on the show floor to flaunt the level of audio quality that is now available for connected devices. Headsets designed for audio, such as those devised for use while exercising, should also be featured. Ask yourself this: do you get the same audio experience using a pack of earbuds that you do by cranking up the volume on the Bluetooth music controlled from the palm of your hand?

Consumers want to walk into a store and have the entire mobile experience at their fingertips. And this is true for any retailer. Regardless of the product you’re selling, retail stores of the future will make sure the consumer has hands-on interactions with the product from the moment they walk in the store.

Maxing out mobile device capabilities
You name it, and it’s guaranteed that consumers are buying it with their mobile devices: apps, content, the latest top 20 song, a pair of shoes, or concert tickets. As mobile retailers become the curators of all things mobile, we need to extend the device-purchasing conversation further into how consumers are using devices.

Options like offering app-store gift cards and direct-to-account billing help position the retailer as the guide in unlocking more of the device’s potential. Another example is to offer a subscription to a TV or video service to allow consumers to flex the ability of devices by serving as a content host for videos.  Retailers other than those focused on mobile devices also need to be creative by tapping all of the device’s capabilities

Using connectivity as a selling point
Connectivity is a mobile buzzword we hear daily. Aligning with that is only natural and a near-requirement for retailers of the future. How this connectivity will develop is already apparent: network-connected home security systems, smart thermostats and home appliances, Wi-Fi-enabled scales, and quantified-self health trackers all rely on the current generation of handsets as their brains expand the device’s capabilities exponentially. My imagined mobile retailer showcases these capabilities in an interactive way that allows shoppers to better visualize how the functionality is applicable to their own experiences (i.e. in the home, for work, or just for entertainment), as well as gives a taste of how easy it is to manage multiple tasks from a device. You don’t necessarily need to be in the technology industry to provide a connected experience.

Smart people, smart products
Lastly, the overall mobile retail experience needs to be tied together by a knowledgeable, engaged sales team who take care of customers’ needs, while demonstrating how connected products work. Some of us may talk about connected products ad nauseam, but there is still much consumer education to be had. From a technology standpoint, these teams will utilize mobile point of sale systems designed to make the purchasing process as painless as possible. All of the connected technology from the future – or now – will fall on deaf ears if the assisted sales portion of the experience is neglected.

In the competitive retail landscape, brands are fighting to unlock the formula for greater customer loyalty and success. If retailers consider some of the ways that the consumer imagines my future retail experience, they might stand a greater chance of pulling ahead of the herd.

Mother’s Day: Make it Meaningful

May 9, 2014 - By now, you’ve been reminded 10 million times that Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday. If you haven’t made plans by now, your shopping days are numbered. But before you go out and settle for the old standard fare of a card and some flowers, let me share with you a tale of an early Mother’s Day surprise.

Sundays tend to be extremely busy days for me, especially in the spring when I spend God knows how many hours driving all over New England coaching soccer. On Sunday, May 11th, instead of spending time with my mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, or any other mother, I’ll be coaching kids who are honoring their mothers by playing soccer in front of them.

Giving all the credit in the world to my wife for discovering this opportunity, we chose to take my mother and grandmother to a little place called the Wenham Tea House two weeks before Mother’s Day for a Downton Abbey themed event. I’ve never watched an episode of the show, and I thought it was called Downtown Abbey for the longest time. But the combination of cute hats, trivia, tea, sandwiches, pastries, scones and excellent company made for a memorable event.

So what does this have to do with retail? Well, the Wenham Tea House – in addition to being one of the oldest tea houses in the country – has a pretty interesting gift shop. But the main point is this: don’t waste your money on overpriced, last-minute gifts because the marketing machine tells you not to forget mommy. Take the time to come up with a meaningful and emotionally compelling way to honor your mother this Mother’s Day. And then go out and get your dad a tie and cologne for Father’s Day.