Retailers must invest in digital transformation but be aware of digital risks. And identifying diverse talent must be a priority.

Kim DeCarlis, chief marketing officer at PerimeterX

No predictions in 2019 could have foretold the reality of 2020. The changes swept along by the seismic impact of the coronavirus pandemic have been felt globally. The retail ecommerce industry had to adapt and quickly.

With this in mind, let’s look at the year in review to understand the central trends which defined retailers’ discussions and priorities in a year that pushed every organization into uncharted territory. It was a year that saw three key trends in ecommerce—the three Ds: digital transformation, digital risk and diversity.

Digital transformation 

The adage that chaos breeds innovation and creativity certainly rang true throughout 2020. While digital transformation has been a notable topic of discussion in tech and security circles for some time, the ongoing and varied effects of the pandemic have caused, in the words of Satya Nadella of Microsoft, “Two years of digital transformation in two months.”

From the debate surrounding on-premises versus cloud environments to discussions about voice-activated kiosks and “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) to limit social contact, the pandemic has pushed digital transformation years ahead. Events that once anchored the corporate calendar have also been forced online, with face-to-face meetings replaced with Zoom and conferences moving entirely into virtual environments with remote discussion panels and booths.

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This transformation has presented retailers with essential questions to ask regarding their digital ecosystems’ scalability and durability, sparked by the huge peaks of retail traffic beginning in March. These spikes in digital commerce rivaled Cyber Monday traffic from previous years and were followed by a consistent rise in traffic for the remainder of the year.

As 2021 unfolds, the companies that manage and excel will continually adjust their digital transformation strategies as they learn and as consumer behavior continues to change. Discussions of scalability and durability of a company’s digital ecosystem must address security and risk: are they resilient enough to remain secure as they grow to meet increasing demand? If not, what steps must retailers take and when to turn the tide?

Digital risk in ecommerce

Changes to digital businesses inevitably generated risk. The rising tide of traffic naturally caught the attention of cybercriminals looking to capitalize on affected sectors.

To stay protected and prepared for change, retailers asked important questions about their transformation:

  • What are the security implications of cloud migration? Do we have the infrastructure, product suite and knowledge base internally to mitigate risks?
  • How can online ecosystems be protected from threat actors? Forrester suggested this year that three of the top five threats were application security-related issues that caused data breaches, so these threats must be understood and addressed.
  • What are the potential security implications and risks of voice-operated kiosks and BOPIS, solutions many retailers implement to stay compliant with social distancing guidelines?

Retailers must answer those questions while considering their impact on other business areas, such as staffing, IT investment, security and risk awareness training should be at the forefront of retailer leaders’ minds in 2021. Building and improving digital systems is a necessary response to the pandemic’s ongoing effects. But doing so without considering security could be devastating.

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Diversity in ecommerce

In 2020, questions of diversity in business came to the forefront of retailers’ minds. The conversation centered on the growing body of evidence that supports diversity as a defining part of a successful business: not just as a quota to fill but a foundational element to making a business stronger.

More than this, however, retailers were encouraged to think about diversity as something which needs nurturing and development. The “diversity supply chain” came to the fore—thus ensuring that mentoring schemes, school and college programs and internships are in place to ensure that retailers are recognized as great places for underrepresented groups to build a career. Progress for one group does not mean a step back for others.

Practically, this may mean increasing partnerships with local schools and offering time and money to develop talent. Changing the diversity dynamic will require long-term thinking but promises to benefit the business, the community and the individual.

Conclusion: Plan now to capitalize on changes 

The top ecommerce trends show no signs of slowing into 2021. Addressing them will likely become table stakes for thriving ecommerce businesses. Retailers must continue to invest in digital transformation projects while realizing those investments increase their security risks and plan for that upfront. And as always, identifying and developing talent for the digital future must be a key priority. Thoughtfully integrating diversity efforts into their talent strategy can foster a unique connection with their consumer base, differentiation and outsized value.

PerimeterX provides security services for websites and mobile applications.

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