Top 10 Retail CIO Priorities For 2014 - InformationWeek

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Doug Henschen
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Top 10 Retail CIO Priorities For 2014

NRF Big Show 2014 serves up a wealth of advice for retail tech leaders looking to embrace digital commerce, adopt a mobile-first strategy, and take advantage of big data.
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Big challenges for retail tech decision makers
Pity the poor retail CIO. There's pressure to support new mobile strategies while also thwarting showrooming. They're asked to personalize the customer experience, but watch out for those privacy pitfalls. They have to get agile, perhaps by moving into the cloud, but then the latest data-breach headline puts their security strategy under a microscope.

The National Retail Federation's Big Show, Jan. 12-15, in New York, puts a spotlight on the often contradictory technology priorities and trends facing the modern retailer. The biggest push continues to be the quest for what Allan Smith, CIO of clothing maker and retailer Lululemon, calls the "single customer experience." This is the latest name for the 10-plus-year-old quest to bring order and consistency to a retail experience that spans physical stores, web stores, call centers, email campaigns, social sites, and mobile applications.

CIOs know well that technology is a big part of the silo problem, as point-of-sale (POS) systems, e-commerce platforms, and order-management applications have served up their unsynchronized, disparate versions of the truth. Integration and sophisticated strategies around cross-channel fulfillment, replenishment, and allocation have helped matters, but technology providers such as SAP's Hybris e-commerce unit were on hand at the Big Show with the latest promise of a single platform that can manage all retail transactions.

It's hard keeping up with the pace of change, and consumer expectations for mobile and social shopping experiences are just the latest examples of the need for agility. Of course, technology vendors ranging from IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAS to eBay, Google, NetSuite, and Verizon were on hand promising rapidly deployable, cloud-based computing capacity and application services. But CIOs like Michael Kingston of Neiman Marcus know all too well that internal process changes and organizational structures are the biggest obstacles to being a responsive retailer.

With mobile, social, and web channels now fueling the growth of big data, there's clearly an imperative to make use of all available information. Kingston of Neiman Marcus (and his counterpart Beth Jacob of Target) also knows all too well that data is a risk, as underscored by the recent Neiman Marcus and Target data breaches. But there weren't too many answers for data breaches discussed, and many of the "security" technologies on display were focused on protecting retailers from theft.

Retailers will take a hybrid approach to the cloud, predicts IBM chairman, president, and CEO Ginni Rometty, with "private" being a key option for sensitive data. A Big Show keynote speaker, Rometty also expects some retailers to follow the lead of banks in appointing chief data officers. As for that other C-suite competitor, the CMO, get used to working shoulder-to-shoulder with him or her, as the challenges ahead for retailers will demand a team approach to meeting customer expectations.

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User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2014 | 6:22:54 PM
No more Hacked Retailers?
Ypu mention "But there weren't too many answers for data breaches discussed..."

Perhaps this will help.

Before the hackers damage another retailer, let me suggest a way of preventing this happening again. The benefit of this solution, originall designed for internet purchasing, is that it saves the credit card companies from having to invest in expensive EMV cards and, as a side benefit, a lost or stolen card will be useless to the thief. Also, very little modification needs to be made to the POS terminal. Further, the customer never sends his credit card details to the retailer, and the retailer's transaction records contain no usable information.
1. Remove all data from the credit card and its magnetic stripe, except for a simple User ID and, perhaps, the expiry date.
2. The credit card company installs a fraudproof authentication system, as described in, in its data centre.
3. The customer and retailer have accounts on the authentication system.
4. When the customer needs to make a purchase, he logs in to the authentication system belonging to the appropriate credit card company, giving his user ID and the amount of the purchase.
5. The retailer also logs in to the system, giving his merchant number, or User ID, and the customer's User ID (taken from the POS in use)
6. The credit card company knows the user's card number, so if he's been authenticated, it checks for a match with the retailer's submission.
7. If there's a match, it performs the usual checks for limits, expiry etc, issues an approval, pays the retailer etc.
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/16/2014 | 5:51:07 PM
The "bring it to me" technology sounds like a fantastic idea (especially at Kohl's, which is the most annoying store ever for finding what you want). However, there are barely any salespeople in most retail stores now. Where's the manpower coming from?
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2014 | 12:14:35 PM
Re: Quite the change for CIOs
Mobile is an important component in all of this. I think that retailers really need to build apps that have value rather than just throwing something together that just looks like a website. 

At some point, there may come a time where mobile/wearable is the only thing we use. That's the perspective CIOs should have. Build tools for this new paradigm that's coming. 
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
1/15/2014 | 11:40:20 AM
Do you agree on converged platforms, hybrid cloud, and breach vs. theft?
These suggestions are not without controversy. Is it realistic to believe we can get to one transactional system across so many customer interaction channels? Will a majority of shoppers find the "connected fitting room" invasive? Do customers really want to reinvent the shopping experience? Should we call it theft instead of breach? Will retail clouds have to be hybrid? Add your perspective to these retail tech priorities.
User Rank: Ninja
1/15/2014 | 11:28:46 AM
Quite the change for CIOs
This is even more evidence of the changing role of the CIO into more of a strategy leader, almost in line with the CMO.  The real challenge will come from figuring out how to balance new technology and approaches to customer profiling, while ofcourse balancing the security requirements.  Customers are all for services that help them make better purchasing decisions and extend the brand, but at the same time it's hard to not be weary when you see constant headlines of how data has been accessed by unauthorized parties (to avoid using the term breach).
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