OPERATIONS

For technology specialists, the retail industry makes for a fascinating environment.

Retail brings together almost all of technology’s key dynamics and quirks, sometimes in harmony and occasionally in conflict, and serves up critical lessons for professionals in every function.

Think about it. The retail market features multinationals and mom-and-pop stores and everything in between; direct interaction with consumers in ways no other industry can match; a constant battle to keep up with new devices, software and apps that customers deploy to make purchases; new business models blending physical and digital commerce; a treasure trove of customer data; a battery of mandates that can stifle flexibility; and of course, the perennial search for IT security.

That last retail dynamic may offer the most critical lessons of all. Information on 150 million users of health app MyFitnessPal (owned by Under Armour) got compromised a year ago this week, and it barely merits a mention anymore. That’s in part because MyFitnessPal joined the ranks of so many other corporate hacking targets, including household names such as Macy’s and Sears.

To drive the point home, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 25 that online shoe retailer Zappos cannot throw out a class-action lawsuit brought by customers whose personal information may have been stolen back in 2012. This is seriously bad news for merchants who want to limit their liability when there’s a data breach.

The underlying reality is that the retail industry—which surely faces enough challenges in the digital era—represents a ripe and juicy target for global cybercriminals. And moving forward, as we see even more consumer-friendly technology advances and changes in…