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A 2022 report suggests that the unified endpoint management (UEM) market is poised to reach $38 billion by 2028. This makes a compelling case for the adoption of UEM transforming any industry.
The retail industry, in particular, has more cross-industry connections (logistics, warehousing, supply chain) than others. The number of endpoints or devices in retail is formidable, and the need to manage those endpoints in a unified manner is decisive for success.
The evolution of retail can be mapped from your first in-store (brick-and-mortar) visit to a bookstore in New York City, to buying your favorite read online from eBay. Retail has experienced a paradigm shift — from business operations to customer purchasing. Those who rode the digital tide have benefited and the rest have shut shop.
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Yet the digital transformation buck never stops in retail; it sprints constantly. And to keep sprinting, endpoint management is invaluable.
Retail in-store numbers (pre-COVID)
While the pandemic transformed the way people shop, the need for endpoint management in retail was always unceasing. Let’s look into some numbers from five years ago when the only Corona most people knew about was a Mexican-made bottle of beer.
- 50% of retail organizations allowed BYOD.
- Mobile-based interactions with in-store customers were among the top five initiatives.
- 58% of retail organizations considered in-store employee access to mobile business apps critical.
- 61% of retail organizations had in-store IoT initiatives or were ready for IoT.
- 24% of retail organizations had digital signs or kiosks deployed in most stores; 34% had digital signs or kiosks deployed in selected stores.
- Devices (endpoints) used by in-store employees for customer interactions and support were: dedicated desktops (61%), smartphones (42%), tablets (31%), rugged (single-app) devices (24%), shared laptops (18%).
Endpoint management for in-store retail
Endpoint management helps retail organizations ensure seamless customer transactions and business workflows. With cyber risks lurking everywhere, the retail industry must implement endpoint management — as a security solution, if not any other parameter.
The scope of endpoint management in retail is vast and goes beyond securing devices. It accommodates a fine sync between remote and in-store employees. Think of endpoint management as an umbrella under which you can manage and control all your organizational devices or endpoints — all from a single platform or dashboard.
Here are some innate advantages:
24-7 device tracking: There’s zero probability of any device going out of your network, as endpoint management enables complete tracking and managing of endpoints. Legacy device management solutions don’t allow you to do that. With device endpoint management, you’re always in control.
No misuse of devices: Mobile device management ensures comprehensive network security and eliminates unintended use of or unauthorized access to retail endpoints.
Asset utilization: All endpoints are assets. An MDM software system allows retailers to create reports on how devices are being used. You can also automate patch management across devices to optimize their utilization.
Threat mitigation: Without endpoint management, all retail devices will be flirting with malicious apps and sites. An MDM tool gives you authority over the apps you choose to run on your devices.
Simplify IT operations: MDM makes the life of retail IT teams easier by automating manual tasks like device supervision, decommissioning and device and OS maintenance. Your IT team can then focus more on improving your customer touchpoints, like in-app support.
Improve productivity: Endpoint management leads to higher employee productivity, as employees are devoid of distractions from device usage. It offers flexibility and access to authorized information at the right time so all your employee-customer interactions are smooth and productive.
BYOD implementation: As more retailers enter the world of BYOD, endpoint management presents opportunity for developing policies around it. Personal devices can serve as controlled and managed network endpoints. And it provides these benefits without invading employee privacy, as work and personal data in BYOD are segregated.
Endpoint management for online retail
If you think only brick-and-mortar retail setups need endpoint management, you need to rethink. Endpoint management has a place in online retail, too. The growth of q-commerce retail apps and platforms has been prolific of late. Effective and fast last-mile deliveries are the backbone of q-commerce and also of regular ecommerce. The devices used by delivery agents and warehouse teams are also endpoints. Such online retail endpoints need the same attention and management as in-store endpoints.
Choosing the right MDM solution
Just being aware of the benefits of an MDM doesn’t connect the transformation dots. It’s only half the battle. Here are some points to consider before you zero in on an MDM solution.
Keep analytics at the forefront
For your retail endpoint management dashboard, always go for sanity over vanity. Fancy designs and colors are great, but functionalities can’t be overlooked. Remember that the more connected endpoints, the more extensive the data flow. Thus, check that the MDM solution brings enough advanced reporting and analytics to your table. Needless to say, those analytics must be insightful and actionable.
No alternative to security
Having an MDM that’s weak on security is the same as not having one. Some features your MDM security suite should include are:
- Device containerization (segregation of work and personal data/apps) for BYOD environments
- 100% regulatory compliance
- Security upgrades and updates
- Agile threat detection and response
- Immediate malware removal
- Advanced troubleshooting capabilities (without long downtimes)
- Two-factor or multifactor authentication
- SSO (single sign-on)
- Provisional access
Integration with third-party apps
In retail, adept customer service is essential. Ensure your MDM platform allows third-party integration with CRM or CDP apps or any business-critical apps that are already in use in your organization.
Rhymes with smooth sailing? The analogy is also the same. Device scalability is a must-have. As business needs arise, the number of endpoints should be smoothly scaled up or down without much fuss. Ensure your MDM is an SaaS solution that allows easy endpoint scalability.
Support and training
Before choosing an MDM vendor, tick two vital boxes — product support and training — both with remote availability. Remote support and training are essential so a retail organization is never at sea while handling the MDM dashboard.
All endpoints are devices, and all devices have a lifecycle. With a depth of connected endpoints, an intuitive MDM solution keeps retailers informed about endpoint maturity through proper roadmaps.
As IoT and IIoT (Industrial IoT) evolve at a brisk rate, endpoints are no longer the usual devices. In the retail industry, purpose-built devices like kiosks (POS and mPOS) are an important cog in the business wheel. Retail endpoints could also include rugged phones or handheld devices such as scanners. A good retail endpoint management solution has to accommodate purpose-built devices, now and in the future. Opting for a provider that offers personalization, customization and quick turnaround time for developing new features can be immensely rewarding in the long run.
Location-based marketing (LBM) has revolutionized the retail industry, and geofencing is the technology behind it. It is possible for an MDM solution to geofence your endpoints too. For example, if a customer searches for a particular product online but it isn’t available, a geofenced endpoint in one of your outlets near your customer’s location can be notified. If the product is available there, the customer is also notified of the in-store pickup option.
Unified endpoint management stands at par with all other digital transformation strategies retailers are trying to implement. It’s a good idea to explore endpoint management as a possible solution in this digital retail age.
Sriram Kakarala is VP of products at ProMobi Technologies.
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