If there’s a bright side to 2020, a year defined by a global pandemic, it’s that the increased online-shopping demands of homebound consumers provided a lifeline to retailers in an otherwise dismal economy. Almost overnight, e-commerce went into overdrive as it became the only means of shopping for millions who wanted to avoid crowds at brick-and-mortar stores— that is if they could find any stores open in the first place.
From July to September, consumers spent $199.44 billion online with U.S. retailers, a 37-percent year-over-year spike from $145.47 billion spent for the same quarter last year, according to the Commerce Department. And that period of sales was actually lower than the record-setting second quarter of 2020, which bested the second-quarter sales total of 2019 by 44 percent.
After years of measured growth in e-commerce sales, online shopping might remain a primary option for consumers long after social distancing and the pandemic ends. The ability to buy merchandise from anywhere and have it delivered to the front door is too appealing a habit to break. Why go to the store when the store can come to you?
Prioritize Data Protection
Retailers will undoubtedly continue to double-down on e-commerce by strengthening customer experiences, refining marketing strategies, and improving supply chains to deliver goods as quickly as possible. But they should also prioritize one other area if they want to stay in business: data protection.
Data supports almost every aspect of retail. Like bell-bottom pants and Cabbage Patch dolls, paper receipts are a thing of a retailer’s past—the data of digital transactions drives business. That’s why cybercriminals view retailers as a lush target. Everyone shops and leaves a digital trail behind each purchase and return, and how retailers protect their customers’ sensitive data will shape their ability to make gains in e-commerce.
Two out of three consumers said they were concerned about their personal and financial information being compromised when they shop online with a retailer this coming holiday season, according to a recent survey. The same survey, by the insurance company Generali Global Assistance, found that 78 percent of consumers would be concerned about doing business with a retailer if it experienced a breach.
360-degree Customer View
But retailers can’t put sensitive data in a vault. They need to give front-line employees access to the data behind customer-service transactions. Retail marketers also need to leverage sensitive customer data so they can form a 360-degree view of customers and create customer-centric digital programs that are personalized. And customer data lies at the heart of inventory and product shipments.
As retailers look to further digitize operations and innovate, data will play an even greater role. Data supports mobile applications, cashier-less stores, and machine learning and AI to forecast sales. For that matter, customer data is intertwined with just about every element of retail—and that’s now and into the future.
So, as retailers turn the calendar on 2020 and review what this online holiday shopping season meant for business, they should put data protection at the top of a post-holiday wish list. They should specifically ask for a comprehensive data-protection platform that streamlines data-security policy management and secures all types of data in all kinds of environments—cloud and otherwise. That kind of a platform helps create iterative data-protection strategies that proactively ensure the privacy of data and safeguard the cloud-driven initiatives that fuel innovation.
Just as chess sets and outdoor furniture were among the must-have items of 2020, data protection should be the must-have business tool in 2021.