5 Ways To Protect Customer Data (& Yourself) As An Ecommerce Store

By Rodney Laws | Ecommerce

Jul 19

In 2021, protecting customer data must be one of the top priorities of all ecommerce stores. 

As the industry continues to grow, customer data plays an important role in developing marketing strategies and informing design decisions. However, it is most useful as a symbol of trust between the customer and the store. If a customer trusts a brand with their sensitive personal and financial data, they’ll have no problem becoming advocates for the brand. This makes protecting this data a fundamental part of running a successful store. 

But how do you protect customer data while also ensuring the safety and prosperity of your wider business, employees and reputation? Let’s take a look at five ways you can protect customer data as an ecommerce store. 

How does the data protection landscape look right now? 

The widespread adoption of remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic threw up a number of new challenges for businesses eager to stay on top of cybersecurity and expand into the growing reliance of ecommerce. 

While many ecommerce businesses have continued to operate warehouses with employees on-site, much of their administrative, marketing and customer service staff have been working in makeshift home offices. While this was a necessary step, it has also opened up private company and customer data to a slew of new security issues. 

Without the watchful eye of senior staff or integrated office security systems, customer data is perhaps more accessible to thieves than ever before. Creative scams such as fake Zoom emails have looked to target perhaps less tech-savvy workers using new tools for the first time. With more scrutiny needed, businesses have been forced to give up time for training and security software integration. 

On top of this, existing scams have continued to see a rise in frequency, such as:

  • Phishing
  • Malware
  • Ransomware
  • Denial of Service

From Spotify to local travel institutions, 2020 and 2021 have seen more high profile data breaches, in some cases caused as a result of this less-observant working environment. 

How to protect customer data

Now that we have some necessary context, let’s look at five ways ecommerce store owners can protect their customers and business. 

Only collect valuable and useful data

While it might seem like all customer data is valuable, the key to operating a safe, secure and trustworthy ecommerce store is to focus on only retaining the data you’ll actually use. 

After all, if you lose that data, it could very well become a huge liability. 

When almost every landing page on your store is optimized with creative CTAs and pop-ups just waiting to collect customer details to inform your marketing, you can quickly find yourself with more data than you know what to do with. In most cases, the most valuable data is about the customer journey, rather than their personal traits and information. 

Ask yourself next time you’re trawling through your findings, “how much of this do I actually need?” The chances are, very little, and savvy hackers are aware of this. The most sensitive information is often left better uncollected, as it means much more in the hands of these cyber criminals. Next time, think before you collect. 

Avoid storing card information

Card information, in particular, should be handled with care and only stored if absolutely necessary. 

Fortunately, all ecommerce stores can operate without the need to retain this data. In fact, doing so would be a significant violation of PCI standards

Were your business to lose this sensitive information, it would lead to legal penalties for damages and losses caused to customers along with a significant reputation hit. As a rule of thumb, avoid this practice, or use offline storage to keep them away from the prying eyes of hackers. Using trusted payment facilitators such as PayPal further secures your payment processes. 

Use SSL protection

That little padlock icon next to the URL is more than decoration. SSL certificates are an essential investment for any ecommerce business looking to not just attract customers, but retain them long-term

This certificate will prevent attacks with access to your site from analysing customer web traffic, stopping them before they can steal card info, passwords and other sensitive info.  

Ideally, you should look to integrate SSL protection into your:

  • Checkout pages
  • Sign-up pages
  • Customer login pages
  • Any pages where customers are asked to input information or passwords

Having this protection on your site immediately builds trust with the majority of shoppers and ensures browsers aren’t highlighting your site as potentially dangerous. 

Keep all software up to date 

I know the constant notifications are annoying, but it pays to take the time to update your software.

Applications and software still running on old versions are prone to hackers. They can be easily penetrated by those exploiting existing vulnerabilities that developers have looked to fix. These updates aren’t meaningless — they’re designed to keep the service safe and secure to use. Just like you, these developers are looking out for their customers. 

To avoid any potential losses or damage to your machines, ensure you’re updating all your software (particularly security patches) as frequently as possible. 

Improve training and awareness in-house

Finally, incorporating cybersecurity training and scam awareness into your employee training is an important step towards developing a more safe and secure business. 

Times have changed, and improving your team through robust training programs on company time is an important part of accelerating your business. As an ecommerce store, how to handle and store customer data should be an integral part of your development strategies. 

Run your employees through the changing nature of cybersecurity, incorporating tests and scenarios into the program to give them real-world experience accessing potential threats and warding off hackers. If they regularly use particular tools, systems and software, ensure they’re fully up to date on their developments and provide reading materials around their roles to complement their training. 

It’s important not to let your business organically develop a culture of fear around cybersecurity. Yes, customer data and the protection of your business is important, but this can and should be taught as the responsibility of business leaders. Empowering your staff to feel confident in their own skills and comfortable asking questions is vital. 

Building a safe and secure online store is easier than it sounds. Sure, the constant updates and developing scams sound intimidating, but they’re part and parcel of running a modern online business. 

Take the time to implement these measures and you won’t just feel less stressed, but immediately see a better relationship between yourself and your customers.