Business Continuity

Top 5 Tech Priorities & Concerns for Retail IT Leaders

With 62 days to Black Friday and 65 days to Cyber Monday, retail IT leaders shared their top five end-user computing priorities at VMworld U.S. 2016.

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“Be Tomorrow.” For some industries, thinking too much about the future is distracting. Not for retailers. Retail brands always look ahead—to the next season, the next big holiday and frankly, to the next big thing to capture shoppers’ attention.

I hosted two VMworld U.S. retail sessions this year—Modernizing and Mobilizing Retail and a retail roundtable—and I can tell you, leading retailers are executing on tomorrow. Well-known brands, such as Coca-Cola and Abercrombie & Fitch, are already piloting innovative new processes and technologies to maintain a competitive advantage. Others are in strategic planning mode.

If I had to pick just a few, the retail buzz at VMworld 2016 was around the following five topics:  

1. Mobility

Customer experience is top-of-mind for retail lines of business, which IT leaders in attendance said translates into getting better at mobility. There was also nearly universal agreement that mobility is a critical method for improving customer interactions and engagements. After all, modern consumers are undeniably mobile.

Several retailers pointed out they already use mobile solutions. We talked about The Home Depot, Belk, and the Columbia Sportswear Company use cases. Retailers deploy mobile devices for many use cases—think inventory management, sales associate enablement (a.k.a. product information), digital signage, workforce management and scheduling, workforce collaboration (a.k.a. email, messaging, phone) and mobile point of sale (mPOS).

See how The Home Depot benefits from mobility.

Many retail mobility solutions include employee-facing apps, designed to educate and support employees in retail environments. VMworld attendees agreed that a single unified platform for user and mobile device management, like our Secure Digital Workspace for Retail, would help improve corporate control and device flexibility, while streamlining the user experience.

Retailers use mobile devices as self-service kiosks, point-of-sale (POS) systems and digital signage. Some look to provision iPads and Android devices with educational, entertainment and promotional content to enhance in-store shopping experiences. Others have already deployed devices to reduce long waits in check-out lines and lost sales as part of endless aisle strategies.

2. Windows 10

Microsoft’s Windows 10 introduces a consolidated operating system (OS) platform that changes how retailers manage their end-user computing (EUC) environments. Although Windows 10 VMware Windows 10 surveymobile management technologies are easier, faster and less complex than prior Windows versions, the fundamentally different mobile-first changes are broad and far-reaching in terms of IT management.

Retailers will have to deal differently with platform updates, the cadence of change, application design and delivery, end-user autonomy and enhanced security. This new way of managing Windows is more closely aligned to the enterprise mobile management (EMM)-based approaches found in solutions today. These are not unfamiliar to retailers already using VMware AirWatch for EMM.

The majority of retailers at the event are considering or already migrating to Windows 10. One retailer detailed how his company was successful at reducing the amount of time it took to deploy new devices by changing the enterprise’s mindset on device management with Windows 10. By moving thinking away from managing the OS to managing the device, the business reduced IT costs—support calls from users were reduced by 30%. For the new solution, IT chose a tablet and connected users to a self-service app catalog. The solution is a hardware-independent deployment with three layers of system restore.

Learn more about upgrading to Windows 10 in A Definitive Guide to Windows 10 Management.

3. Store of the Future

Retailers in attendance were very interested in developing a new standard store architecture, where the back of the store is “thinner” at the edge with lots of mobile devices. This means vmware secure digital workspace for retail video teaserpulling infrastructure from within the stores, including reducing servers, switches and routers, as well as rethinking network design. That said, they also realize that new WiFi, inventory management solutions and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies require more infrastructure.  POS solutions also need to stay onsite.

VMware helps retailers radically simplify network infrastructure with VMware NSX. NSX embeds networking and security functionality that is typically handled in hardware directly into the hypervisor. The NSX network virtualization platform fundamentally transforms data center network operational models, much like server virtualization did 10 years ago.

With NSX, retailers can reproduce their entire networking environment with software. The solution provides a complete set of logical networking elements and services, including:

  • Logical switching
  • Routing
  • Firewalling
  • Load balancing
  • VPN
  • Quality of service
  • Monitoring

Virtual networks are programmatically provisioned and managed independently of the underlying hardware.

See how Columbia Sportswear deployed NSX.

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT was the hot topic at VMworld. Businesses look to IT for IoT guidance. The most popular IoT in EUC_Internet of Thingsretail use case so far seems to be logistics. Other popular retail use cases are beacons and cameras.

There was talk about best practices for using beacons. Most retailers face challenges finding ways to get consumers to opt in to receive messages from the store. There must be an appropriate value-to privacy exchange, meaning they have to give customers good incentive to download a beacon-enabled app and give away location information. Our VMworld customers were happy to hear VMware is strengthening our commitment to IoT, announcing alliances and strategies with Dell, PTC, Deloitte Digital and others to make it easier for enterprises to deploy, manage, secure and scale IoT solutions.

Check out VMware’s IoT announcement from the show.

5. PCI

Of course, no retail conversation is ever complete without a discussion about data security and PCI compliance. Retailers continue on their journey to transition to support for EMV—the Europay, MasterCard and Visa global standard for cards equipped with computer chips and the technology used to authenticate chip-card transactions.

This is another area where companies look to solutions from VMware, including AirWatch and NSX, to overcome PCI challenges.

Visit the VMware Compliance Checker Download Center.

“Be Tomorrow” today is an attitude that retailers and VMware embrace wholeheartedly to optimize in-store engagements and back-office operations.

If you are a retail IT leader who missed the opportunity to have conversations at VMworld about these key technologies and trends, we invite you to join us for Retail Industry Day on October 3 during Connect Atlanta 2016.

The day-long retail agenda includes a keynote from IDC Retail Insights’ Leslie Hand, presentations by Zebra Technologies and AirWatch, and a customer panel featuring IT leaders from Target, Sears, Panera, and Meijer.

Register online and save 15% off registration using code SOCIAL15.

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