Digitising the high street, part two: How?

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In part one of this two part blog series, we looked at why "bricks-and-mortar" retailers are embracing Digital Transformation in order to compete with the new breed of online retail giants.

In part two, we look at the specific challenges Digital Transformation is throwing up for the high street, and how these challenges can be addressed.

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How can Fintech help transform the housing industry?

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The portmanteau "Fintech" has been an increasingly large part of everyday language in recent years. Fintech hasn't just changed our language, it's changed our financial culture. New technologies, like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive behavioural analytics, have the potential to take the guesswork and habit out of financial decisions. 

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The Future of CX in Retail - Expert Opinion: An Interview with Manuela Pifani

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Manuela is the founder of the CX consultancy CXellence and has been working with prominent organisations across private and public sectors to help them improve their customer experience focus and capabilities (www.cxellence.com).She is a multi-award winner and CCXP certified executive business leader with a strong track record of over 15 years of experience in leading and transforming the customer experience for the FTSE100 international organisations she has worked for during her corporate career in Financial Services and Retail.

From your perspective as a CX expert, what would you say are the main challenges retailers are facing in 2019?

My personal view is that many retailers have not taken seriously enough what is happening in the sector and the fundamental changes in consumers' expectations, which are defining the way they want to shop. Firstly, customers now expect the ultimate convenience, in terms of ease of access to what they need through online 1-click purchases, real time click & collect or seamless cross-channel interactions. Secondly, they want immediate gratification, where the prompt availability or delivery of products at the best prices is taken for granted - compounded by very low levels of tolerance for bad service or poor quality. Thirdly, they have developed a 'me' mentality, expecting a personalised and relevant service, tailor made to who they are and what they need. Finally, all this is augmented by the fact that the internet has given consumers power by democratising information, providing them with access to product choice, information and ratings, so if you fail to meet those expectations, they will shop elsewhere.

These trends have been either underestimated or misunderstood by many retailers, like the recently collapsed Maplin, Toys'R'Us and House of Fraser, who seem to have made three big strategic errors:

  • Introducing technological solutions as an end in themselves, without starting from customer needs, e.g. creating online purchasing channels as a duplication of the offline ones;
  • Ignoring the fundamental question of why customers should purchase from them rather than from Amazon - and therefore not capitalising on any value-adding differentiators;
  • And linked to the above, failing to rethink the role physical stores should play in an omnichannel shopping experience.


Do you feel that bricks-and-mortar retailers are 'behind the curve' when it comes to the adoption of technology?

Probably yes, as they have been hiding behind the perceived strength of their high street presence. Many have developed online capabilities to replicate what customers can do in store, without truly rethinking how the two channels should be redesigned and seamlessly integrated to deliver a complementarily improved customer experience. Only offering online purchase and click & collect services is not enough to optimise this.

But also, many retailers are very slow in rethinking the role of the store within the omnichannel shopping experience. In a world where they can select and buy everything online, customers often go to stores to complete what they cannot do online (at least yet) to finalise their purchasing decision, like touching and feeling the products, assessing quality or fit, asking technical questions, planning or visualising the end result etc. However, most stores still offer only a crammed display of products lined up on dusty shelves, without enough expert staff or the type of experiential immersion or educational overlay customers expect.

What are some of the limitations you see in how retailers are currently using technology? (For example, adopting technology to reduce costs rather than empowering the customer experience, or only selling their products rather than added value.)

Many still don't even get the basics right, with clunky purchase, delivery or collection processes, which are the result of poor stock, data or service management. Who wants to wait for weeks for an item to be dispatched, then stay at home a whole day for the courier to show up? But also, the lack of clear customer-centric strategic focus means that they are not able to explore the opportunities presented by technology to revolutionise the shopping experience, both online and offline, to meet those expectations of convenience, immediacy and personalisation.

Can you give an example of a retailer who is using technology to its full potential to improve its customer experience and add value?

I do not think anybody is using technology to its full potential yet. However, some organisations have used it well in some areas. For example, Argos, who as an old-fashioned catalogue-based retailer was at risk of ending up in the list of recent casualties, has cleverly evolved its business model to transform the store into an extension of the online experience, to cater for some of the reasons I mentioned above - immediate collection, product inspection, easy returns, while maintaining wide choice at good prices. They also improved accessibility, by creating small collection points within partners' premises in high traffic areas like supermarkets and stations. Simple and functional, but effective.

How do you see the role of the physical store evolving in the future - and do you agree that physical stores will fail without incorporating the Omnichannel experience (AR, AI, ML)?

No, I don't think they will fail because of that, but they will not prosper neither. As I mentioned before, I believe that physical stores need to offer the immersive and relevant experiences customers expect. Whether it's Lush's explosion of the senses or Lego's engaging environment, or it's IKEA's physical or AR home recreations, the store is no longer only about selling products, but it also needs to sell experiences and facilitate the customer journey. Using that type of technology is not essential, but can definitely help with improving the customer experience.

How can retailers introduce AR, AI and Machine Learning in order to leverage data and improve the customer experience?

Using that technology in the right way within physical stores can add an extra level of interactivity, personalisation or audience engagement, e.g. through touchscreen display content, virtual reality experiences, immersive product demonstrations or AR stands. The key is to introduce these as solutions to clearly identified customer needs rather than as stand-alone gimmicks or marketing campaigns. These capabilities are equally important online to deliver rich, relevant and interactive content or transform conventional websites into immersive VR experiences.

Where do you see the industry going forward, both this year and beyond?

Unfortunately, I believe that there will be more casualties in the sector, as too many retailers are not rethinking strategically enough the complementary role of physical stores and technology to meet customers' expectations and improve their experience. They need to understand that stores and websites are no longer only about selling products.

I also believe that technology will be increasingly use­d to create rich, interactive and immersive experiences both online and offline. It will enable retailers to play on the senses and stimulate and engage customers in a much more immediate and personalised way. It will also enable them to teach and educate customers, and to communicate with them in more effective ways, translating complex information into insightful and easy to understand content. The added value and experiential benefits delivered by the right use of technology will enable these retailers to deliver rich and differentiated customer experiences, and therefore drive sustainable value growth.

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Making sense of the Cloud-buzz: what quick wins are available to establish Business and Security value?

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On Thursday 25th April, Exponential-e held a Financial Services and Insurance roundtable event at 'M Restaurant' in Victoria, London. The event brought together leading figures from these two sectors to share their experience of Cloud adoption and the benefits it can provide to businesses.

The conversation was kicked off by guest speaker Steve Deakin, Head of Development and Operations at Lloyds of London, discussing his experiences of Cloud and the client perspective. Next followed Nick Robinson, Systems Engineering Manager at Palo Alto Networks, who provided a view of real world innovations and shared Cloud success stories that he has seen from his clients across EMEA.

Here is a high level summary and description of the quick wins that were discussed:

The Process:

  • Learn -> Hack -> Iterate


Horizon Scanning & DevOps with an AGILE mind-set

  • Microsites and Micro services that are already trialled, tested and robust from an architecture and security perspective - this enables one to rapidly deploy new products and services, websites etc. with security peace of mind.
  • Serverless - just focus on writing codes and you can make changes in microseconds! It is easy to deploy, low cost, gives you more time to focus on UX and is more efficient for developers by ensuring you are keeping code backed up and in a secure environment.
  • Grid Data Analyst - overcome floods and complexity of big data and unlock the power of analytics with the right data in the right place.


Cybersecurity

  • OWASP Top 10 - whilst the threat landscape remains consistent year on year, everyone should make sure they are aligned to the latest as it evolves. Assuming the top 10 remains unchanged or that changes are incremental such as low priority to action, can lead to vulnerabilities. www.owasp.org
  • NCSC - The National Cyber Security Centre is an organisation of the United Kingdom Government that provides advice and support for the public and private sector on how to avoid computer security threats. www.ncsc.go.uk
  • Ethical Hacking - this should be continuously implemented - leverage Pen testers and vulnerability scanning as much as possible in order to follow best practices and processes - Learn -> Hack -> Iterate.
  • Social Engineering was also discussed, not so much as a quick win due to the complexity (get the simple things right first) however, advised to leverage Pen testers to protect your business from bad actors that use social engineering tactics.
  • Multi Factor Authentication – we discussed how this is a very low hanging and important measure to put in place. Leverage MFA to 1) require individuals to provide two or more authentication factors to confirm their identity for online transactions or to gain access to corporate applications, networks and servers and 2) insight and reports on the user's activity. Identity (IAM) and Privilege Access Management (PAM) were also mentioned as a further way to secure your business.
  • Security Information and Event management (SIEM) - leverage SIEMS as a means to log attacks. An IT Service Provider can provide an important layer of service to proactively manage, monitor and report on what the SIEM is seeing on a 24/7 365 basis.


Cloud Patterns


Data Lakes

  • Building out centralised repository for enterprise data, for tasks such as reporting, visualization, analytics and machine learning - leveraging cloud partners to build out big data solutions.


A debate for another day

  • DevOps and Open Source software is and will continue to be the main target for bad actors, they hold the code (the crown jewels). Should such resources have locked or unlocked internet access? On one hand it offers flexibility and agility, on the other it is more locked down and has a stronger argument from a security perspective.


#Azure #AWS #CloudPatterns #Cybersecurity #OWASP #NCSC #DevOps #HorizonScanning #EthicalHacking #Digital Transformation

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Cyber security expertise and the global skills gap

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By 2019, 1 to 2 million roles within cyber security will be unfulfilled. That's a figure that should strike fear into the heart of even the most stoic of business people. The threat of cyberattacks is growing quickly, and there aren't enough skilled people in place to control the wildfire.

This global cyber security skills crisis isn't exactly a new problem, though. Over the last 2 years, 40% of cyber security roles remained unfulfilled, despite an increase in job postings of over 74%. This is a problem, then, that's been smouldering in the background for a long time, and consequently now has the potential to create some serious destruction.

What's fuelling the fire?

Although there is a growing understanding of how vital cyber security is, organisations still don't necessarily understand exactly how fundamental it is to the success of their companies. Just look at cyber security budgets, which usually account for only 25-30% of an organisation's total IT spend (according to the IDC.)

With the number of attacks only growing, this is clearly not enough money. Every time a company gives an employee a take-home device, they're exposing themselves to a lot more than 25-30% of the total security threats!

Even if there were enough people applying for cyber security roles, the relatively meagre budget allocated to cyber security by most organisations still wouldn't be sufficient to hire all the cyber security professionals they need.

Out with the in-housing, in with the out-sourcing!

What with the lack of applicants and budget allocation, many companies are now choosing to outsource their cyber security teams. By the time we get to 2020, it's likely that most organisations won't have their own in-house cyber security skills.

For most companies, the best way to plug the cyber security skills gap is to call in organisations that offer an offsite security service. Even better, they can call in an organisation which provides the cyber security element on top of other useful offerings, like network and virtual data centre services (conveniently).

Going this route is making organisations' total IT spend more efficient.

This is because you don't have to invest in the infrastructure. By outsourcing, you can be flexible with the scope of the estate. You are also going to get better quality responses from analysts because they are keen to make sure you want to maintain the service.

These analysts add an extra dimension to the organisation – you don't have to hire them but they're there. To cut a long story short, if and when the big alarm goes off (and something goes wrong), there's always someone there to help fix it. An outsourced security team is probably going to give your organisation a lot more value than the 25-30% you're currently spending on your IT budgets – their expertise will really give you more bang for your buck.

And crucially, you can switch this service on and off as you wish. The job of a Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) is to be there to protect what really matters - when it matters.

Anyone can buy the tools to offer a cybersecurity service. You can buy a firewall quite easily - just pop onto the internet and order one. But the value lies in knowing what the output means – and which next steps to take. Your recently purchased firewall isn't going to do you much good if you don't know what it's telling you. Therefore, most organisations need to bring in expert cyber security monitoring and advisement in order to get the best use out of their technology. And who wouldn't want to do a better job whilst saving money?

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Digitising the high street, part one: Why?

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As highlighted by a Retail CIO roundtable discussion held by Exponential-e, in order to compete with e-commerce "bricks-and-mortar" retailers will have to personalise their in-store experiences - and they'll need to do so with the aid of Digital Transformation.

In part one of this two part blog series, we look at why the high street needs Digital Transformation to survive and prosper.

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Post-GDPR: key learnings for housing associations

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The GDPR deadline day of 25th May has been and gone, but sticking to the legislation remains as important as ever. This is because GDPR is, in fact, not something that can just be 'done'; instead, it is ongoing and needs to be constantly changed and updated. The onus is on housing associations to comply with GDPR not just today, but in six months, a year, two years, and beyond. 

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The changing faces of security

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Cyber security is more complex now than ever before, and the implications of a cyber-attack can be much more disastrous. Organisations must consider not only the financial implications but the reputational damage that can arise following an attack. The proliferation of social platforms and the increasing needs of regulation, mean that security breaches can be publicised across the globe within minutes. Whilst the cost of launching a cyber-attack has reduced over the last few years, the cost of defence has risen. This is because there's a greater variety of attack vectors – means by which an attacker can gain access to your network. The methods deployed are so vast, compared to previously, that it makes it increasingly difficult to build an effective defence against. Highly sophisticated cyber-attacks are also using automation techniques to maximise their damage, to the extent where one piece of code can be used many thousands of times. 

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The bottom line: the financial & operational benefits of complete Cloud estate visibility

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In our last blog, Jonathan Bridges talked about how Exponential-e’s Cloud Management Platform (CMP) could simplify your Cloud estate by providing a single-pane-of-glass view of different Cloud environments.

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Beyond boundaries: what Darwin and Xerox can teach businesses about limitless innovation

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When it comes to business strategy, nothing is certain except change. Darwinism – otherwise known as “survival of the fittest”, rather than merely the biggest – is as prevalent in the business world as in nature. Rather than the biggest businesses, only the most adaptable survive; as ever, history tells us as much.

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Digitisation is already transforming all Transport and Logistics segments and is expected to be the most impactful trend over the coming years, reshaping entire businesses.

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In the face of globalisation, digitisation, and the entirely new business models that have followed the emergence of new and innovative services, the need for rapid change is being defined and set by customers and their expectations.

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Technology Led Construction – The Expert Opinion: Interview with Aarni Heiskanen

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I spoke to a globally recognised thought leader on the role of technology and innovation in the Construction industry. Aarni Heiskanen shares his thoughts and vision with me, which are no doubt helping to shape the construction landscape today and more importantly, the future.

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