Data Security Tops Retailers’ Concerns

Results from the Retail CIO Agenda 2015: Secure and Innovate Report show that managing data security is the most urgent focus area for retail CIOs, with 97 percent of surveyed business leaders placing it at top of their priority lists.

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With recent high-profile data breaches and the growing need to deliver a unified and differentiated customer experience, retail CIOs agree that security and digital innovation are top priorities for 2015.

According to the 2015 National Retail Federation/Forrester Research Inc. Retail CIO Agenda 2015: Secure and Innovate report, managing data security is the most urgent focus area for retail CIOs, with 97 percent of surveyed business leaders placing it at the top of their 2015 priority lists.  

With last year’s data breaches in mind, retail CIOs are acutely aware of their role in collaborating closely with their line of business colleagues to plan for and prevent threats to security by sophisticated cyber criminals. Forrester predicts that at least 60 percent of enterprises will discover a breach of sensitive data in 2015. As a result, strong corporate-level governance is second to data security when it comes to top focus areas this year, with 78 percent of retail CIOs noting it as one of their top five internal focus areas – up from 24 percent in 2014 and 20 percent in 2013. 

“With the role of the CIO evolving further as a company’s strategic technology innovation leader, the complexity of the business challenges cannot be lost – from data security to new digital customer experiences,” said NRF Vice President of Retail Technologies Tom Litchford. “Our study findings provide insight into the enormous accountabilities placed on the IT leader’s role, which will help C-suite retail executives collaborate more innovatively as they respond to everything from security issues to staying in step with their customers’ needs.”

Almost a third of surveyed CIOs (30 percent) expect their budget to be flat for 2015, and just slightly more – 34 percent – expect a slight increase of less than 10 percent. With most retail CIOs working with flat to modest budget increases, they must choose their priorities wisely.

To win, serve and retain customers, retail CIOs are looking to deliver a seamless experience across touch points, citing omnichannel initiatives as the second of three key business priorities for IT, following data security. The survey found that 76 percent of those surveyed highlight integrating selling channels (e-commerce, mobile, social, catalog and stores) as the number two business priority for 2015, up from 61 percent in 2014 and 64 percent in 2013.

Additionally, six in 10 (63 percent) say modernizing marketing systems to optimize assortment, pricing and inventory, is the number three priority for 2015, on par with 61 percent in 2014 and 62 percent in 2013.

“Today’s retailers must manage an extended range of merchandise to woo customers who are spoiled by vast choices from online specialist retailers,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst George Lawrie. “They also must manage more vendors and merchandise across multiple channels, and support frequent price changes to compete with the automated pricing of Internet specialists.”