Is Your Data Vulnerable as it Travels Between Distribution Channels?

Published : March 11, 2015

foldler-with-encrypted-data-securityAn omni-channel approach to sales is fast becoming one of the most efficient paths to increasing market share in a modern retail or wholesale landscape. However, as the "links" of different sales modalities stretch and bend to accommodate new traffic, gaps can open that expose sensitive data to hackers and rivals. With the inexorable march forward of omni-channel resting on one side and the threat of security breaches resting on the other, businesses need guidance for smooth navigation.

Here are a few thoughts to ponder as you begin to plan out channel distribution paths.

Customer Expectations Include Security

With significant focus poured into breaking new ground for channels and the customer-facing aesthetic, it's only a matter of time before attention to security falls behind. Security, after all, doesn't show up very prominently on the radar until something goes wrong, but by then it's usually a matter of stemming the flow and image campaigning. When you correctly frame security as a customer expectation, industry blog Retail Touchpoints explains that your company is, in reality, fulfilling a need that sits right alongside order fulfillment.

There's no denying that an out of stock scenario or a contact failure will change a customer's perception, but it's far easier to recover from those missteps than a security breach that makes the news.

How Many Turns Does Your Data Take?

With data likely streaming in from a variety of channel distribution sources, it's vital to pay attention to how it's flowing back to you. Are you allowing data to populate at each node and collecting it later? If so, you're increasing the chances for hackers to collect it as well— and giving them a comfortable window of time to hide their actions. Take the time and invest the effort in creating a customer-facing dashboard that keeps your node-to-node travel and data on the backend and processes it there, rather than letting it sit as an unguarded resource in a fractal grid.

In a classic case of "if you build it, they will come," Retail Touchpoints mentions that only 28% of an IBM survey's respondents were willing to share their mobile location, but 42% admitted that permission would benefit their buying experience. This disparity demonstrates that the scales are poised to tip in favor of rich, useful demographic data streams, and customer confidence is the last true hurdle to clear.

Treat Data Like a Physical Asset

Imagine, for a moment, your stock as it travels from supplier to warehouse to consumer. At each stage, it's accounted for, locked behind closed doors, protected from the elements and prying eyes. If that stock goes missing or gets damaged, the response is usually very fast, if not immediate. The reason that stock is so well cared for and secured is that it represents not only current profit but potential profit for your company— it's not so different than moving cash from place to place. Yet despite the care that’s taken with physical merchandise, Retail Touchpoints cites a 2014 CyberArk study that reports distressing corporate attitudes when it comes to the digital counterparts of those goods: your data.

According to the study, 52% of businesses believe that a cyber attacker is currently in their network or has been in the past year. The presence of these hackers isn't a foregone conclusion, however— if you start treating your digital assets with the attention you do your physical ones, you can neatly close any accidental gaps in your secured data as it travels from channel to channel.

Securing data streams in multi- or omni-channel distribution doesn't have to be a headache waiting to happen, as long as oversight, customer expectations, and secure pathways are emphasized in building and maintaining your framework. Make sure your company isn't in that 52% shrugging off the 'inevitability' of hackers— make yourself one of the 48% doing something proactive about it.

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Topics: Supply Chain Technology

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