Protecting Shoppers from Mobile Menaces
By Doug Lodder, [email protected]
Mobile device users have the world at their fingertips. Consumers today can use their smartphone or tablet to manage their finances, diagnose their own symptoms, and even use apps as a personal stylist while shopping.
Research and consumer trends make it clear that the omni-channel shopping experience is here to stay. A mobile shopping study from Google recently found that 62% of smartphone owners use their device to help them shop at least once a month, and 84% of them do so while in the store. Retailers including Walmart, Target and Neiman Marcus are doubling down on digital, launching wireless networks and debuting innovative new apps to keep mobile-savvy customers engaged both in-store and on-the-go.
With wireless networks and retail apps becoming necessities in today’s shopping experience, venue operators have greater ability to build trust and strengthen relationships with shoppers — and would-be hackers have increased opportunities to exploit mobile device users in these crowded consumer centers.
The rapid growth of mobile device usage and development of easy-to-use hacking tools create prime conditions for cybercriminals to launch subtle intrusions, allowing them to capture unencrypted personal data from mobile device users. According to the Norton Cybercrime Report, more than 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some form of cybercrime to date.
In this new converged mobile and brick-and-mortar marketplace, it’s more important than ever for venue owners and consumers alike to do their part to avoid wireless backdoors and safety breaches.
Managing your network
A wireless network security breach can have myriad repercussions for a shopping center operator.
By installing viruses and malware or launching a faux network name, cybercriminals can cause severe damage to a network, requiring costly network fixes, potentially causing reputation damage and leading to shopper attrition.
Retailers can help to minimize their networks’ exposure to hackers and limit the chances of a security threat by implementing safety solutions such as active tracking, blocking, and monitoring.
Shopping center operators who choose a managed wireless network service provider can leverage that providers’ active network tracking. Such a provider can monitor network traffic live, and quickly identify unusual activity, alerting the mall operator to the suspicious behavior and enabling them to act swiftly to shut down a rogue network.
Monitoring and blocking
There are a number of techniques that cybercriminals can use to break into wireless networks. For example, the “Evil Twin” network is an un-safe network access point that broadcasts the same name as the legitimate venue network, intended to lure users to connect. Firewalls and other controls implemented by an experienced managed network provider can identify and block these unauthorized evil twin networks and other similar exploits.
It’s also important for the venue and network operator to implement appropriate levels of monitoring and active filtering of content to prevent illegal activity on the public network. Hackers can use public networks in malls to install malware or to retrieve private information, such as account login credentials. By constantly monitoring the network, managed service providers can be sure that there are no unforeseen security threats to the network, and can quickly “tar pit” any fake networks or unauthorized access points, preventing consumers from mistakenly logging in to them.
Safety tips for shoppers
Shoppers also have a responsibility to protect themselves against mobile menaces while connecting on the go. By applying available tech tools and common sense, consumers can help ensure their data security while shopping.
Use a Virtual Private Network: One of the most important steps users can take to stay secure on free public Wi-Fi is using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. Securing a connection on a public Wi-Fi network via VPN will encrypt all user communications — creating a secure tunnel from a device to an online destination, and back again. While many access a VPN through their employer, consumers who don’t already have access to a VPN can download VPN service easily. (Boingo offers a free personal VPN to all customers with account credentials via the company’s Wi-Finder application.)
Apply the “social network” rule: Would you post your login for your mobile banking, 401k or healthcare provider’s site to Facebook? Probably not. When using a mobile device in public, users should think about whether they’d want anyone seeing the information they’re typing in. If not, they should try to avoid typing that information in while they’re standing in line at a store or casually browsing at the mall.
Use a trusted Wi-Fi provider: Where possible, users should try to connect to a network managed by a trusted Wi-Fi provider. Keeping an eye out for signs at the mall or asking information for the name of the official network can help shoppers connect to the secure, monitored Wi-Fi.
Surf securely: Five key letters to remember when logging in on a public network: HTTPS. With these letters at the front of any URL, users can ensure that they are visiting a secure site. Most popular services — like Twitter and Facebook — can be configured to connect using a secure method.
Password power: Mobile device users should employ a “long and strong password.” Using numbers and symbols in a password make hacking into personal accounts more difficult. Shoppers should also update their passwords regularly, and use two-step authentication when logging into favorite sites like Google, Linked In or Apple iCloud accounts.
Shopping center operators can attract and build trust with today’s omni-channel shoppers by hosting a managed network and making shoppers aware their role in their own data security. The mobile menaces in today’s malls may continue to lurk, but by actively tracking and shutting down unauthorized access points, and monitoring traffic on the Wi-Fi network as appropriate, a retailer can reduce the risk of threats to users and the network — making the mall safe for mobile and in-store shoppers alike.
Doug Lodder oversees the strategy and development of Wi-Fi and DAS networks in shopping malls, stadiums, restaurants and other venues for Boingo Wireless. Boingo’s vast footprint of small cell networks covers more than a million DAS and Wi-Fi locations and reaches more than one billion consumers annually — in places as varied as airports, stadiums, shopping malls, restaurants, universities, and military bases. For more info, contact Katie O’Neil at [email protected].
What’s changing consumers’ expectations?
The retail world is seeing significant shifts in consumer expectations and behaviors. Today’s online shoppers have higher expectations than ever before.
Consumers want the ability to shop anywhere at any time and are looking for retailers that offer multiple options. In particular, the flexibility to choose a delivery date can impact consumer loyalty and future spending with a brand. There are a number of recent trends that affect these delivery expectations, including omnichannel fulfillment, customized deliveries and free shipping — the latter of which has evolved to include free returns. E-tailers have to be quick to rethink their business strategies to accommodate these dramatic shifts in consumer behavior, or lose ground to others who will.
UPS worked with data analysis firm comScore on a unique customer experience study to gain insight into online shopping behaviors and what factors influence consumer’s purchases. The 2013 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study examines mobile trends, social media impact and omnichannel retailing. We’re taking the insight from our experience working with thousands of retailers, and will marry the findings from this annual survey to help our customers accelerate their growth.
From the survey we discovered consumers want an easy shopping experience from initial product search to shipping options, to package arrival — and, if needed, returns. Online shoppers also want more choices and convenience from their favorite retailers. Only 49% of the 3,000 shoppers surveyed were satisfied with the flexibility to choose a delivery date. The desire for a seamless customer experience — especially how and when consumers receive their online purchases is what we’re calling the “delivery factor.” When asked what options are most important during checkout, more than half said providing an estimated delivery date and shipping costs early in the process.
More of the results from the survey highlight factors that play a role in shaping the retail delivery experience.
When retailers create a simple and integrated buying experience across multiple channels it shows they understand what their customers want. According to the study, 44% of online shoppers want the option to buy online and pick up the item in-store. Another 62% said they are more likely to shop with a retailer that allows them to purchase online and make returns in-store.
Mobile apps and social media are also changing the way consumers shop: 47% said they want retailers to push coupons and/or promotions to their smartphones when they are in the store or nearby.
Consumers also expect a variety of shipping options; however, 78% continue to choose the most inexpensive option. The study discovered 51% have chosen “ship to store” services and 38% of those purchased other items while in the store. This is great news for retailers that are trying to drive foot traffic to their stores.
The challenge for many retailers is adjusting their supply chains to deliver on omnichannel expectations. We’ve assisted some of our larger retail customers with their operations to deploy technology solutions to streamline inventory, reduce markdowns and maximize profitability. UPS is also helping train their in-store employees to fulfill online orders.
Evolving delivery models
Same-day delivery is one of the hottest e-commerce trends but we’re investigating how much consumers are willing to pay for those services. Recent surveys suggest it only appeals to a small niche of consumers.
Last year, through the Strategic Enterprise Fund, UPS invested in Shutl, a British startup that connects retailers to local same-day courier companies allowing online customers to receive their purchases within minutes. Shutl will begin delivery service in the select U.S. cities this year and we’ll gain insight into this emerging business model.
Delivery is one of the main reasons consumers give for not shopping online. From the study, we learned more consumers have abandoned their carts before checkout due to long shipping times — 44% in 2013 compared to 42% in 2012.
If consumers know what to expect, they are surprisingly patient when it comes to waiting for purchases to arrive. Online shoppers are willing to wait 7 days to receive their packages, especially if the shipping is free. This includes fulfillment and transit time combined.
Another important factor in meeting online shoppers’ expectations around product delivery is offering tracking services as 97% of shoppers said tracking services are essential or nice to have. Among those who want tracking services, 71% want to track their packages through email alerts and 63% want to track packages via retailers’ websites.
Online consumers also want the flexibility to reroute packages. UPS My Choice is a service that gives consumers the option to choose when and where their packages are delivered. UPS will send a delivery alert (text message or email) the day before the package is scheduled to arrive. If that time doesn’t work — you can reschedule or reroute to another location. There’s also the ability to go online and release packages requiring a signature. Since the launch two years ago, more than 3 million people have registered for the residential delivery service.
This year’s study analyzes social media and the impact of mobile apps. Not surprisingly, 84% of respondents said they use at least one social media site with Facebook being the most popular (used by 77%). With the UPS My Choice Facebook app, consumers can track packages directly from their Facebook page.
The ability to go beyond tracking and connect online shoppers with customizable delivery services can also drive customer loyalty and give retailers a competitive advantage.
Delivery is not only important when consumers have purchased a product online, but also during the returns process. From the study we learned returns volumes are growing, with 62% of consumers having returned or exchanged an item in 2013 versus 51% in 2012. A positive returns experience can boost sales, with 67% of consumers saying they will shop more often with a retailer if they offer a hassle-free returns policy.
Consumers want convenience in the returns process, including a return label in the box of the original purchase (53%), an easy-to-print returns label (43%) and the ability to return to a store (39%). Free returns shipping options are the most valued, cited by 65% of consumers as an element of a best returns experience.
The best advice for retailers is to incorporate the returns process as an essential part of their overall supply chain planning.
What about free shipping?
It’s nearly impossible to talk about the delivery experience and not mention free shipping. According to a January comScore study, more than half of consumers said they would cancel their purchase if free shipping was not offered.
Creating a free shipping strategy can be beneficial, but how can retailers determine what approach is right? There are some unpredictable costs associated with shipping promotions but there’s strong evidence that free shipping attracts new customers and improves brand loyalty. Through an earlier study with Forrester Research, we found consumers will buy more and will be less likely to abandon shopping carts. Retailers using multiple distribution centers and stores as fulfillment centers are able to drive incremental sales while minimizing impact to their bottom line.
Free shipping is not the right business strategy for every retailer and the success of shipping promotions depends on a variety of factors including product value, supply chain design and current market conditions. The good news is that retailers who don’t offer free shipping can keep online shoppers happy by providing more control over the shipping and delivery experience.
As retailers navigate through these transformational changes, more convenience and a seamless delivery experience are critical for success.
To learn more about online shoppers want, visit UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper to download a copy of the full report, infographic or animated video.
David Sisco is the director of retail and consumer goods marketing at UPS.
Nineties Nostalgia, Retail IT Style
I recently had the opportunity to engage in a little 1990s nostalgia by attending a package concert featuring a variety of popular bands from that decade such as Gin Blossoms, Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray. It was a chance to envelop myself in the sights and sounds of a bygone era that stays close to my heart as what some call a “Gen Xer.”
This brief sojourn to the past got me thinking about how in addition to being an influential decade in music and popular culture, the ’90s also marked an important time in retail IT. While some retail IT innovations of the era have fizzled out like denim shorts for guys, others still hang around in one form or another today, like tattoos on white collar professionals. Let’s take a quick gander at a few retail IT innovations from the days of grunge and flannel and see how they remain relevant today.
Building Your Network
The 1990s saw client/server or network computing — where computing devices running on linked individual servers shared common resources — take precedence over traditional mainframe computing where all devices on a network ran on the same central server. Client/server offered advantages including faster processing, greater network redundancy and easier distribution of a network over a broader area.
Today’s efforts to virtualize infrastructures to enable even faster and stronger processing that can handle volumes of Big Data and global network distribution with minimal overhead all build upon the original aims and capabilities of client/server computing.
Knowing Your Suppliers
Retailer-supplier collaboration was a hot topic in the 1990s. VICS introduced the CPFR model and retailers and suppliers finally began collaborating on basic activities like ordering extra inventory for products with scheduled manufacturers’ promotions. Supply chain collaboration has slowly improved since that time but most retailers still do not closely collaborate with their suppliers.
Advances in social and mobile communications and virtual infrastructures (see above) make sharing information with suppliers easier than ever before. The main barriers are cultural issues regarding mistrust of supply chain partners and a desire to keep proprietary data in-house. To maximize the potential of supplier relationships, retailers need to leave these apprehensions back in the ’90s where they belong.
Retailing like the Good Old Days
Of course, the most revolutionary retail IT development during the Clinton administration was the advent of e-commerce. In its early days, e-commerce was touted as a return to the “good old days” of retailing when a customer could walk into their favorite neighborhood store and the clerk would know exactly what they wanted to buy without asking.
Doubt remains whether customer service in days of yore was ever quite so rosy, but there is no doubt that despite advances in customer tracking, targeting and personalization, modern omni-channel commerce still has not totally fulfilled this promise. By combining data such as customer location, time of day/week/year, purchase/browsing history, social media activity and other personal and historic information, retailers can make highly personalized offers that serve precise customer needs at the moment of purchase decision and take all customer activity across all channels into account.
Anything less and instead of going back to the “good old days” you’re still basically stuck in the ’90s. Not that the ’90s were a bad place to be, but when was the last time you saw a Caesar haircut?