For the retail industry, the adoption of mobile technology is a significant challenge, one of the biggest it has faced. While the development of e-commerce has already tested the business models of many traditional retailers, the use of smartphones to search, compare and buy goods online has taken this one step further. Consumers are becoming more open to the idea of using their hand-held devices as mobile wallets, with IDC Financial Insights predicting that purchasing through mobile devices will top $1 trillion worldwide by 2017. We’re already seeing this trend in action. According to a new report by Berg Insight, smartphone users in the U.S bought $500 million worth of goods and services using mobile wallets in 2012.

Retailers are well aware of this trend and are quickly adopting technology necessary for mobile payments. However, with the growing ubiquity of mobile payments and the challenges associated with integrating new technology with existing systems, retail CIOs face the added pressure of making sure existing IT infrastructures are compatible and can withstand the demands that mobile can place on systems.

System Compatibility

In the competitive retail industry, organizations need to be confident that their systems are working without flaw, all the time. As technology has evolved, different retail departments have adopted technologies on a needs basis, which has resulted in a multitude of different IT systems working in silos to address a variety of business demands. For example, it’s not uncommon for a loyalty system to be housed and maintained by a marketing department instead of an IT department. However, with the advent of the mobile wallet, these silos will not work – loyalty, rewards and payment applications will need to be connected to one another so they can seamlessly work together through mobile devices.

Retailers typically have systems that sit across mainframes, distributed and even cloud environments. The end result is that CIOs face IT infrastructures that look more like a spider’s web of applications than a streamlined and coordinated system.

The increasing complexity of IT infrastructures therefore requires a more careful management of all systems to ensure that they work effectively with one another. For CIOs to address these challenges they need to have a holistic overview of all their IT systems. In order to outline the disparities between applications, CIOs must adopt a requirements based approach to planning, implementation development and measurement that will enable them to identify, track and make sure compatibility is not an issue when implementing new features like the mobile wallet.

Performance Testing

With close to 90 NFC (the key contactless technology for mobile wallets) enabled mobile devices available in the market today, IT systems need to also be able to handle the surge that mobile wallets will bring to retailer systems. The mobile wallet offers valuable data that allows retailers, marketers and advertisers to foster stronger engagement with their customers. These interactions can include in-store customer loyalty programs, vouchers, or location-based services for customers. For example, with an NFC-enabled mobile phone or a phone with a QR code reader app, a customer can tap a poster or product label to view promotional and product information as well as offers and complimentary items for cross selling.

CIOs need to make sure their systems are able to withstand high amounts of traffic at peak periods, as well as meet high expectations around user experience. On a technical level, they need to make sure the development is guaranteed to fulfil the business and customer needs.  It must also perform consistently, even at the busiest times.

Stress or performance challenges are often solved through continuous testing. While this can be a costly investment, if you opt for cloud-based performance testing you can significantly reduce both the initial and ongoing costs, without compromising the accuracy that is required to ensure availability in even the most extreme performance scenarios.

By allowing test teams to instantly deploy existing performance test scripts to cloud-based load generators, the load can be created on pre-configured systems provisioned in the cloud. This eliminates the effort and cost related to extending the on-premise test infrastructure, which only the highest-load scenarios would need.

In addition, these cloud-based services also provide a diagnosis of any performance problems which are encountered; giving teams the detailed diagnostics they need to identify the nature and location of the potential problems. Combined with an on-premise performance monitor, it allows the test team to understand the demands on the server infrastructure in the data center, providing end-to-end transparency.

With the retail industry facing numerous challenges in today’s economy, an ability to innovate and meet the growing expectations of consumers will be vital to maintain a competitive edge in the globalized market. Therefore, an agile and efficient IT infrastructure that is able to cope with present day demands remains an important focus and key challenge for retailers. Adopting new technologies like mobile wallets or payment systems not only means staying ahead of the competition, but also highlights the importance of making sure that all systems function optimally at all times.