Perhaps no technology in the past decade has disrupted the retail industry more than mobile. Its transformative powers have led to changes in the way we shop and how we work, but mobility also introduces new aisles of risk for sensitive data.

Mobile Adoption by Consumers and Retailers

Smartphones have empowered a new generation of consumers, one with more information at their fingertips than ever before. Each one now has full ability to compare stores with competitors, check product reviews, shop on and even pay with their devices, putting an onus on retailers to provide the best mobile experience possible.

Retailers face increasing pressure to know and offer more, and they haven’t ignored mobile in their plans for the future. Customers increasingly expect to find the conveniences associated with their online stores to be available at the brick-and-mortar establishments, too. One study showed that 58 percent of customers said mobile-equipped retail staffers enhanced their in-store experience, while mobile-enabled stores were able to convert about 68 percent of out-of-stock incidents into home-delivery sales with the devices.

From deploying devices on the floor as mobile point-of-sale (POS) terminals to leveraging line-busting techniques, having real-time access to inventory and empowering the customer to look up products and prices through kiosks, retailers are discovering the many possibilities mobile brings to the table to make their business and overall customer experience even better.

And while these new approaches are beneficial for retail businesses and consumers alike, the fact that mobile is fast-paced, lives outside your perimeter and can mix personal and work data raises complex challenges and threats.

Cybercriminals Shopping for Data

It seems like every day we hear about a new hack or data breach that involves a major corporation. Although mobile is not the primary threat vector, with a wealth of sensitive corporate and customer data accessible by retailers, companies worry about the security of devices, strive to maintain compliance and understand that they are now prime targets for cybercrime.

Last year, malicious attacks on retailers became so prevalent and mainstream that Dark Reading called 2014 “The Year of the Retailer Data Breach,” with companies such as Target, Home Depot, Michael’s and Kmart having found themselves breached.

The damage from a breach isn’t a one-off event; it has lasting repercussions, particularly monetarily and with customer trust. In fact, according to CNBC, one survey revealed that shoppers not only can identify retailers who’ve been breached, but they also cared about past data leaks, with 15 percent saying they stopped shopping at those breached companies.

Battling Back Against Attacks

The idea of being attacked and compromised is scary, but it doesn’t have to keep you up at night. For the retailers keen on driving their business forward with the help of mobile technology, mobile security solutions are there for them. They allow retailers to securely deploy shared devices for the retail floor, add mobile kiosks and secure POS apps and even locate devices with unparalleled visibility and control.

To combat the increased mobile-focused attacks by cybercriminals, products such as IBM MaaS360 (previously IBM MobileFirst Protect) have introduced mobile threat management capabilities, which provide protection for customer and company data by detecting, analyzing and remediating mobile malware on compromised devices. Organizations can also automate remediation with a near real-time compliance rules engine and use OTA detection logic updates to quickly and securely take action against jailbroken or rooted devices.

Mobility Success Stories

It’s one thing to harp on the possibilities; it’s another to show tangible results. One IBM MaaS360 customer, a large U.S. supermarket chain with 1,300 locations on the East Coast, is seamlessly rolling out 5,000 mobile devices, ensuring store employees have access to inventory to stock product faster, boost sales and free up time to focus on the customer experience.

Another example is a leading gaming and entertainment company, which has managed to reduce customer wait time by 80 percent with tablets by using a single managed app to speed up the time to deliver products to customers.

While data breaches and mobile malware attacks are scary, retailers can stay secure and answer all the challenges that mobility in retail brings about with the right solution. See how mobility can help make your organization more secure and efficient and ensure the overall customer experience is better for all.

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