Authored by: Sheena Chin, Head of ASEAN, Cohesity
Hot on the heels of Singles Day in Singapore and Asia is the global selling spree around 12.12. sales, Cyber Monday, Christmas and the run into the January sales. What started as a month of gift buying has merged into over 60 days of heavy consumer spending and an increasingly vital part of the online trading calendar, but never more so than in 2020.
As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, there have been significant impacts on consumer behaviour, product demand, and the availability and access to retail stores, factories, logistics services and hosted IT services that support retailers.
Back in March, IDC predicted growth estimates for global retail in 2020 would be halved from pre-COVID-19 forecasts. Eight months later, that would look conservative versus the reality of what has hit retailers. Impacts have been uneven across retail sectors, but as we hit peak trading season, all retailers will be keen to ensure their festive trading period isn’t hit with a lack of availability or even worse, a form of an orchestrated attack on their business. A Forrester report shows that online retail sales in Asia Pacific will grow from $1.5 trillion in 2019 to $2.5 trillion in 2024, with online grocery as one of the trending searches due to lockdowns.
There is good news. In a new forecast by Forrester, online retail sales in Asia Pacific will grow from $1.5 trillion in 2019 to $2.5 trillion in 2024. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba reported that its first Covid-19 era Singles' Day (November 11, 2020) just generated US$75.8 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV); up 26% compared to 2019.That means that the inbound Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts will likely be driving bigger numbers than last year, despite the ongoing pandemic and subsequent job losses and high unemployment. COVID-19 will fast-track the adoption of social commerce channels outside China, where more existing and new entrants will experiment with content sharing commerce, membership-based team purchases, reselling, and livestreaming e-commerce. According to the Economic Survey of Singapore First Quarter 2020 by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the demand for online sales and services is expected to continue to increase as consumption patterns adapt to the COVID-19 situation.
So, there is a lot riding on the success of this holiday period for retailers. However, where there is money changing hands, there is also crime. Retailers IT systems will be tested in a number of ways and ensure appropriate capacity is in place to support the unusually high demands and order volumes. But they must also manage the risk of cyberattacks such as ransomware and distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), that prevent retailers trading, resulting in a loss of sales but also a loss of brand confidence. If businesses were to experience any disruption over the next few days, they could lose customers to their competitors forever. Here are a few data management and security tips and considerations for IT teams supporting online retailers to ensure an online business stays available during the whole holiday season:
Got What It Takes?: In order to determine what potential peak loads are for your servers, remove the guesswork by using archive data to compare and contrast your capacity needs, and given the statistics quoted above, plan for a significant uptick beyond what you’ve seen before.
Real-time monitoring: Preparing yourself in advance is obvious, but do you have a simple way of being alerted on your mobile phone to issues in your backup and virtual environments when it matters? Are you confident you can avoid downtime and meet your Service Level Agreements (SLA)? Not only does this speed up troubleshooting of issues, and diagnosis of root causes, it can enable your team to manage a potential cyber-attack before malware can be deployed and data taken ransom.
Ditch Legacy Thinking: Your service levels from the legacy world simply do not cut it in the digital economy. Legacy IT still deals in data recovery SLAs that are in hours or days. Madness. You can now recover in an instant or at worst a matter of minutes. Given the amount of money at stake during the busy periods of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and January sales, can you afford hours offline?
Test and Test again: Sure you’ve got a backup schedule, but that’s just not enough. You need to ask some serious questions. For example, how long does it take to recover the backup? Do you have the ability to restore a certain file individually, or do you need to do a full restore? How long does that take? How often do you test your backups to ensure they work? How many of your backups would fail?
Be Proactive in Your Defence: Find and isolate security scams posing as your brand and lockdown any compromised online accounts before they cause irreparable damage. Look beyond conventional perimeter security (thorough checks for all attempts to connect to corporate resources from outside the infrastructure,) locking down social media and other online endpoints.
Criminals Don’t Stop at 5 pm, Neither Should You: For national or multinational-scale businesses, a threat intelligence or security operations team should be created. The aim is for 24/7 monitoring of the web to increase the chances of finding fake websites or other assets disguised as your brand. It's worth building a small cross-functional ‘tiger team’ to keep an eye on the dark web too as this is often the where criminals sell stolen information and assets.
Communicate to Customers: Ahead of the festive period explain to customers some of the threats they and you may face from cybercriminals. Educate them on how to spot social engineering scams like emails with poor spelling and grammar. Also emails and texts or social media accounts asking for confidential information over email. Remind them of your security and privacy procedures. Be clear and explain to customers what you’re doing to tackle these threats and what they can do to be safer when shopping online. This level of thought and transparency will build trust in your brand.
Stay Online and Business Ready: One of the attack types commonly used during holiday seasons is distributed denial of service (DDoS). This is when a criminal bombards your servers with requests until they slow your servers and systems to a crawl or crash. For major businesses, it could be ruthless competitors, a state-sponsored hacker from a foreign market, or even political activists that may use this tactic. Why do they do it? Well if they can damage your business finances and reputation, that’s a win for them and offers them a chance to take your customers. To protect your online store from being taken offline this holiday season, ensure DDoS protection is part of your security make-up.
The first holiday season of the COVID-19 era is going to be challenging. IT and cybersecurity challenges are undeniable. Overcoming them will make the season more profitable for your business and safer for your customers. If you follow these tips and maintain honesty, transparency and communicate proactively with your customers, you will be in a strong position. Check you have the right data management and security in place and hopefully you can enjoy a bumper holiday season of sales.