A study from USA Today finds that nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) have stopped shopping online, at least for the moment. These respondents have ceased their online shopping activity after the string of stories about data breaches and cyber attacks. A full 56 percent have said they’re only making their purchases on sites that belong to major companies with reputable online portals. And more than half (55 percent) say that they’re keeping an eye on their checking account and other financial information more closely.
Whether people are taking the drastic measures they’ve copped to in this survey or not, clearly people are nervous about e-commerce. Years ago, when retailers were struggling to keep business flowing in their brick-and-mortar locations, this might not have been a problem. But now that consumers have gotten into the habit of purchasing from the comfort of their couches, this shift in behavior can have bigger business consequences. Shoppers who have fashioned their lives around this sort of spending convenience aren’t going to magically find an extra hour to head to the mall because one company’s website seems a little wonky.
Companies who have something to sell online will now have to convince shoppers that handing over their card information during a transaction is not going to land them smack in the middle of a disaster.
The first thing that companies need to do is truly make sure that their sites are secure. That means speaking with actual experts, plugging holes and creating a user-friendly website that’s also safe against hackers and thieves.
But on the PR side of things, marketers and publicists have to learn the language of online security, learn about the capabilities that their companies have and actively let consumers know that these measures are in place to keep their data safe. Just like anything else that the company might be doing to enhance and protect its reputation, this needs to be part of that effort.
And be warned, it’s more than just lip service. “We care about your data’s safety” isn’t enough. Consider this: If consumers are as concerned as they say they are, they’re seeking out places where they can find out about online safety. That includes which questions to ask and which markers to look for on a web page. You have to be able to speak to a more clever and more nervous consumer in detailed terms if they’re going to trust what you’re saying.
Online security is more than just having your crisis plan in place if and when a data breach happens. It’s taking steps to talk up the measures that are there to prevent a mishap.
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