RH-ISAC Interviews: Doug Stephens, Retail Futurist

“Isolationism makes everyone less safe,” writes Doug Stephens, Retail Futurist —and Opening Keynote speaker at the 2018 Retail Cyber Intelligence Summit. As part of our series from speakers and sponsors of this year’s Summit, we recently asked Doug to respond to a few questions about the future of retail.

What developments does Doug see in retail’s future? Read on.


RH-ISAC: Can you identify 2-3 top changes to the retail industry we’ll see in the next 5 years?

Stephens: I believe that there is going to be significant fallout in the commercial real estate industry as brands and retailers downsize and vacate physical footprints – particularly in North American and European markets.

  • Look for Amazon to continue to break into new categories of goods and services as they continue to leverage cheap capital for expansion. I expect that they are going to have a particularly profound impact on the shipping and delivery industry, as they scale essentially what will be a direct competitor to industry incumbents. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Amazon will not only compete effectively with shipping industry giants but will become the new gold standard in the category and begin to outsource their capabilities and capacity beyond their own needs, much the same as they’ve done with their Amazon Web Services business.
  • Retailers generally will continue to wrestle with understanding and appealing to a new generation(s) of consumers. Millennials and Centennials have a very different outlook on material possessions and very different expectations of brands. What’s cool is what’s emerging, evolving and new. This will put tremendous pressure on incumbent brands and retailers to perpetually reinvent and fascinate consumers with unique offerings, products and most of all, experiences.


RH-ISAC: Where does cybersecurity fit into the changing landscape of the retail economy?

Stephens: I fully expect that by as early as 2033 the majority of the retail economy in developed countries and Asia will be transacted online. Physical retail will still be important but not for the distribution of products, as much as for the distribution of branded experiences. With that, the role and function of cybersecurity will become a paramount element of a retailer’s ability to function safely and effectively.


RH-ISAC: What opportunities do you see for cybersecurity teams to play a role in the success of a Retail business/brand?

Stephens: The traditional assumption has been that cybersecurity has been a function that operates in the background, largely invisible to customers – an eye in the sky, if you will. This will likely change as consumers increasingly seek reassurance that their data and privacy are being clearly and overtly guarded by the companies they do business with. For that reason, I see cybersecurity playing more of a starring role in a brands value proposition and comprising a true competitive advantage for those brands that outperform.


RH-ISAC: Why is it important for Retail organizations to trust groups to share threat intelligence?

Stephens: Corporate cybersecurity is conceptually no different than international defenses against terrorism. Nations depend on shared intelligence to keep track of known threats and to thwart emerging bad actors. The need for countries to use shared systems for intelligence sharing contributes to the enhanced safety of all. The same is true of retail organizations.  Isolationism makes everyone less safe.


RH-ISAC: How can retail organizations prepare for the future of retail? Is it more important to adapt to change, or be the change maker?

Stephens: I believe the sheer speed of change is creating conditions where adaptation is becoming tremendously more difficult. Adaptation also implicitly suggests that you’re going to let external factors, phenomenon and even competitors dictate your reactive strategy. I recommend to all my clients that they not try to predict the future they get, but rather engineer the future they want.



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