Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions help optimize and secure the applications that underpin
online and in-store experiences from the customer to the warehouse to economies of scale.
As retail … Read more on Cisco Blogs
Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions help optimize and secure the applications that underpin
online and in-store experiences from the customer to the warehouse to economies of scale.
As retail disruptors continue to raise the bar for ever-greater convenience and immediacy, the competitive pressure has been on to accelerate digital transformation. The annual peak holiday shopping season is upon us and retailers are looking to reap the dividends of performant, always-on, secure digital experiences for customers.
This year, online purchases on Black Friday reached a record $70.9 billion globally — $9.8 billion in the U.S. alone. This crucial time of year exposes retailers that do not meet customer expectations because the cost of distribution system glitches or disruptions to ecommerce sites is significant on both revenues and brand.
Omnichannel retail experiences that make it easy for shoppers to find, buy, receive, and return products using physical and digital channels interchangeably — a clear preference according to IDC — are now commonplace. However, managing the multitude of interconnected services, supply chains, and fulfillment systems that ensure online and in-store transactions are processed smoothly requires economies of scale and flawless business and IT execution.
Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions help retailers bolster customer-centricity with granular-level visibility into the online customer journey. They provide insights that help drive decisions like modifying an ecommerce user experience (UX) or streamlining the buying process on mobile devices to increase online sales conversions. For traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers, Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions help teams monitor inventory systems and make sure that point-of-sale (POS) payment processing systems are running smoothly.
Facilitating reliable and secure retail experiences, whether that means streamlining online purchasing, helping retail representatives quickly locate products in-store, or monitoring inventory and dispatches, is only possible when IT, site reliability engineers (SREs), DevOps, and SecOps teams can observe the health and security of business processes and transactions in real time. This includes the interoperable platforms, microservices, application programming interfaces (APIs), cloud providers, and Paytech operators, along with security and fraud protection systems, that underpin applications.
A consistent, reliable, and secure digital experience is also critical for trust. However, as many as 88% of consumers report in the recent Cisco AppDynamics App Attention Index that they have experienced performance issues when using applications over the past 12 months.
There’s an astonishing trust gap between customers and organizational leaders in consumer markets. PwC reveals that fully 84% of executives believe their brand is highly trusted, while just 30% of consumers agree. With only 37% of consumers willing to forgive mistakes even if a company takes the steps to make it right, the stakes are high for retailers.
Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions help retailers deliver flawless, personalized buying experiences that drive customer loyalty, and optimize systems and processes that increase revenue.
Flawless application performance, optimized for business outcomes
It’s clear that reacting to unexpected product supply issues, degraded application performance or security concerns only after they have become apparent is not an effective business strategy — and certainly not one that shoppers will accept.
A core element of our portfolio is Cisco Observability Platform, which helps retailers simplify business by bringing together observable telemetry data across any system to create full visibility, real-time business context, and recommended actions for resolving issues over the digital estate. These solutions harness capabilities from across the Cisco portfolio for vital security intelligence, transaction and performance insights, an end-to-end view of application workloads, and cost optimization options.
Retailers can become more customer centric by taking action that directly supports business outcomes around the health, security, and performance of hybrid and cloud native applications and particularly the digital experience of users. One capability of our solution, Customer Digital Experience Monitoring (CDEM), helps retailers gain actionable, end-to-end insights into those application experiences and their underlying dependencies as well as downstream business impacts.
Teams can track all points of the customer journey from the user’s mobile device, desktop, browser, or game console, including a digital endpoint like an API, IoT device, SaaS service, or application agent. Granular metrics and visibility into business transactions across stores and online purchases makes it possible to, for instance, analyze and model user behavior to make improvements to the UX or purchase process.
Cisco Cloud Observability provides application monitoring
This application on Cisco Observability Platform allows visualization of the entire cloud native environment – from cloud infrastructure to Kubernetes layers. This enables teams to identify bottlenecks and accelerate application performance. The retail associate experience itself can be observed by monitoring fulfillment and assisted selling applications, for instance, keeping associates engaged and able to assist customers by ensuring relevant applications work as they should, and are available to facilitate in-store purchases.
These solutions, from a broader view, offer insights that tell retailers everything they need to know to identify root cause of problems — such as performance degradation when looking up inventory or unexpected responses from payment processors — and fix them before they result in outdated inventory levels or lost revenue due to failed API calls or missing database resources.
HKTVmall is Hong Kong’s largest 24-hour online shopping mall supporting tens of thousands of daily orders. When website traffic increased tenfold during the pandemic, their SAP Hybris ecommerce platform began to experience serious, undiagnosed performance problems. By deploying Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions, they identified application memory as the root cause, which allowed them to resolve the problem and eliminate performance issues that had plagued peak activity.
Retailers are also looking for composable commerce with microservices-based, API-first, cloud native solutions that make it easier to deliver seamless, secure digital experiences to end users. This requires a robust cloud infrastructure and a clear sightline into the relationship between application performance and business KPIs such as customer conversion rates, and real-time impact on revenue.
Business metrics in Cisco Cloud Observability enhance this type of business context for modern applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which powers a massive share of the retail market. Business metrics also support integration with AWS services and application performance monitoring (APM) correlation, providing end-to-end visibility into the performance of cloud native applications.
Hybrid and cloud application security, real-time business risk observability
The peak shopping season has become a prime attack window for exploiting the functionality and processes of applications. In particular, APIs now account for 45.8% of all online retail traffic with API attacks increasing as this year’s peak season progresses, going up by 6% in October and another 9% in November. Denial of service (DoS) attacks, as well, such as those that target 802.11b networks, are rising as a critical aspect of secure retail operations.
Surfacing vulnerability intelligence and alerting retailers to threats in real-time, Cisco application security solutions are a fast path for IT and SecOps teams to identify the source of security-impacting issues before they affect business outcomes including uptime obligations and compliance with data privacy mandates such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
Cisco Secure Application provides business risk observability for hybrid applications. Business risk observability prioritizes security issues based on potential impact on business so retailers can quickly identify and map vulnerabilities and act on what matters most.
Teams can identify risks in hybrid applications and drill down on the business transactions – the end-to-end, cross-tier processing paths used to fulfill service requests by applications – that have high risk scores. Cisco uniquely provides this score which combines application observability and business impact data with security and threat intelligence feeds from Cisco security products. The real-time risk score shows likelihood of exploitation and indicates what needs to be fixed first.
Cisco Secure Application aggregates information by looking into internet access, data storage usage, third-party vulnerabilities, runtime behavior, and use of insecure external APIs. Context is provided around identified security issues including analyses of transactions that show upward risk trends. It then offers prioritized real-time remediation steps to accelerate response and address key risk factors.
Cisco Secure Application also provides application security with business risk observability for cloud native applications. This includes mobile applications that run on dedicated codebase for targeted platforms such as Swift for iPhone apps and Java for Android apps. For retailers looking to provide a secure digital experience to customers, Cisco Secure Application can track business risk across all business transactions. It provides context around issues, traces transaction performance, and reveals infrastructure risk as well as associated data risk.
Prioritized remediation steps help application teams focused on cloud applications speed up their response to address key risk factors for vulnerable transactions. This includes the ability to locate, highlight, and correlate security issues across application entities, such as Kubernetes pods, making it possible to look deeply into the security issues that elevate business risk scores.
Risks in the application stack, for instance, that could potentially expose personally identifiable information (PII) and therefore impact revenue and reputation, are given high priority and real-time guidance on prescriptive actions is provided.
The infrastructure behind the applications that support digital experiences include customer single-sign-on, purchase records, support history, billing information, and shipping details. Taking it a step further, Cisco Secure Application helps retailers detect and redact critical sensitive data from vulnerable transactions.
Automatic continuous application security with business risk observability provided by Cisco Secure Application helps retail organizations secure the buying experience of their customers as well as the security of their operations from payments processing and approvals to supply chains and fulfillment.
Mission-critical application visibility, presented with retail context
Our application modules — plugin-like extensions created by Cisco and by development partners — extend the capabilities of Cisco Observability Platform. A growing number of modules provide retail organizations with specialized insight and observability over the applications and dependencies that support merchant operations ranging from in-store barcode scanning and POS payment transactions to ecommerce websites, and delivery tracking.
As the ecommerce application environment becomes more complex due to fluctuating user demand, multiple online and remote databases, services running on different clouds, and layers of virtualization, tracking their performance has become enormously difficult.
Already a data-driven business, retail operations increasingly require that organizations identify, analyze, and gain insight from data to guide business and marketing strategies. Applications and modules built on Cisco Observability Platform ingest countless telemetry datapoints generated by applications and their components as a part of normal retail operations including from end-to-end transaction flows, the network, and underlying infrastructure to present meaningful, contextual insights and alerts.
This makes it possible to tie the “numbers game” together so teams can understand what is happening behind the scenes of the technology stack, and ultimately take action to avert deleterious effects on the buying experience of customers and overall revenue down the line.
For example, the eCommerce module from Evolutio enables retailers to monitor orders, shipping, inventory and payments, with correlation by product category or shopping region, to swiftly identify issues within applications and infrastructure. It is available in the platform exchange alongside other retail-enabling modules such as Fintech, also by Evolutio, which monitors KPIs relevant to credit card authorizations.
While cloud providers offer some baseline tools for monitoring resource usage and logging frameworks for collecting and storing data from applications and services, modern merchants need more visibility into the cloud environment as their razor-thin margins give them little ability to absorb unwarranted expenditure. However, IT teams tend to provision cloud-resources on the side of caution whenever they lack visibility because of the damaging impact of constrained resources on application performance.
Cisco Observability Platform helps retailers improve profit margins by right-sizing cloud resource to support optimal runtime without wastage. While cloud resources must be scalable to meet short-term, high-volume shopping events such as Cyber Monday, maintaining additional capacity when not required is unnecessary and expensive.
The visibility delivered by our Cost and Workload Profiler module allows teams to pinpoint cloud resources that are out of performance and cost baselines. Teams can scale back on inefficiencies and scale up where resources are insufficient to support workloads. Additionally, they can identify excessive costs in real-time, using the module’s dynamic baseline of average spend on Kubernetes workloads, which is powered by its AI and ML engine.
Our Cost Insights module opens a window into all the cloud resources the retailer has provisioned, with high-level views for the business and granularity for IT and FinOps teams, which allows them to see exact cost allocation. Spend and utilization are highlighted, taking the guesswork out of scaling up or down to support critical application performance.
Our Application Resource Optimizer allows teams to fine-tune configurations in real-time, using data-driven recommendations. Its machine learning (ML) capabilities continuously test settings and recommend tweaks to deliver optimal performance, and control costs in a fraction of the time required by a human-driven, trial-and-error approach.
Retail application ecosystems, tuned to business KPIs
Each of these optimization capabilities correlates data signals with business impact. Cross-functional teams no longer need to work out for themselves whether the actions they’re taking may have an unforeseen negative impact on user experience, which will cause a knock-on effect on revenue.
Instead, they can optimize based on business commitments to supporting the needs of end users, ensuring vital resources have sufficient capacity. At the same time, the ability to scale back over-provisioning allows them to finely balance resources to deliver a flawless shopping experience and minimize loss.
Furthermore, the profitability of marketing campaigns becomes easy to assess, as insights into the cost impact of traffic spikes on cloud resources are immediately available. This in turn allows teams across retail organizations to rapidly optimize campaigns for success, as well as identify and remediate points of friction around how goods and services are bought, fulfilled, and delivered.
In many cases, SAP and other cloud-based ERP processes are at the center of this vast web of interconnected systems that enable economies of scale and keep retail operations running smoothly. Interactions between systems must run smoothly for SAP applications to perform at every point in the order-to-cash (O2C) cycle from the front end to back-end logistics. When a customer places an order, for example, it automatically triggers a series of actions by different departments responsible for fulfillment such as inventory management, shipping, and reporting.
Carhartt, an apparel retailer known for heavy-duty working clothes, leverages Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions to achieve visibility over every tier-1, mission-critical application such as its SAP HANA ERP, ecommerce and main customer sites, and the middleware layers that connect warehouse, inventory, and distribution systems. The company has virtually eliminated costly service or application downtime, avoiding millions of dollars in lost revenue and increasing customer trust in the purchasing process.
The CloudFabrix SAP Observability module can ingest data from Cisco AppDynamics SAP Monitoring, correlating it to asset types to isolate root cause and determine the effect of impacted services on the business.
Moreover, innovative retailers are making sustainability an integral part of their business model – which is rewarded by consumers with loyalty. The buying experience of customers is an extension of that strategy where the poor performance of retail applications and infrastructure amplifies inefficiencies. Our Sustainability Insights module provides real-time interactive visualizations, measurement, estimation, and reporting of key infrastructure sustainability indicators, trended over time.
Applications are behind the sale and delivery of nearly every product and service. Applications power supply chains, procurement processes, inventory and pricing, POS systems, and both online and in-store transaction processing. When the application suffers, so does the business.
Now, assisted by Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions, retailers can stay one step ahead of rapidly evolving consumer behavior, maximize revenues from peak shopping periods, and ensure any mix of hybrid- and cloud-based applications, ERP and operational systems, and business infrastructure perform at scale.
Cisco makes it easier for retailers to turn their massive streams of observable data into competitive advantage. Leveraging data-derived insights, they can improve business outcomes and make the exceptional, personalized buying experiences that drive customer loyalty and revenue a reality.
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