Shard roundtable: Addressing retail and hospitality challenges

On a clear November evening high in the Shard, we were delighted to welcome a group of our retail and hospitality customers for an exciting and insightful roundtable on key technology issues facing their sector.

As well as being treated to spectacular views of London at sunset, the group engaged in discussions and topics ranging from evolving customer behaviours; the changing retail landscape; security threats and fraud, together with the emerging technology environment; security innovation; 5G, and the replacement of the national PSTN infrastructure.

Technology specialists, including our Chief Digital Officer, Paul Farrelly and Fortinet’s Principal Consultant, Adrian Brookes, led the roundtable, discussing at length the key priorities for the retail and hospitality sector, along with the tech trends and strategies required to address them.

Security

There was a strong focus on security, a key concern for many in the audience. The group examined the evolving threat landscape and its spread across the retail and hospitality business lifecycle, manifesting in supply and distribution, transactions, deliveries and returns and refunds. IoT, particularly cameras, together with data analytics, were seen as key tools in addressing the different types of fraud emerging in changing consumer lifestyles, behaviours, and the retail landscape.

Our customers cited examples of security threats from their own areas of the market, detailing how it had not helped by the skills shortage and labour market conditions. Technology is seen as having a key role in addressing this gap and the vulnerabilities which result.

Customer behaviours

There was a good deal of discussion about the impact of Lockdown on customer trends and behaviours.

Digital Space’s Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Account Director, Miranda Gillott, picked up the theme of security and led a discussion on how this applies to customers’ changing behaviours. She delved into how the sector can deliver a better experience whilst keeping themselves and their customers secure.

A key focus was penetrating the customer’s ‘social bubble’ to become part of their entertainment and leisure ecology. This so called ‘bubble’ of trusted, convenient, or treasured brands resulting in positive consumer sentiment is hugely dependant technology to deliver the brand experience. The conversation focused on reinforcing brand values with technology-led service engagement to enhance that through applied customer data.

So, agility and visibility are key in connectivity but give rise to responding security challenges – enter SD-WANs and their configurability. The solution’s ability to deliver policy and consistent posture for organisations provides customer focus and trustable environments to transact and engage with brands.

Evolving network and connectivity infrastructure

Looking ahead to the PSTN Switch-Off and the technologies that will replace it, Paul Farrelly led the group through a vivid view of a 5G enabled near-future. Suffice to say it’s more than just fast 4G and will be a ‘game changer’ particularly for the retail and hospitality sector. The audience heard how 5G offers many solutions to unite and converge multi-site, distributed organisations with a unifying service delivery fabric. The hosts anticipated the rise of private 5G networks for retail and hospitality businesses will help manifest their brands securely and responsively despite geographic diversity.

The discussion was not all future focused as the panel considered practical strategies to adopt now to anticipate these milestones. Examples were discussed, particularly the PSTN Switch-Off which organisations are experiencing now, with services from exchanges nationally being frozen through the ‘Stop Sell’ phase of Openreach’s programme.

We, alongside Fortinet, advised on strategies for:

  • Network contracting to avoid technology lock-out
  • Open SIMs and sourcing for tactical advantage
  • PSTN replacement technology options compatible with 5G

These are all topics on which Paul will be expanding in more detail in our upcoming, Preparing for the 5G revolution, webinar on 24 November in conjunction with our connectivity partner, Pangea. Click here to find out more.

Moving Forward

The audience were keen to understand the key trends shaping their futures and the experience they will be able to deliver to their customers. There was a consensus that these are being driven by customers’ emerging lifestyles and the integration of retail and hospitality as part of a post-Lockdown click-enabled market.

Security remains an ever-present concern and priority, with malicious agents innovating as fast as the technology companies, and with threats emerging from supply, distribution, delivery and returns – the entire sequence of transaction, and with those threats deriving from staff-side and customer-side.

5G’s role in providing a fabric on which to pull millions of devices was seen an enabler for Edge and IoT which transform access and services. Similarly, Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) will provide consistency with configurability to rapidly pivot to brand and customer needs as well as providing dynamic security.

We heard from our now award-winning experts on connectivity subjects covering security and 5G all with a focus on the sector’s evolving customer requirements and transaction lifecycle.

Conversations and customers specific examples continued over dinner capping a wonderful event at The Shard for our retail and hospitality customers.

We are looking forward to hosting more of these technology trend and strategy events for customers in the New Year!

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