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IT checklist: 3 tips to prepare for the 2016 holiday season

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Hong Kong’s retail industry is struggling with one of the worst downturns in recent years, and many will be hoping that the 2016 holiday season heralds a change in fortunes for the sector.

After local retail sales plunged by 10.5% in the first half of 2016, it is now a critical period for local retailers to ‘lock in’ their winning strategies for a successful holiday season.

So what can retailers do to deliver the technology-rich and tailored experiences that consumers have come to expect? Here is an IT checklist with key items that should be part of every retailer’s inventory:

Compelling and user-friendly digital storefronts

It’s critical for online retailers to frequently test what their customers encounter once they’ve followed the digital path to the retailer’s website. Is the functionality user-friendly and fast? Is it easy to get customer service support if needed, and will your associates recognise returning customers? How good are your analytics for predicting inventory needs and customer preferences?

SEE ALSO: Digital payments are shaking up Asia’s credit card industry

And, most significantly, can your e-commerce and m-commerce platforms handle traffic increases around holidays and promotions? Flexible and secure network infrastructures, bolstered by robust IT hosting environments, are essential underpinnings of a sound operational model.

Unified commerce strategy

Recognising your customer and their shopping preferences and habits whether they are online, mobile or in store – without being intrusive – can earn the sought-after brand loyalty that is the holy grail for the industry. How can this level of insight be reached?

Achieving a ‘single view’ of your POS and CRM systems combined with your e-commerce, m-commerce, in-store and call center channels can enable one view across your entire business for streamlining operations and ultimately improving your customer’s experience.

Security

In the era of multichannel retailing, ensure that online and mobility channels are secure. Protect public-facing websites and mobile applications, which can be magnets for cyber thieves. While EMV, or chip & pin, appears to be helping prevent credit card fraud for in-store purchases, cyber thieves continue to focus on digital assets to find vulnerabilities.

Also, use mobile device management for safeguarding employee access to corporate information; encrypting data; protecting against viruses; and, remote lock and wipe of critical corporate information from devices.

Will the 2016 holiday season be the start of a turnaround for Hong Kong’s retail sector? Only time will tell what the season will bring, but it’s safe to say that the retailers who make the most of technology and anticipate their customers’ needs will fare best.

By Helen Wong, Director Partner & Product Strategy Asia Pacific, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. A 25-year veteran of the telecommunications industry, she is responsible for access product management, partner evaluation, new revenue development, country product strategy and profitability across the region.

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