Large scale data security breaches are becoming increasingly common. No matter how technically sophisticated we become it seems hackers are always hot on our tails.
Indeed just recently eBay suffered a massive cyber attack on its 145 million users. And of course it is only natural that as data breaches grow so to will consumer concerns over how their personal and payment information is stored and managed online.
It’s not just large corporations like eBay that experience security breaches, an increasing number of SME’s are also vulnerable.
“The total number of data breaches increased 62 percent during the last 12 months, amounting to more than 627 million sensitive records exposed…We all know that large corporations continue to be the targets of these attacks, but what we have seen in the last 12 months is that small and medium-sized businesses are experiencing the largest number of breaches.” Internet Security Threat Snapshot Summary — 2014: Data Breaches Grow Significantly
So in addition to implementing adequate security measures, what can you as a small online business owner do to build consumer confidence and reassure customers about the security of your online store?
30% of consumers are increasingly concerned about the loss of personal data
New research by Software Advice* into the impact data breaches have on consumer confidence found that nearly one-third of consumers are increasing concerned about their personal information being stolen. The study found that:
- 30% of consumers are increasingly concerned about data loss
- 35% of consumers would stop shopping at a company where their personal data had been stolen
- 53% of consumers would be somewhat more or much more likely to shop at a store where they were confident their personal data was secure.
In summary, the Software Advice research highlights that consumers are increasingly concerned about data security, would avoid shopping in stores from which their personal data was stolen and would look to shop somewhere where they felt confident their personal data was secure.
How to build customer confidence online
In all likelihood the majority of us are probably unfamiliar and uninterested in the highly technical aspects of data security. Although implementing solid security measures is an absolute essential, in isolation it is not enough. You also need to work on building brand trust so that your customers feel secure and confident imparting personal and payment information when they shop at your store. We look at some best practice tips for a safe and secure online presence that will help foster trust amongst your customers.
1. Secure, PCI compliant e-commerce
The first thing is to make sure is that the e-commerce software solution that you choose offers secure data storage and is PCI / DSS compliant ( this is the payment card industry’s security standard). Your shopping cart solution should be protected by a PCI approved scanning vendor such as McAfee , VeriSign or PayPal and it should protect you against credit and debit card fraud and other threats such as identity theft and spyware. So it is really important you spend time doing your research to make sure the e-commerce software you choose helps protects you and your customers against data security breaches.
2. Implement appropriate data-protection legislation
When you are storing and managing a customer’s database make sure you are familiar with and keep to relevant data-protection legislation. In the UK this would be the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation Act. Following best practice and appropriate legislation will ensure less risks to the data you are managing and build customer confidence.
3. Build trust signposts
There are other ways to help build trust amongst your customers. Research indicates that simply announcing all your great security credentials is not enough. You also need to implement ‘trust signposts’ to help build customers confidence in the safety of your online store. Large and established brands like John Lewis have ingrained such a sense of brand trust over the years that customers are rarely concerned about parting with their money or personal information. However, small businesses and start-ups don’t have this luxury so you have to work harder to build trust.
Website. Ensure your website is professional looking, up-to-date and easy to navigate. Customers won’t feel comfortable parting with payment or personal details on a site that is confusing to navigate around, has errors or is full of out of date content.
Customer service. Good customer service can only reflect positively on your brand image. Customers will be reassured with helpful, flexible and polite customer service. Make sure that all your contact and company details are clearly visible and easy for a customer to find.
Trustmarks. Trustmark security logos can help reassure customers that the website they are on has the appropriate security protection. So whoever your security vendor is make sure you display their trustmark somewhere visible.
Customer testimonials. Client and customer testimonials, independent reviews, membership to industry organisations and links to relevant associations can all add kudos and help reassure customers that your site is trustworthy.
4. Communicate to your customers
It won’t do any harm to remind your customers about how they can protect themselves against online fraud, such as by regularly checking their credit and bank account statements and properly managing their passwords. It can help show that you take the security of their personal information seriously. For example remind them that good password practice includes:
- Not using the same email password for every site they register on.
- Mix up letters, cases, numbers and special characters when creating a password.
So in an era of increased data breaches and sophisticated cyber-attacks, don’t assume that as a small online business or start-up you won’t be effected. Don’t underestimate the importance of secure e-commerce and follow good practice to ensure you are keeping you and your customers’ personal and payment information as safe as possible.
*New research on how data breaches can hurt retailers courtesy of Software Advice:
Software Advice helps buyers choose the right software. As a trusted resource, our website offers detailed reviews, comparisons and research to assist organizations in finding products that best fit their current and future needs. We have a team of software experts who conduct free telephone consultations with each buyer to shortlist systems best suited to their company’s specific requirements. Having a real conversation with our buyers allows us to fully understand their needs so we can match them with the right software vendors—eliminating weeks from the research process. Our software experts have advised more than 160,000 software buyers to date across various and niche software markets. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Software Advice employs a team of 100, as well as an engineering team in Cordoba, Argentina.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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