Outside of expecting a seamless, quick buying process (as well as offering a painless, legitimate returns process), online shoppers expect something major and fundamental from ecommerce sites: secure data protection. 

Data breaches are a massive problem. According to Statista, roughly 15,000,000 data records became exposed via breaches—in just the third quarter of 2022. However, as alarming as this may sound, the figure is a paltry percentage of the record-holder. Back in Q4 of 2020, the ecommerce world saw an unprecedented amount of exposed data records: 125 million individual sets of data became compromised.

While preventing phishing attacks is a must-do for any company, there are many other steps online retailers can take to minimize risk to shopper data. 

Here are some of the best methods of shopper data protection to employ: 

1. Ensure you have a reliable and consistent IT/IS system in place

Let’s face it: regardless of who you employ for your internet service provider (ISP), there is always a risk that your connection can go down. Or, to make matters even more complicated, parts of your communications and processing system may get buggy, laggy, or even crash. 

While it may be impossible to fully control each aspect of your online payment and communications systems, you should always plan ahead. Perform your due diligence by ensuring that all your plugins are working properly. Schedule daily maintenance and QA checks for your teams to perform. It would also be wise to require them to also ensure that your operating systems, APIs, and online payment systems are fully up-to-date and are working flawlessly.

Another benefit of having an ideal system routine and ongoing maintenance is circumventing human error. Sadly, practically all cybersecurity crimes happen because of unintentional and uninformed poor choices made by your employees. Human error can happen by clicking on an “odd-looking” email from what appears to be a boss’s email account, weak and breakable password choices, file corruption and/or deletion, as well as compromised access.

While it’s crucial to invest in backup and recovery solutions, you’ll also need to ensure your IT/IS team is fully equipped to handle every scenario from more manageable problems like system bugs to deadly ones such as complete system failure or destruction. Lastly, you’ll also want them to be able to provide consistent, ongoing education to your company to inform each employee about detecting and averting security breaches.

2. Provide, monitor, and maintain online security and customer data privacy

Obviously, for online retailers, you must ensure that your site and/or app is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. But creating and maintaining effective and state-of-the-art online security will also require you to employ a strong Security Sockets Layer (SSL) in addition to regular platform operating system updates. Having a solid SSL empowers you to prevent breaches due to phishing, malware, ransomware, spamming, and other hacking techniques. 

If you’re new to the online retailer space—or are thinking of launching an ecommerce site for the first time, consider using Shopify to keep both your organization and your shoppers safe. Part of what makes Shopify so useful is that it offers full PCI compliance for each site automatically. 

Shopify allows you to engineer and maintain a secure network while maintaining protection for customer and cardholder data through strong information security policies and access controls. 

Best of all, Shopify allows you to make data-driven insights about how your business and products are performing—especially from returns data.  

3. Determine what user data is necessary for you to collect

First and foremost, ensure that you’re GDPR-compliant and always give your shoppers and web traffic the ability to customize what cookie data is captured and stored during their time on your site. While cookies are a universal tool for ecommerce businesses looking to scale their online presence and reach more potential buyers, you also need to be cognizant of what shoppers value even more than your goods/services: their privacy. A good rule of thumb is to only collect data you will actually use—rather than collecting the proverbial “nice-to-have” data. 

And, while it’s paramount for your success to understand your shoppers both holistically and at a granular level, obtaining and saving user data can also put your shoppers and site visitors at risk. Cybercriminals and hackers love looking for cracks in your digital foundation that will help them seep through and gain full visibility into sensitive data. Consider storing credit card data, shoppers contact information, and physical and email addresses in offline, encrypted, secure, third-party storage systems.

Or, even better, opt to not store any credit card information. As great as giving your buyers an opportunity for a quicker checkout can be, they’ll thank you even more if you can guarantee their credit/debit information will never be at risk. Plus, payment facilitators like PayPal, Venmo, Stripe, and even Apple Pay and Google are available on most internet users’ browsers across all computers and smart devices. This feature allows for customers to have easy access to quick, secure checkouts that your organization will never have to be responsible for… it’s a win-win. 

4. Encrypt all your data and store it securely

Before we even get started here, make sure (again) that your site is set up with Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates: the ideal data encryption solution tool for the web. And then make sure your site has a firewall. By offering an HTTPS, secure site, you can encrypt your traffic so you may offer your shoppers the current best online security measures around. 

Also: whenever shoppers or prospective shoppers share any data with you, you need to ensure that it’s encrypted. You can use either asymmetric or symmetric encryptions, as both offer secure and efficient options. Some may argue that some asymmetric protocols like Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) are the more secure options since they don’t require the sharing of private keys. However, they’re also slower and more cumbersome. 

You may also want to consider implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) for enhanced password and account protection for your customers. Many users—even when prompted to create complex passwords involving numbers, special characters, and combinations of capital and lowercase letters—end up creating passwords that can easily be cracked by hackers. 

However, by implementing 2FA, you can ensure your shopper is secure as the system will send a password or code to the end user’s mobile device (something the hacker is extremely unlikely to have). You can also opt to have your shoppers utilize authentication apps which also verify user identity through device management. 

Best of all—2FA doesn’t require collecting, storing, or encrypting any data. 

5. Offer hassle-free returns (that also generate ROI and upsells

One of the last things shoppers want to do when seeking a return or a refund is getting handed over to a third-party call center where they have to repeat sensitive information, over the phone, to a stranger who doesn’t even work for your company. Even if you do plan to offer returns/refunds in-house, that means more data collection, storage, and encryption as you’ll have to verify customer transactions and payment methods all over again. 

There are relatively few processes that can be as painstaking for customers as they are for ecommerce business owners. However, the returns process is definitely one of them. After all, over 84% of online buyers report that they will stop buying from a brand after one negative returns experience.

Your best bet is to establish a certain type of return/refund policy that meets the problem at both ends of the spectrum, one that can keep customers happy and won’t jam up your operations. For example, you may wish to offer customers the option to exchange returned items for store credit—using Loop Returns software can help offset the cost of restocking, warehousing, re-packaging, and un-jamming your logistics.

Are you ready to find out how automated returns management software protects customer data? Book a demo with Loop today.