Oct 22 2021

Securing the New Shopping Experience: The Role of SASE for Retailers

Secure access service edge solutions help secure all aspects of a connected retail operation.

Retail operations have permanently changed. While many retailers were on a slow and steady path to digital transformation as recently as 2019, pandemic pressures have significantly accelerated timelines, pushing merchants to find new ways of generating customer interest, engaging prospective buyers and making the sale.

In part, this means a shift to remote or hybrid operations that deliver real-time views of inventory and enable speedy and cost-effective shipping. But evolving consumer expectations also require a reimagining of the in-store shopping experience. From digital displays to mobile point-of-sale systems and IoT-driven data collection, customers now want seamless sales, purchasing and support.

Achieving these goals isn’t just a matter of digital adoption and integration, however; retailers need both substantive cloud infrastructure and strong network connections to deliver on the potential of this new shopping experience. The result is a commensurate uptick in the need for robust cybersecurity frameworks capable of providing holistic support for disparate services and applications. Solutions such as secure access service edge (SASE) make this possible. Here’s what it means for retailers.

Retailers Must Secure Application Data Everywhere

According to Jay Chokshi, director of product management for Cisco Meraki, “Retailers want to build growth by providing a frictionless experience for customers, even as more and more workers are distributed.”

Click the banner below to dig deeper into SASE guidance from CDW.

In practice, this means the movement of previously in-house applications to the public cloud and the increasing use of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.

As a result, retailers face a growing need to secure the applications and services used across their organizations as well as all the traffic moving through the applications, across the cloud and along the edge of their IT environments.

The Shifting Nature of Security for Retailers

“Retailers are digitizing their environments,” says Chokshi. “They want to give a good experience to customers and provide efficient infrastructure.” But this new approach comes with new security challenges, including:

  • Evolving attack vectors. “Attacks are increasingly coming both externally and internally,” he says. “From phishing attacks to ransomware and eavesdropping, retailers need end-to-end security.”
     
  • Increasing network complexity. Retailers want solutions that are easy to procure, easy to deploy, easy to maintain and easy to troubleshoot. The increasing pace of application and service adoption comes with added complexity, however, resulting in an expanding attack surface for retail IT environments that often includes blind spots where solutions overlap.
     
  • Changing workflow demands. Retail businesses experience significant fluctuations in workflow demands that are often seasonal or sales-based. For example, the sheer amount of digital data collected, processed and stored during events such as Black Friday or over longer seasonal periods such as Christmas can lead to increased security risk if retailers lack scalable security solutions.

MORE FOR RETAILERS: Explore the tech that drives omnichannel inventory management.

The Role of SASE Solutions 

When it comes to defending retail environments, Chokshi says that “a secure network is the glue.” Creating a seamless and secure network isn’t always easy, however. “Many security solutions were delivered in silos,” he says, “but as apps and services shift into the cloud, retailers need holistic solutions that combine SD-WAN, cloud security and visibility.”

Specifically, they need ways to manage SD-WAN environments that support retail apps and services, cloud security functions around traffic and security web gateways, advanced firewall protection, and zero-trust access. “The SASE model brings these functions together through a single cloud model,” says Chokshi. “They provide retail IT teams with a single dashboard to configure SD-WAN, cloud security policies, firewalls and zero-trust access to increase total visibility.”

He also highlights the impact of consumable architecture offered by cloud-based SASE solutions. “Retailers are at different places in their journeys. Some are brick-and-mortar, some are more advanced. SASE makes it possible to meet them where they are and secure what they have.”

Chokshi offers a simple takeaway on the role of SASE in retail: “It’s a simple, intuitive and holistic solution that can scale based on needs to meet changing demand.”