Protegrity Blog

Top 4 Ways Retailers Can Protect Customer Data

Author : Travis Wright

travis wright

Protecting customer data and using it at the same time is sort of like having your cake and eating it too. Let’s look at how retail enterprises can get the best of both worlds without compromising the quality or integrity of either.  

The future of retail revolves around the concept of the “customer concierge,” where retailers anticipate and satisfy customers’ wants and needs immediately. Retailers’ ability to provide this level of service to their customers will determine how competitive they are in tomorrow’s marketplace. The way to do this is by collecting and analyzing customer data to discern key competitive insights that help you continually improve customer experience.

To know that this is true, we only have to think about the demise of once-thriving retail giants such as Toys R Us, Blockbuster, Borders Books, RadioShack, The Limited, MC Sports, and many others. The one thing that every member of this once-illustrious and now-nostalgic list of dead retailers has in common is that they failed to use customer data to compete in an increasingly digital marketplace. Meanwhile, competitors such as Amazon, The Entertainer, and Netflix use customer data to inform strategies to dominate the market.

However, using customer data effectively is just part of the battle for retail market share. The other part is securely storing and protecting it.

Customer data is vulnerable, especially when you use it

When you’re collecting and analyzing customer data, you have a professional responsibility and a legal obligation to protect it. There are numerous bad actors who are out to take your customer data, and there are many negative consequences that can arise for you and your retail enterprise if they succeed. Some of these data integrity enemies include:

  • Hackers who may be politically, economically, or socially motivated to breach retail systems and steal customer data.
  • Competitors engaging in unethical business practices to take your customer data, so they can use it against you, and so you can’t use it against them.
  • Incompetent employees who thoughtlessly expose your customer data or make it easily available to being hacked or stolen.

Protect customer dataIn addition, data that’s being analyzed is often “out in the open” and thus more vulnerable to data that’s merely being stored. A good analogy is to think of customer data that’s undergoing analysis as being like a child who’s running from house to house as he or she plays in your neighborhood. The child is safer when he or she stops inside each house but is more vulnerable to being kidnapped in between houses. Thus, it’s often difficult to make use of data once you’ve collected it because analyzing it increases its vulnerability.

If a data kidnapper succeeds and steals or exposes your customer data, there are numerous negative consequences that can occur. For example, customers will lose trust in your brand, governments will sanction your company through laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation, and your enterprise’s bottom line will suffer as a result.

How to protect your customer data to help you survive and thrive

For enterprise retailers, customer data protection focuses on scalability. Your data needs to be protected at every level of your organization and at every point at which it flows throughout your infrastructure. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to do this:

  1. Establish a dedicated data security role within your organization – This person’s entire job should revolve around data security and protecting customer data. They should be well-versed in the fundamentals of data security and should remain up-to-date on its latest trends and developments.
  2. Utilize a third-party service to provide outside consulting and assistance – Data security agencies and outside consultants can provide crucial expertise to help you evaluate and address security issues that already exist and that may arise in the future. They can also help you maintain an information security program with ongoing risk assessment. They will remain objective in their evaluation of your security protocols because they’re not a part of your company’s culture or politics.
  3. Implement data-centric encryption, tokenization, and multi-factor authentication – These security protocols will allow you to protect sensitive data while maintaining usability. As a result, you’ll be able to keep data secure even as you analyze it to give you a strategic advantage in the marketplace.
  4. Create a culture that highly prioritizes cybersecurity – Using the “loose lips sink ships” mentality, emphasize to employees and staff at all levels that data security is everyone’s responsibility, and that one minor breach can have serious consequences for everyone within an organization.
customer data
Download the whitepaper, “Customer-Centric Retailers Win Based Upon Customer Data.”

With knowledge comes power, and with power comes responsibility. The insights you gain by collecting and analyzing customer data can give you an advantage in the retail marketplace, but you need to protect that data as well. Otherwise, you risk security breaches that can severely undermine your customers’ trust in your brand and your retail enterprise’s ability to remain competitive.

Check out this white paper by Protegrity to see how you can scale data security to cover your entire organization. This way, you can beat your competitors without exposing your brand to damaging data breaches.

Our guest blogger, Travis Wright, is a top marketing technologist, author, keynote speaker, blockchain advisor, tech journalist, and podcast host. He is the former global digital and social strategist at Symantec for the Norton brand. Wright is the cofounder & CMO of CCP.Digital, a Kansas City & SF-based digital ad & content agency. 

Wright is the author of Wiley & Sons, “Digital Sense, The Common Sense Approach to Social Business Strategy, Marketing Technologies, Customer Experience and Emerging Technologies”, which published in January 2017. Wright also cohosts one of the top-ranked blockchain podcasts, The Bad Crypto Podcast, with Joel Comm.  And he co-hosts Venture Beat’s podcast, VB Engage, with Stewart Rogers.

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