As the PCI Community Meeting is set to start tomorrow, I have been thinking about the current state of the retail marketplace and what that means for NetSPI’s focus–security and compliance. During the down economic times no retailer really came through unscathed. Everyone suffered to some degree, but even during the most difficult periods of this recent recession, retailers that were well-run and focused on a strategic vision managed to weather the storm and to prepare themselves for the coming improvement in market conditions. Interestingly enough, during this same period the attitude towards compliance and security also shifted within the management ranks at these same organizations. What was once something they hoped to avoid became not just accepted, but in some ways welcomed. The realization that compliance and security were not just checklist items, but rather could provide strategic advantage really sank in, and these leading retailers began to use the requirements of PCI (for example) to re-invigorate broader security initiatives and to use any technical or policy adjustments as opportunities to simplify their security scope and implement better overall security policy. NetSPI’s retail clients expanded their security efforts during these poor economic times and now sit in a position where they can leverage that effort into a better experience for their customers as well as for their own employees. For them it was another facet of their plan to better position their company to lead in an improved economy.
We are now starting to see that trend expand to retail organizations that have been harder hit during the recession. Organizations that are in transition are also starting to see the light and to understand that, by taking a strategic approach to compliance and security, they will ultimately position themselves to fit better with the new attitudes of consumers. Consumers are not as brand-loyal as they were before the economic challenges and are far less forgiving of a retailer that doesn’t take their private information seriously. With the economy showing signs of improvement, a rebirth is beginning in the retail space. Activities that have been conspicuously absent for the last few years–acquisitions, major technology investment, location expansion, and even IPOs–are starting to make headlines in the trade magazines and the broader press. This is a good sign for both the retail community and our economy at large, but the organizations that will take the lead over the next few years and separate themselves from the pack are those companies that have both a strategic vision (which includes security) and the ability to execute effectively.