Retail data needs better security in a contextual world

In his book The Context Marketing Revolution: How to Motivate Buyers in the Age of Infinite Media, Author Mathew Sweezey (who also heads market strategy at Salesforce) argues that the key to breaking the endless media noise and reaching customers is context. Hooray! It looks great!

But first: what is contextual marketing?

Essentially, it’s about designing your marketing efforts so that your brand meets customers in the context of their buying journey, instead of integrating them into yours. A key part of this design is making sure that the data you use to target your customer is what they are currently buying. A sin this minute. According to Ofer Fryman, CSO at Syte: “With highly connected data, you can ensure that all of your channels are updated in real time based on a buyer’s changing contexts and deliver hyper-relevant recommendations that drive conversion. ”

What your organization needs to deliver contextual marketing and an omnichannel view

Contextual marketing requires data – a lot of it – and retailers have become good at collecting it. Looking at the average number of active memberships by industry, the 2021 Loyalty Report showed that credit and debit card memberships in 2021 were down 15% from 2020, while memberships to sales programs in Medium-frequency retail and high-frequency retail programs increased 14% and 10%. , respectively.

According to Thomas O’Toole, executive director of the data analysis program at the Kellogg School of Management, loyalty programs have become “the best single source of individual customer data relevant to the development of personalized marketing.”

But contextual marketing, as a true measure of personalization, requires another important element: an omnichannel system that creates a unified view of each customer’s footprint across the enterprise, from purchase history online and offline browsing preferences, sometimes even location and activity. With this system in place, retailers can support real-time information, offers and suggestions in the right context, even when customers are walking through a store or moving around their site.

Today, the closest thing most retailers have to an omnichannel view is accomplished by pulling data from multiple siled systems and placing it in a data warehouse ready to be tapped for information. However, since each system updates on its own schedule, the centralized database may not reflect the true real-time view needed to generate seamless and personalized shopping experiences.

But thanks to APIs, we now have a set of tools to update our systems faster and more reliably, making that omnichannel view clearer.

APIs serve as a connective tissue between mobile apps, websites, CRM applications, and retailer ERP systems such as order management, point-of-sale, inventory management, and warehouse management. Using APIs, relevant data stores and assets, whether in the cloud, on-premises, or in hybrid environments, can all be seamlessly integrated into an omnichannel system.

So far, good news. The less good news is that from a cybersecurity perspective, more data collection and more APIs means more attack surface and more attention from cybercriminals. As retailers dig deeper into contextual marketing and building omnichannel experiences, they need to put major layers of security in place.

How to secure the future of marketing now

Two main areas of security go a long way in ensuring security on your way to the holy grail of contextual marketing:

  1. Retain your customers by protecting their data

You can better protect your customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) by moving to a zero trust architecture that uses multi-factor authentication (MFA). A recently published study of retail cybersecurity leaders in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Africa showed that “80% of respondents agree that achieving trust zero, reducing costs and complexity and enabling a predictable user experience are strengths. lead their network security posture in 2022.

  1. Secure APIs to reduce an expanding threat surface

There are a number of factors that can make APIs more vulnerable to attack. One of the main threats is that developers can prioritize low-risk vulnerabilities to comply with release schedules. They do not ignore them completely; the problem is, these low-risk (and sometimes, unknowingly, not-so-low) vulnerabilities are too often left as they are. Without post-launch tracking and mitigation, too many APIs remain or become more vulnerable.

Another factor is that retailers don’t know where all of their APIs reside. (We tend to call it a developed infrastructure – what a nice understatement.) The inventory is an important first step, followed by a systematic vulnerability test. During API development and launch, security should tune their WAF to protect them, or implement a web firewall for APIs (or WAAPs). You’ll also want to include APIs in existing identity management and data protection solutions.

Customer data protection powers your retail business like never before

As retailers aim to reach customers in their context, they have an unprecedented opportunity to create an optimal shopping experience (both online and offline) while improving customer loyalty. On the road to this holy grail, safety must be a top priority. Customers are willing to trade some privacy for great customer experiences and hyperspecialized offers, but their unwavering loyalty can evaporate with a security incident that compromises their trust.

Learn more about what Akamai helps do possible across industries.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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