Understanding your customer will be vital as retailers move from survival to sustainability, says Ian Lowe, director of solutions, marketing, EMEA at Okta

As retailers look to reset after the pandemic, the focus has switched from short-term survival to long-term sustainability. Snap decisions made out of tactical necessity must now be reviewed with an eye to the future, along with the technology solutions that support them.

It’s no surprise that progressive retailers with a strong online offering have thrived in the past year. The shift in consumer behaviour accelerated by successive lockdowns has intensified the need for digital transformation – and identity will play a critical part. Knowing who your customer is, welcoming them with a seamless login experience and understanding their preferences and needs will convert fickle browsers into loyal customers.

Digital success starts with identity

A single, centralised identity is the foundation of digital transformation. For customers, it provides a simple, consistent experience every time they interact online. For suppliers, it delivers secure access to the right systems. And for your workforce, it enables agile and flexible working from any device, anywhere – increasingly important as colleagues demand greater freedom over how and where they work.

Delivering great customer experiences

Digital Transformation

Identity silos are bad for business. Multiple identities for the same customer stored in disparate locations lead to disjointed experiences, admin pain for IT, and a fragmented view of your consumer. Loyalty programmes are a valuable tool for retaining customers, but often involve a separate registration process for the very people retailers should know best.

Taking an identity-centric view will ensure you deliver a frictionless, secure experience. By unifying customer identities into a single database, retailers can create a consistent, streamlined login experience for customers shopping from any device and any location. Returning customers are remembered, with no need to re-enter details. And adaptive multi-factor authentication can add an enhanced layer of protection while keeping the experience friction-free.

With built-in privacy and security controls, a modern identity solution also assures compliance. Look for a solution where GDPR is supported out of the box, allowing you to build account registration and login experiences that comply with data privacy regulations. Your engineers and developers become your experts in security without need for additional training.

Supply chain agility and service reliability

Fluctuations in demand and delays in stock delivery have exposed vulnerabilities in many retailers’ supply chains. Suddenly, in the pandemic, people were spending more time at home. They wanted to spend money on different things, and stocks of some items quickly sold out, frustrating customers, while other inventory piled up.

“Identity also acts as a safeguard against data breaches”

Never before has the ability to quickly switch suppliers been so critical. A modern identity solution is key to speeding up the onboarding and deprovisioning of suppliers, giving you greater visibility, improving collaboration, and allowing you to react fast.

Identity also acts as a safeguard against data breaches. Security is only as good as the weakest link in your supply chain – and breaches are rife. A supplier updating a price list or imputing new product codes may be using weak credentials and letting in hackers by the back door. An identity platform maintains rigorous security protocols, whoever is accessing your systems and wherever they’re doing it.

Powering a flexible workforce

Woman working on laptop at home wearing mask and sanitising her hands

Retail’s seasonal nature typically results in high staff turnover. The need to frequently onboard and offboard staff drains managers’ time, and successive lockdowns have only increased the burden. Meanwhile, many office-based retail workers have suddenly had to work from home – and for many, it’s a change they’d like to keep.

A cloud-based identity solution should automate the joiner/mover/leaver process, allowing you to easily scale your workforce up and down with the seasons. New arrivals are automatically provided with access to the right tools, whether they’re at home or on the shopfloor. And ex-employees are automatically deprovisioned, ensuring they can no longer access sensitive company data.

Embracing the retail revolution

To say the past 12 months have been rocky is an understatement, but bright opportunities await forward-looking retailers. With identity as the foundation of your digital transformation strategy, you can deliver the great experiences your customers, suppliers and employees expect – and put your business firmly in control.

Learn more about how identity is shaping the future of retail.

Ian Lowe is director of solutions, marketing, EMEA at Okta 


In his 19-year career, Ian Lowe has become a recognised product marketing and sales enablement leader having created and launched successful cloud-based identity and access management solutions used by top technology firms, financial services organisations, and governments around the world.